Activated charcoal, also known as Gas Black, is a fine black, odourless, tasteless, inert powder, produced by burning non-poisonous wood or other material into charcoal under high temperature and a controlled environment.
Activated charcoal can be taken internally as powder: one tablespoon mixed in a glass of water for an adult; or one teaspoon in half a glass of water for a child. It can also be taken as capsules and tablets.
Also, activated charcoal can be used externally when the powder is mixed with water or lime or lemon juice and then applied as poultices, plasters or compresses on swellings, boils and sores.
Activated charcoal is available in the health and pharmaceutical shops as powders, tablets, capsules, etc., and are usually without prescription.
However, for home use, a great number of items can be used in making charcoal, e.g. coconut shells, corn cobs, woods from any non-poisonous trees such as mango, guava, mahogany, eucalyptus, and many others. Some people use bones of animals to prepare charcoal.
Wood charcoal is made by simply burning the wood (without enough air) and putting off the fire with water to obtain the charcoal (without turning into ash). This is then dried and ground into charcoal powder, and can be used as activated charcoal. It has indefinite shelf life.
Activated charcoal is a miracle substance and the world’s strongest absorbent, used in medicine, toxicology, chemistry, industry, and the military.
Charcoal powder has tremendous absorptive capacities. It is capable of absorbing, taking up or binding ((rapidly within a minute) many toxic substances – gases, toxins, drugs, heavy metals and particles from the gastrointestinal tract and from the blood.
These noxious substances together with the activated charcoal that absorbs them are then excreted safely with faeces.
The charcoal’s high adsorptive capacity (it can absorb substances up to about 300-350 times its own weight) is due to its high porosity, honeycomb-like internal structure and large surface area that can entrap, hold or bind and neutralize harmful substances irrespective of the source. Therefore, activated charcoal is a valuable antidote and an effective detoxifying agent for systemic poisoning.
Treatment of poisons and drug overdoses.
Children, especially infants and toddlers often accidentally overdose on drugs or inhale toxic household products, which they may mistake for sweets, candies or drinks.
Also, in deliberate attempt to commit suicide or mistaken drug overdose.
In these conditions activated charcoal may be given repeatedly - as one of the most effective poison antidotes.
Activated charcoal, when taken orally, helps to bind, neutralize and eliminate the irritating toxic substance(s) from the entire gastrointestinal (digestive) system and from the blood. In this way charcoal stops the spread of the toxins throughout the body.
For this purpose, activated charcoal is usually recommended to always be available in First Aid Box at home.
An occasional oral intake of activated charcoal with plenty of water on an empty stomach (one week in a month) is often considered as preventive detoxification therapy. Also, activated charcoal is given to a patient to help cleanse the blood after a heavy antimicrobial therapy.
The charcoal binds and neutralizes the harmful bacterial toxins or the by-products of the drugs released into the blood during the infections.
In the alternative treatment of cancerous growths, charcoal is mixed with Aloe powder and molasses and administered orally to help in removing toxins from the blood and the digestive system.
Also, activated charcoal powder is applied as poultice (charcoal powder made in the form of paste) on malignant sores to help cleanse the sores and remove the offensive odour.
Douching with a solution made with two tablespoons of activated charcoal powder and a quart of water helps to remove the offensive odour of the inoperable cancer of the cervix.
Activated Charcoal is a safe and effective remedy for the following gastrointestinal problems:
Nausea and vomiting, indigestion and acid reflux (heartburn), bloating and malodorous intestinal gas (flatulence), frequent bowel movement (diarrhoea), stomach discomfort, peptic ulcer (relieves the symptoms), bad breath (halitosis) due to intestinal disorders and dental infections, diseases of the bowels (irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, crohn’s disease),
high level of blood lipids (lowers high blood cholesterols and triglycerides), liver problems including hepatitis and the associated jaundice, liver cancer, jaundice in the newborn or neonatal jaundice, kidney diseases with high urea and creatinine levels (to lower and remove these nitrogen-containing compounds).
For these conditions, charcoal is usually taken after meals or at the first sign of discomfort, and the normal dosage is taken with a full glass of water.
No side-effects resulting from long-term use of activated charcoal has been recorded so far. However, charcoal should not be taken with any other medicine. Charcoal should be taken at least 2 hours before or 1 hour after any other medicine. It may bind to other drugs, multiminerals and multivitamins and reduces their effectiveness.
Large doses of charcoal may give rise to constipation. Should this happen, the patients are usually advised to take mild herbal laxatives.
The oral intake of charcoal causes feacal matter to turn black and this is not a side-effect.
External Uses of Charcoal:
Activated charcoal powder is applied as poultice on the skin to reduce inflammation due to insect, scorpion or snake bites —- for up to 6 hours to help draw out any poison injected into the body through the bite.
Also, a paste made by mixing equal parts of activated charcoal and flaxseed and hot water could be applied as poultice on infected wounds, cancerous sores, diabetic ulcers, cellulites, gout, etc., to help remove pains and toxins.
None-medical uses of charcoal:
Activated charcoal could be placed in a car booth, refrigerator or freezer, kitchen, etc., that emits persistent bad odour -— for up to 12 hours to effectively remove the unwanted odour.
The charcoal can be reused for as long as possible after moderately heating the charcoal in an oven. The heating deodourizes the charcoal again.
Published in The Guardian-Nigeria