Activated charcoal is a mixture of coal, wood, petroleum, peat or additional materials that are “activated” over high temperatures to make them more porous. Once ingested, activated charcoal binds to toxins and chemicals in your gut; since charcoal can’t be absorbed by the body, it takes those substances out of the body with it. Yes, it will turn your poop black. Much like cannabis, the various uses of activated charcoal are popping up in studies to determine its effectiveness. While the research thus far is inconsistent, for most individuals there is limited danger to taking activated charcoal powder or capsules.

The Activated Charcoal Detox

Since the 1800s, activated charcoal powder either in drink or capsule form has been used as an antidote for poisoning; it is typically administered at a hospital for instances like drug overdoses or ingestion of a toxic substance. Activated charcoal, however, is not effective in all cases of poisoning, including that caused by alcohol. Sorry to say it but taking activated charcoal will likely not help much with a hangover, and if you suspect alcohol poisoning, you must visit your local emergency room.

You might have seen activated charcoal lemonade, cocktail or other elixir claiming to be a one-stop detox drink. While it might help carry out the bad-for-you things you ate just before, the porous particles in the activated charcoal powder also bind to nutrients and vitamins; it acts as a thief of the things you  need. Medications, such as birth control, can also get swept away with the charcoal, rendering them less effective.

While activated charcoal won’t help the general population in terms of a detox, it might assist individuals with particular ailments, such as chronic kidney disease. This condition causes kidneys to improperly filter waste products like urea and other toxins. Activated charcoal powder’s innate binding capabilities might take stress off the kidneys by helping the body eliminate these toxins through stool. Healthline also suggests that charcoal binds to cholesterol in the gut and prevents the body from absorbing it, suggesting that the product might help lower bad cholesterol. However, WebMD says the research on this effect is inconsistent.

Activated Charcoal Powder for Beauty

While the activated charcoal detox is an iffy situation, using the product for beauty purposes might be your best bet. Activated charcoal powder can be found as a tooth-whitening remedy; the substance’s ability to bind to other particles can possibly grab onto plaque, which then  washes away with a swish of water. Just don’t be alarmed when the charcoal powder itself makes your teeth black before it you rinse it.

Try an activated charcoal mask to rid your skin of impurities. The charcoal in a mask works by adsorption, so it attracts dirt and oil like a magnet, according to Good Housekeeping. Healthline suggests you can use an activated charcoal mask to treat acne or insect bites, but the evidence thus far is only anecdotal.

Turn Off Unwanted Odors

When bad smells are activated in your body, turn to charcoal for relief. According to Healthline, activated charcoal might reduce fishy odors caused by trimethylaminuria, or TMAU. This genetic condition causes trimethylamine to build up in the body and produce a smell akin to rotting fish. The surface of activated charcoal particles binds to this compound and helps the body eliminate it.

You can also try activated charcoal as a deodorant. According to Good Housekeeping, charcoal is inert so it won’t cause skin irritation. Try it as a “natural,” aluminum-free version of deodorant.

WebMD says activated charcoal capsules are available to treat intestinal gas. If you are prone to the foul-smelling vapor, particularly after consuming certain foods, try a capsule to see if it helps. Of course, you could also avoid gas-producing foods altogether, which means you’ll also dodge the undesirable effects that can happen from ingesting activated charcoal powder, such as black stools or constipation. WebMD warns you should not use activated charcoal with substances to treat constipation, such as magnesium citrate, because the combination can produce electrolyte imbalances. Also, don’t use charcoal supplements if you’re taking drugs like acetaminophen or tricyclic antidepressants. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about consuming activated charcoal supplements while using cannabis.

Detox Your Water and Air

While an activated charcoal detox might not be the best thing for your body, the particles can help purify your water and air. Water filters might be the most common use for activated charcoal. Water strained through the charcoal has fewer impurities like heavy metals, pesticides and chlorine. You can try activated charcoal sticks plopped in a water bottle and use up to four months; once the time is up, replace that old baking soda box with the charcoal stick and purify the air in your fridge. Also consider using an activated charcoal filter to eliminate odors in the air of your home.

Much like cannabis, the effectiveness and multitude of uses for activated charcoal is still under investigation. It is a purported natural remedy for various problems with relatively few side effects for most individuals, so try some of the options and see what works for you.