Activated Charcoal: 15 Benefits & Uses for Health and Wellness

Activated charcoal is a hot topic in health and wellness these days, gaining recognition as a powerhouse agent for detoxification with a wide range of potential uses. We see activated charcoal in everything from facial masks and teeth whiteners to digestive remedies and even an exotic new food trend that uses its charcoal hue for an element of surprise (think jet-black ice cream).

Activated charcoal benefits are no secret. A staple in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, activated charcoal remains to this day a common emergency room antidote for cases of toxicity and poisoning in developed nations around the world. As for activated charcoal uses in daily life, this natural healing product is extremely versatile and generally considered safe. Yet activated charcoal should be handled with care (scroll down for an overview of activated charcoal side effects).

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a byproduct of burning coconut shells, bamboo, olive pits, wood, or various other substances. For your natural medicine cabinet, we recommend purchasing activated charcoal that is organic and made from coconut shells.

Processed at very high temperatures, this unique charcoal is “activated” in a way that changes its structure to increase the surface area and make it more porous. It is the porousness of activated charcoal that makes it effective at attaching to (“adsorbing”) toxins and flushing them out of the body. This is the principle behind activated charcoal detox.

Unlike the charcoal briquettes you use to light your barbecue, activated charcoal is free of toxins and carcinogens and is generally safe to consume and apply topically. Never substitute regular charcoal for the activated charcoal used for health and wellness!

What Are the Benefits of Activated Charcoal?

With its purifying qualities, activated charcoal offers potential benefits including detoxification, alleviating gas and bloating digestive health, lowering cholesterol, reducing the effects of radiation, and anti-aging.

Detoxification

The most scientifically proven of all of the activated charcoal’s benefits, detoxification happens naturally with this powerful agent. Because activated charcoal’s porous surface has a negative electrical charge, it attracts positively charged molecules such as toxins and gases for safe removal from the GI tract. In hospital emergency rooms throughout the developed world, a high single-use dosage of activated charcoal is the most frequently used method of gastrointestinal decontamination after certain kinds of poisoning, toxic exposure and drug overdose.

Activated charcoal is considered to be effective for acute poisoning from a wide variety of drugs and poisons including acetaminophen, aspirin and tricyclic antidepressants. However, it is not useful for poisoning from lithium, iron, cyanide, potassium, and ethanol.

While some use activated charcoal as a hangover cure, there is currently no evidence to support this. More than one study has shown that activated charcoal is not effective at absorbing alcohol.

Alleviating Gas and Bloating

Activated charcoal’s ability to reduce gas and bloating in the digestive system is scientifically proven. A double-blind clinical trial found reduced gas and bloating in subjects that used activated charcoal compared to the placebo group. And in 2011, the European Food Safety Authority presented its scientific opinion in favor of using activated charcoal to reduce excess gas in the digestive system.

Digestive Health

When used for digestive cleansing, activated charcoal can promote overall digestive health. Considered a natural gut cleanser, activated charcoal can help lighten the body’s toxic load — potentially reducing allergic reactions and oxidative damage, as well as strengthening immune System.

Lowering Cholesterol

Some researchers have found that activated charcoal can help people lower their cholesterol. Just as it does with toxins, activated charcoal can attach to (adsorb) and flush out cholesterol in the intestine, preventing its absorption in the bloodstream. In a controlled study of people with high cholesterol, activated charcoal was effective at lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels.

Reducing the Effects of Radiation

Piggybacking on its powers of detoxification, activated charcoal can also reduce the effects of radiation. Through the process of adsorption, activated charcoal attaches to radionuclides in the same way that it attaches to other toxins.

Anti-Aging

Through its ability to rid the body of toxins, activated charcoal has the potential to be a natural approach to healthy aging. With a reduced toxic load, the body experiences less of the oxidative damage that drives the aging process. In the same way, it may help to prevent cellular damage to our natural detox organs (the kidneys and liver) and also support adrenal gland health.

Activated Charcoal Uses

Activated charcoal use runs the gamut from gut-cleansing detox to purifying facials, teeth whitening, bug-bite care and more. Keep activated charcoal on hand for natural healing remedies like these.

Digestive Cleansing

The digestive tract is where a myriad of toxins can enter our bodies, from pesticides and heavy metals in food, to chemicals in water and exposure to mold. When you eliminate toxins with a digestive cleanse, you can feel lighter, stronger, and more energetic. While there are many different kinds of digestive cleanses, a simple approach is to eat whole, organic foods and avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.

Activated charcoal can supercharge your cleanse by assisting with the removal of toxins through the process of adsorption — that is, the toxins attach to the activated charcoal like metal to a magnet, and then pass safely out of the body with a bowel movement.

Recipe: To add activated charcoal to your cleanse, take 10 grams (either as a powder added to water or in pill form) 90 minutes before each meal for two days. Be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.

First Aid for Poisons or Toxins

An antidote to certain types of poisoning or exposure to toxic substances, drugs, or household chemicals, activated charcoal is handy to keep in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet. It is essential, however, to first contact 911 or a poison control center immediately. Depending on the type of poison, they may instruct you to administer activated charcoal at home before going to an emergency room.

Note: Having activated charcoal in your first-aid kit or medicine cabinet can help jump-start the recovery process but should never replace a healthcare professional.

Facial Mask

In the same way that activated charcoal draws toxins out of the digestive system, when applied topically, it can draw oils, dirt, bacteria and other impurities from the pores, leaving skin clean, clear and less prone to breakouts.

Recipe: Mix a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder with a tablespoon of honey to make a paste. Apply to face and neck with a cosmetic brush. Keep on for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash off with your favorite natural cleanser.

Note that activated-charcoal powder is very messy when spilled! Avoid using it over hard-to-clean areas such as tile grout.

Acne Spot Treatment

Mixed with a bit of aloe vera gel, activated charcoal makes an effective acne spot treatment.

Recipe: Break open one capsule of activated charcoal in a small bowl. Using a cotton swab, mix with a half-teaspoon of aloe vera gel to create a thick paste. Apply paste to acne. Let dry about 30 minutes. Wash off with warm water.

Teeth Whitening

It may seem counterintuitive to turn your teeth black in order to whiten them (don’t worry — the black washes off!), but many people have success using activated charcoal as a natural teeth whitener. Because activated charcoal is abrasive to the teeth, dab it on gently rather than using a toothbrush.

Recipe: In a small bowl, break open two capsules of activated charcoal. Using a cotton swab, mix in just enough water to make a thick paste (less than 1 teaspoon). Dab paste onto teeth, let sit three minutes and rinse.

Flatulence Relief

Activated charcoal’s ability to alleviate gas and bloating is clinically proven. If certain foods trigger gas, activated charcoal is one way to keep flatulence at bay.

Tip: Take 1 gram of activated charcoal at least 30 minutes before you eat and 1 gram an hour after you eat.

Bug Bites

Activated charcoal can be a great remedy for mosquito bites and bee stings, as it can alleviate the itching and discomfort that they cause.

Recipe: In a small bowl, break open one capsule of activated charcoal. Using a cotton swab, mix with a ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and apply to the bug bite or bee sting.

Water Filtration

Just as it can remove impurities from the body, activated charcoal can also remove contaminants from water. Activated charcoal is a key component in many commercially available water filtration systems, and works in a similar way to the carbon filtration in the popular Brita water pitchers.

Activated charcoal in water filters may be effective at removing pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals. However, it is less effective at removing fluoride, viruses, bacteria, and hard-water minerals.

Air Purification

In the same spirit, activated carbon is also effective as a filter for air purification. Much like baking soda, commercially available charcoal bags can be placed in the refrigerator, car, pet areas, gym bags, and other places to freshen the air, neutralize odors, and combat mold.

Activated Charcoal Forms

Activated charcoal is available in pills, tablets, capsules, and loose powder for multipurpose use. In all forms, activated charcoal is odorless and neutral-tasting.

Pills & Tablets

Activated charcoal to reduce gas and bloating is often taken in pill or tablet form. Generally, two pills or tablets are recommended to be taken at least 30 minutes before eating gas-producing foods, and one hour after.

Capsules

Purchasing activated charcoal in capsule form is a handy way to use small amounts for recipes. Simply break open a capsule into a small bowl to release the powder, and mix it with water, coconut oil or another ingredient to make a paste for DIY healing.

Powder

A jar of fine, jet-black activated charcoal powder is handy for a variety of uses. In cases of poisoning or the ingestion of toxins, the activated charcoal powder is mixed with a liquid and given as a drink (or, in emergency rooms, administered through a tube from the mouth to the stomach).

For more common household use, the activated charcoal powder can be used in small amounts for teeth whitening and other remedies.

Are There Side Effects to Using Activated Charcoal?

It is important to remember that activated charcoal not only adsorbs to toxins and unwanted chemicals in the body but it can get rid of good things, too, such as nutrients from food, supplements, and prescription medicines, making them less effective.

It is best to take activated charcoal on an empty stomach between meals so that it does not affect the absorption of nutrients. Activated charcoal should be taken 90 minutes to two hours prior to supplements and prescription medications.

Keep in mind that activated charcoal can make your stool turn black, but this is a temporary and harmless side effect. In addition, be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent constipation when taking activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy. At least one study supports its use for cholestasis, which is a condition marked by the reduction or stoppage of bile flow, during pregnancy. Some pregnant women use it to alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) as well as diarrhea, though its effectiveness in such cases is not well documented. In some people, activated charcoal can cause side effects of vomiting and diarrhea — the very symptoms it may be used to relieve.

Tea Tree Oil: Benefits, Uses

From antiseptic mouthwash to natural deodorant, tea tree oil is an essential oil with a multitude of uses and benefits. It tends to be pale yellow or colorless, with an aroma that is similar to eucalyptus or camphor and boasts antibacterial, antiprotozoal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Here’s a deep-dive into all that it can do.

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is distilled from the leaves of an evergreen shrub called Melaleuca alternifolia. The plant is native to Australia and used by Aboriginal people for cleaning wounds and other skin problems.

Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has a 100-year history as a natural remedy. The Bundjalung Aboriginal people would crush the leaves to create a paste to apply to the skin. They also made tea from the leaves to soothe a sore throat.

Amazing Antibacterial Properties

The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil have been studied since the 1940s. Bacteria, including Streptococcus pyogenes (strep) and Escherichia coli (e. Coli), have been tested in the lab to see how they react to the oil. Researchers found that the oil may target the cell membranes of bacteria and destroy them.

Tea tree oil might have a helpful role against antibiotic resistance. Bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics, so finding alternative solutions is crucial. In several experiments, bacteria didn’t show resistance to tea tree oil.

Healing Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinene-4-ol, which is associated with anti-inflammatory benefits. One experiment found that terpinene-4-ol could reduce inflammation caused by mites that attack the skin and eyes. This compound was able to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are signaling molecules that promote inflammation in the body.

Surprising Antifungal Properties

Another benefit of this essential oil is its antifungal property. It may be helpful in getting rid of fungi such as mold, ringworm, or nail fungus. Researchers have focused on tea tree oil’s ability to fight the overgrowth of Candida, a type of yeast. It appears to attack the cell membranes of yeast by damaging them and making them nonfunctional. Again, the active component in tea tree oil, terpinene-4-ol, plays a role in destroying fungi. It’s not the only compound involved, however, as 1,8-cineole also helps break down the cell membranes.

Unique Antiprotozoal Properties

Protozoa are single-celled organisms such as amoeba. They are parasitic and can cause infections in people. For example, the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum causes malaria and kills 660,000 people every year. In several studies, tea tree oil has shown that it can kill protozoa. This antiprotozoal activity is linked to terpinene-4-ol.

Useful Antiviral Properties

Researchers have discovered antiviral properties in tea tree oil. One study, at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, focused on the herpes simplex virus, which can cause cold sores, and showed that tea tree oil reduced the total viral load from infection. Another study at the University of Catania in Italy looked at the ability of tea tree oil to stop the influenza virus from replicating. Once again, it appears that the compounds terpinene-4-ol and 1,8-cineole are crucial in these activities.

The Top 5 Tea Tree Oil Uses

For more than a century, people have used this oil for different ailments, ranging from eczema to athlete’s foot. Although researchers are still trying to catch up by investigating the full range of tea tree oil uses, the following benefits have been measured.

1. Improving Your Hair

Some of the most popular tea tree oil uses involve the hair. For instance, one study from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia found that a 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo resulted in a 41 percent improvement in dandruff. Not only does the essential oil reduce dandruff, but it may also help suffocate head lice. The shampoo also decreased greasiness and itchiness.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, some people find relief from scalp psoriasis by using tea tree oil shampoo.

You can purchase tea tree oil shampoo or make your own. One of the easiest methods is to add the essential oil to your existing shampoo.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite shampoo
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Add two drops of tea tree essential oil per one ounce of your shampoo.
  2. Make sure the lid is secure on the shampoo bottle.
  3. Shake vigorously.
  4. Use the shampoo as you normally would.
  5. Rinse your hair with water.

Keep in mind that tea tree essential oil is highly concentrated and should never be used directly on the scalp. Always dilute it by mixing it with shampoo or a carrier oil such as olive oil.

2. Encouraging a Clear Complexion

Tea tree oil is present in many skin care products, such as face washes. A study from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital that compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel to 5 percent benzoyl peroxide lotion found that both products improved acne. Although tea tree oil had a slower onset, it also had fewer side effects. In another study, researchers compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel to placebo and saw a significant improvement in acne among those who used the gel.

Since we encourage using skin-care products free of harsh chemicals, here is an easy recipe to make your own:

Ingredients

  • Raw honey
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Add two drops of tea tree essential oil to one tablespoon of honey.
  2. Mix the ingredients to create a paste.
  3. Apply to your face. Make sure you avoid your eyes and mouth.
  4. Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Wash your face with water.

Try to find raw, organic and natural honey without added chemicals that can irritate the skin. You can also add a small amount of baking soda, such as half a teaspoon, to the paste for an additional antibacterial boost to fight blemishes.

3. Soothing Eczema

Many of the common tea tree oil uses focus on helping skin conditions, including eczema. When researchers at the Skåne University Hospital in Sweden compared tea tree oil to other topical products used to treat skin problems, they found that it was effective. The soothing actions of terpinene-4-ol in this essential oil can also help reduce the irritation caused by eczema.

Skin ointments, creams, and gels that contain tea tree oil are available for purchase, but you can also create your own.

Ingredients

  • Carrier oil such as olive, coconut, jojoba or other oil
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Since you can’t apply undiluted tea tree essential oil directly to the skin, you need to mix it with a carrier oil. Suitable options include olive, coconut, jojoba or another oil.
  2. Add one drop of tea tree essential oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil. Mix them.
  3. Apply to the skin, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

4. Getting Rid of Bad Breath

One tea tree oil benefit is its ability to eliminate bad breath or halitosis. Usually, bad breath is caused by bacteria so the antibacterial properties of this essential oil can help get rid of it. When researchers in India compared different essential oils and looked at tea tree oil uses, they discovered that using it resulted in a significant reduction of oral bacteria.

It’s important to remember that you don’t want to swallow any tea tree oil. It’s not safe to ingest because it can cause serious problems such as confusion and the loss of muscle coordination.

You can find toothpaste and mouthwash that include tea tree oil as an ingredient. You can also add it to your regular toothpaste or mouthwash.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite fluoride-free toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Add one drop of tea tree oil to the toothpaste on your toothbrush.
  2. Add two drops of tea tree essential oil to one cup of mouthwash.
  3. Use the products as you normally would.
  4. Rinse your mouth with water.

5. Fighting Athlete’s Foot

Researchers at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital looked at 104 patients and found that a cream that contained 10 percent tea tree oil was just as effective as 1 percent tolnaftate for reducing the symptoms of athlete’s foot. Another study at the same hospital showed that patients who used a 25 percent or 50 percent tea tree oil solution had an improvement in their athlete’s foot symptoms.

Although there are over-the-counter creams and ointments for fungal infections, it’s easy to make your own natural formula.

Ingredients

  • Carrier oil such as olive, coconut, jojoba or other oil
  • Tea tree essential oil

Directions

  1. Don’t apply undiluted tea tree essential oil directly to the skin, mix it with a carrier oil like olive, coconut, or jojoba oil.
  2. Add one drop of tea tree essential oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil. Mix them.
  3. Add one drop of oil of oregano and mix.
  4. Apply to the skin.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly, avoid touching your eyes or mouth.

How to Apply Tea Tree Oil

You must use a diluted form of tea tree oil, never apply undiluted oil directly to the skin in its concentrated form. It’s best to dilute it with a suitable carrier such as jojoba or coconut oil. You can do this by adding one drop of tea tree oil to 12 drops of carrier oil.

Dermatologists recommend that people with sensitive skin use this product with caution. In some cases, it can make skin irritation worse. Apply it to a small patch of skin first to check for any reactions.

Today, widespread knowledge of tea tree oil benefits means it’s available in many products. You can find it in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, creams, gels, bath oils, and ointments. The essential oil version, however, is the most versatile since you can dilute it and add it to many products.

Are There Side Effects to Using Tea Tree Oil?

In general, most tea tree oil uses are considered safe and don’t have serious side effects. Rarely, people develop an allergic reaction, skin rash, or irritation after using it. If you notice any problems, discontinue use immediately and consult your healthcare practitioner.

There are many practical uses for tea tree oil and it’s far from the only essential oil with a lot to offer. Consider learning more about other essential oils and how they can benefit you and your life.