Activated Charcoal is Having a Real Moment
Activated charcoal is having a real moment right now. It's the newest kale/quinoa/bee pollen/coconut oil being lifted high on a pedestal (surely to be torn down like its fellows who've come before). I can always tell when something in the health world has gone from "something only those fully invested in the health and wellness world do" to mainstream America, because it finally makes it to the local scene in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
I first encountered activated charcoal about three years ago when I was visiting my friend in Los Angeles. Before he brought me to the airport, we hit up a juice place for a breakfast to beat the hunger I'd surely be left with in the forthcoming desert of terminal cuisine. I opted for a chocolate açaí smoothie bowl topped with fresh fruits and bee pollen, and while it was being prepared, I perused their shelves of pre-made fare. There, alongside super green juices and cultured dairy free yogurts, was a black juice with a white label. I picked it up and read: activated charcoal.
That was my first introduction, and I honestly forgot about it until recently. I use BeautyCounter products for the majority of my skin and makeup needs, and I tried their activated charcoal line not too long ago, and I always use their activated charcoal bar soap.
When scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I'm sure you've seen that black mask everyone went crazy over for a bit that peels off like a weird alien skin—that? It's activated charcoal.
The black toothpaste that you've seen all over social media? You know the one: it comes in the tiny pod and makes your teeth look like zombie mouth? Activated charcoal.
Have you ever noticed your refrigerator water filter may leave some black floaters in your filtered water? Charcoal again! (It's used in the filtration cartridge.)
So a few months ago, I bought a bag of activated charcoal off of Amazon and decided to run my own experiments. Do I need to pay tons of money for these products that promise amazing results, or can I get the job done using my own supply of activated charcoal and what's already in my kitchen cabinets, and get stellar results.
Answer? Heck yes! But like all things in health and wellness: Don't put it on a pedestal. It's not the end all be all. It's a useful tool, but in excess it can cause problems (more on this in a bit).
A little bit about activated charcoal: Activated charcoal has long been used to counter the effects of poisoning or overdoses. The reason being that drugs/toxins/poisons bind to the activated charcoal (because it's not digestible) in the GI tract, and they are then removed the next time you take a trip to your porcelain throne for numero two. It's not only drugs/toxins/poisons that bind to the activated charcoal: activated charcoal will also absorb/remove food nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. This is why ya gotta be wise about when you drink/eat it, i.e. not directly before or after taking medications or supplements.
Activated Charcoal Pills: These are often used in our mainstream world to prevent hangovers. I don't drink often, but I did go to a Mardi Gras ball in January and popped some activated charcoal pills before bed. The next day? Hangover free! (Which is a huge accomplishment now that I'm 32 and don't bounce back like I used to...) I am not the best barometer for this particular experiment since I don't drink very much... but I'd say it's not going to hurt anything barring other circumstances (like, don't take your birth control at the same time you take your activated charcoal pill).
Brushing my teeth: YES! My teeth had some yellowing due to turmeric, coffee, and tea, and I now brush my teeth every night first with some activated charcoal (I have a little jar in my bathroom that I stick my clean, wet toothbrush into) and then follow it up with some normal toothpaste to get that minty fresh feeling. This has 100% worked. I've tried whitening toothpastes and I even used to use Crest White Strips (horrible!! They always made my teeth hurt like a mofo!)—all to no avail. I am SUPER impressed with the whitening power of my activated charcoal nightly ritual. This one is a 100% thumbs up. Don't walk, RUN to Amazon and get you some.
Face Mask: Again... YES! I mix about a 1/2 tsp of activated charcoal with some melted coconut oil and a little unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (just until it's a nice, thick consistency that I can rub around my face with no drippage), rub the homemade lotions on my skin, and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Buttery soft baby skin afterwards! Love it.
Drinking/Eating: TBH... not necessarily the biggest fan. Because activated charcoal can absorb the food nutrients/vitamins/minerals that may be present in my meal, I don't want to eat or drink it along with anything else. I tried putting a bit in my daily morning beverage of lemon, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, and honey... but I can't lie: didn't love it. I know it's having a moment right now, but I'm not going to be a huge proponent of eating/drinking it on the regular. It's not necessarily bad... though you can overdo it: in excess activated charcoal can cause constipation, and that is the opposite of what I love about my bowels these days (since taking on a health lifestyle nearly 8 years ago, I've come to truly love and rely on my regularity).
Overall though, I love my bag of activated charcoal, and I absolutely have a new staple for my food pharmacy.
I bought mine, a GIANT BAG of raw organic coconut activated charcoal (food grade) that I've barely even made a dent in yet, from Amazon. Highly recommend.
Tried it? Have other thoughts? Let me know where you are on this massively popular and finely ground powder.
p.s. These are the kinds of food explorations we walk through together in Fed Up Fellowship; you'll be invited to experiment and be led through the process of trying holistic methods with your food. Food is more than just edible and can save you a whole lotta dollhairs ($$$) down the pharmacy aisles. Would love to have you join the fellowship of like minded women if this kind of work piques your interest!