Activated Charcoal Part I: What’s the Big Deal?

Some time ago I wrote about activated charcoal when I was deciding whether or not to sell soap containing the stuff.  It was an interesting research project but I hadn’t gone in depth regarding the benefit. I went deep enough to ask myself: will we carry it – yes or no?  Now that we have it in our Onyx Black Soap, I felt I owed it to you to dig deeper so that we can all have a deeper understanding, even beyond Heart of Yemalla.

What is activated charcoal?

Don’t confuse activated charcoal for the same stuff you start your barbeque with or the bunt bread particles at the bottom of your oven.  The composition of activated charcoal can be composed from a few different materials, the most common being, wood, coconut shells and bamboo.  The activation process includes the carbon-rich materials I just listed being incinerated at very high temperatures.  The result is a black material that is extremely absorbent.

Is it new?

Perhaps you’ve seen “with activated charcoal” on packaged products, from beauty products to dietary supplements, but the use of activated charcoal is nothing new.  I stumbled across a study from 1945 on the absorption power of activated charcoal.  The study was published by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen, by Harrestrup Anderson.  Anderson states that the first study of activated charcoal absorption from M. Lowitz dates back to 1791.  Lowitz observed that colored fluids were decolorized by charcoal.

In the same study, Anderson also sights, American physician, Hort, who discusses the use of charcoal in 1834 to save a patient from poisoning by bichloride of mercury by ingesting large amounts of powdered charcoal.  In a study in 2006, by David O. Cooney titled, “Activated Charcoal in Medical Applications,” (published through the University of Wyoming) it is stated that activated charcoal is favored to treat drug ingestion over gastric emptying.

Are the benefits conclusive? 

Though there’ve been studies since the 1700’s, a lot of modern literature will tell you that there isn’t enough large-scale research that has been done to support conclusive results.   I’m pretty sure there’s a reason for that.  If you think about it long enough, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion as I have. But I’ll leave that there for now.

What are the benefits?

It’s reported that activated charcoal removes toxins from the body.  If this is the case, operating under that assumption then, activated charcoal can do a great number of things.

Kidney function – Because it removes toxins, activated charcoal is reported to be able to assist kidney function by filtering undigested toxins and drugs.

Intestinal gas – In a 2012 study, a small group of people with a history of excessive gas were given 448 mg of activated charcoal three times a day for two days.  The result was a greater reduction of gas in the intestine.

Water filtration – Activated charcoal has been used as a natural water filter for a long time now, and it is reported that activated charcoal can do the same thing for water in the body due to its ability to absorb many toxins, chemicals, bacteria and fungi.

As you can see, it is possible that we’ve been sleeping on the benefits of this bit of black magic (please don’t take that literally).  In my next post, I’ll continue with my research on this stuff and let you know what I find. Until then, consider picking up a bar of our Black Onyx Soap with activated charcoal.  Conduct your own experiment.