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Finding a natural solution

Natural Odor Eater: Activated Charcoal

Imagine you’re an astronaut, and today is your very first three-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Even though breakfast was carefully formulated to minimize any gas-forming combinations, you soon know that whatever you ate is starting to bubble. Does that mean you have to breathe that foul odor over and over again for the next three hours and spoil the breathless inspiration of outer space? No, activated charcoal saves the day. Incorporated into your space gear, not only does the activated charcoal adsorb the noxious odor, it also captures CO2. The air is purified and you can breathe it over and over again.

space station


For many back on earth, flatulence is a constant source of embarrassment, never mind discomfort. More and more have discovered underclothing products that quickly and effectively minimize or eliminate flatulence at the back door. Whether it is charcoal underwear, Totally Scents-Less Pads placed in the underwear, or larger pads placed over chairs, many have found instant relief from the embarrassment of foul odor and noise.

odor eliminating briefs

Getting closer to the source of the gas war going on in the bowels, some have discovered—to their joy—that taking activated charcoal orally can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, gas throughout the GI tract in minutes. This may be a new discovery for some but it is not new. As advertised in the 1908 Sears Catalog:

“Every person is well acquainted with the great benefit derived from willow charcoal in gastric and intestinal disorder, indigestion, dyspepsia, heartburn, sour or acid stomach, gas upon the stomach, constant belching, fetid breath, all gaseous complications and for the removal of the offensive odor from the breath after smoking.”

It seems the general population was more enlightened about the many uses and benefits of charcoal in centuries past than they are in the 21st. But, that is all changing.

From space suits to charcoal underwear and gas masks to charcoal soap, air purifiers to charcoal insoles and hunting clothes to charcoal wound dressings, activated charcoal is there to minimize or eliminate all odor—good, bad, or ugly. Rather than take your breath away, charcoal gives the breath of life back to us revitalized.

Bad Breath

Bad breath can erupt from the stomach, but it can also originate in the mouth. A quick fix? Suck on a charcoal tablet or lozenge. Or, follow the lead of our great grandparents: Brushing your teeth with charcoal powder or charcoal toothpaste does a lot more than eliminate bad breath. It whitens teeth, even removing tobacco stains. Regular brushing with a fine charcoal powder can also improve gum health. Some have found that placing a small charcoal dressing next to an abscessed tooth helps manage pain until they can schedule a dental appointment. One very important reminder: Before going out in public, always rinse your mouth after using charcoal orally. If you forget, some will find you amusing, most will not.

Body Odor

Body odor isn’t just an internal problem, but also external and today there are more and more charcoal products that are able to capture personal BO and help to restore self confidence. Activated carbon cloth is used in athletic gear such as shoe insoles, socks, knee and elbow guards, and sports helmets. The Asian market even offers charcoal pillows, blankets and mattresses with replaceable pouches of fine granular activated charcoal. Charcoal soaps, charcoal deodorants, feminine pads and other innovative ideas are finding their way to markets around the world.

Wound Dressings

The first recorded use of charcoal for medicinal purposes comes from Egyptian papyri around 1500 BC. The principal use appears to have been to adsorb the unpleasant odors from putrefying wounds and from within the intestinal tract. In more recent times (1700s) charcoal powder was used directly on gangrenous wounds to control odor. In our day, activated charcoal is finding similar applications. Dr Agatha Thrash (board-certified pathologist and former Medical Examiner for State of Georgia) reports:

“We had a patient who had a large, deep ulcer (twelve inches in diameter) due to an x-ray burn on his back. The burn was from an overdose of x-rays used for treating a skin cancer. The ulcer became infected and foul smelling. His entire house smelled of the ulcer, despite the most fastidious care. We started dressing the ulcer by sprinkling dry charcoal powder from a saltshaker on all the moist areas before applying gauze. Instantly the odor vanished from the ulcer, and gradually left the house. Although the patient eventually succumbed to the radiation sickness, he and his whole family were grateful for the charcoal.”*

For those of you who have suffered a broken limb that required a hard cast to immobilize it, you are no doubt familiar with the bad odor that develops. Most often the smell is from dead skin, but it may be from an open, draining wound. These odors are not only unpleasant, they are themselves toxic and they slow the healing process. This requires that the cast be changed often.

To avoid such frequent changes, Dr. Frank Haydon, MD, at Fort Benning Army Base, Georgia, developed a simple technique. He took fifteen grams of activated charcoal (about three to four tablespoons) and mixed it with enough water to make a slurry. After the first layer of cast was applied, the charcoal slurry was then poured over the area of expected drainage. The remainder of the plaster was then applied over this wet charcoal. The cast appeared slightly gray, but was accepted well by patients. The unpleasant odor of draining wounds was controlled for much longer, and there were no adverse effects on wound or fracture.*

Is there a natural, man-made, unpleasant, noxious, toxic or deadly gas, odor or scent activated charcoal doesn’t help eliminate? In my second installment, we’ll look at innovative ways activated charcoal is being used to help sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and to help prevent MCS from affecting the rest of us.

To see a variety of activated charcoal products for odor elimination visit Charcoal House

Purify Your Space

* The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal & Its Applications p. 149

John DinsleyJohn Dinsley is the co-founder and owner of Charcoal House LLC and Charcoal Gardens experimental organic farm. He is a Lifestyle Counselor, teaches public health programs, home remedies workshops, and drug cessation clinics. His award-winning book, The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal, is considered the most comprehensive manual on the medicinal applications of charcoal.