From purifying charcoal masks to hangover-free cocktails and tooth-whitening toothpastes, activated charcoal is leaving its carbon ‘footprint’ just about everywhere. But does activated charcoal work—and is it safe?
And what is activated charcoal, exactly?
Unlike regular charcoal, which is a known carcinogen, activated charcoal is medicinal. It’s the byproduct of slowly burnt wood, allowing it to adsorb (that is, bind to, as opposed to absorb) hydrophobic toxins and odors from gases or liquids up to 1,000 times its weight.or coconut shells that is treated with oxygen, a process which renders it highly porous and nonpolar,
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Activated charcoal comes in many forms: powder and pills for ingesting, granules and cubes for purifying the environment, and sponges and fabrics for cleansing and wearing. This "it" ingredient – used for millennia in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine – has recently even shot to superfood status thanks to activated charcoal’s potent alkalizing detoxification properties and purported health benefits.
But the jury is still out on many of the supposed health benefits of activated charcoal—very few studies have been done, particularly when it comes to its effect on your skin, teeth, and stomach. Here are 8 safe ways to use it—and 3 to skip.