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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Purify Your World with Activated Charcoal

Informed people know that all the conveniences of our technological age come at a high price — pollution. Whether it is the air we breathe, the water we drink or bathe with, the food we eat or the very soil in which we grow our food, to a greater or lesser degree, the whole world has been negatively impacted by the chemical age we live in. But a great mystery to me is that so many of those who consider themselves informed, are all but unaware of the role activated charcoal plays in dramatically reducing or neutralizing the immediate and long-term effects of the toxic chemistry we are all surrounded by.

Photo by Dreamstime.

What are the most basic ingredients of life? Not ignoring the spiritual and emotional needs of man, most would agree that to survive any length of time we all need fire, food, water, air, earth, clothing, and medicine. If you were going to name one thing on planet earth that is vitally connected to each of the above elements, then at the top of the list you would have to put charcoal. For thousands of years charcoal has been used to warm houses, cook food, purify contaminated water, remove toxic odors from air, decontaminate and fertilize depleted soils, treat dozens of common and otherwise serious health issues, and in our day, it is used increasingly in fabrics for such diverse things as clothing, wound dressings, and space suits. Who would have guessed?

The Difference: Charcoal & Activated Charcoal

When you think of charcoal, think of the cold, hard, crusty black pieces left over when your campfire or wood cook-stove goes out. As the wood is gradually smothered with ash, the fire is deprived of oxygen, and instead of burning up into thin air, the moisture in the wood, along with all the volatile hydrocarbons, is essentially cooked/vaporized off leaving behind the black pieces of charcoal. Activating charcoal takes the same process to another level. For example, using charcoal made from coconut shell. The coconut charcoal is placed in giant rotisserie kilns and heated back up to very high temperatures and the charcoal is bombarded with oxidizing agents such as steam. This “activating” process dramatically increases the internal surface area of the charcoal particles, and it is this tremendous surface area that industry and medicine capitalize on.

soccer field
Photo by Dreamstime.

Don’t let technology confuse you. Activated charcoal is charcoal, just like condensed milk is still milk. It is the classic example of, “less is more.” It takes about three pounds of regular charcoal to make one pound of activated charcoal. During the activation process, while the outside volume does not change that much, the internal volume is dramatically increased as layer after layer of carbon atoms are peeled away leaving an internal structure permeated with microscopic tunnels. If you could magically unfold the surface area in one teaspoon of activated charcoal, it would stretch out to a soccer field. A one-quart jar filled with activated charcoal can suck up about eighty quarts of ammonia gas. Now that is a microcosmic Black Hole!

Water Purification

Recent studies of the wrecks of Phoenician trading ships from around 450 B.C. suggest that drinking water was stored in charred wooden barrels. This practice was still in use in the 18th Century for extending the use of potable water on long sea voyages. Wood-staved barrels were scorched to preserve them and the water or other items stored in them. How ingenious is that, a completely natural, organic, and environmentally friendly preservative! Today we have hundreds of patented sleek chrome water filters and activated charcoal is a major component.

water pollution
Photo by Dreamstime.

More and more, water is becoming a very valuable commodity, but whether it falls from the sky, is stored in reservoirs, or is pumped out of the ground, increasingly that water is contaminated with a host of chemicals. Whether it is rainwater contaminated with dioxins and VOCs from coal-fired generators, or river water drugged with steroids and antidepressants from sewage treatment plants, or well water medicated with antibiotics, it is a given that, whether it looks clean or not, the water coming out of our faucets is probably not that safe to drink, even if it does reek of chlorine. Consequently, bottled water has become a way of life for many, and whether people realize it or not, it has all been filtered through granular activated charcoal. How does something black, take dirty, smelly, toxic water and make it crystal clear and safe to drink? That is part of the mysterious science of charcoal.

Air Purification

The charcoal science used to clean water is the same science that is used to purify air. Whether it is nuclear power plants, modern vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, hospital surgery rooms, industrial HEPA filters, or gas masks, they all use black charcoal to turn otherwise deadly gas cocktails into revitalized air you, your animals, and plants can all thrive on.

olive oil
Activated charcoal enhances food flavor and appearance. Photo by Fotolia.

Healthier Food

Activated charcoal is used in numerous ways in the food industry to enhance the flavor and appearance of food. It is sometimes added for coloring, as in jellybeans, caviar, jams, beverages, burger buns and cheese slices. Sometimes it is used to take color out of food — white sugar and white grape juice. Primarily it is used to remove unpleasant flavors, odors, and putrefaction compounds (such as rancidity in vegetable oils), thus restoring many of the natural qualities lost in processing.

Really, once you begin to look around, you will be amazed at just how many things are purified by charcoal. Pharmaceuticals, food supplements, blood, infected wounds, gold and other precious metals, fine chemicals, microwave, yes, even dirty sound, and much, much more.


To see the scope of different activated charcoal products visit Charcoal House.

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.