Activated Charcoal’s Many Health Benefits

Activated charcoal is good for more than just face masks.

  • Activated charcoal has a variety of wellness and beauty benefits.
    Photo by AdobeStock/Showcake
  • “Activated Charcoal for Health” by Britt Brandon has over 100 amazing uses for activated charcoal.
    Cover courtesy Adams Media

Activated Charcoal for Healthactivated charcoal, by Britt Brandon (Adams Media, 2017), is a guide on how to incorporate activated charcoal into your lifestyle through recipes, DIY beauty and self-care products, remedies, and more uses. Brandon's approach compliments a holistic approach to wellness. This excerpt explains the background of activated charcoal and some precautions when using it.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal, sometimes referred to as “activated carbon,” is a form of carbon that has been specifically processed to have small pores. These pores help increase its absorption of elements and its ability to engage in chemical reactions. Because activated charcoal is manufactured for specific functions related to absorbing, expelling, or reacting to elements, it is sometimes referred to as “active” charcoal.

Manufacturers create activated charcoal from peat, coal, wood, petroleum, or coconut shells. Heating common charcoal with gases causes the charcoal to develop tiny internal spaces (its pores), giving it an astoundingly high degree of “microporosity.” Even one gram of activated charcoal has an estimated surface area of 32,000 square feet! This activation process can be performed using either physical or chemical means, but both methods produce the same quality product.

The activated charcoal you find in stores and through distributors is derived from a variety of sources, but it’s all created with the intent of ridding pollutants, contaminants, or chemicals from an environment. Activated charcoal can be used for a multitude of things, including removing air or water pollutants, making wine, purifying distilled alcohol, removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from products, and even cleansing the body of harmful elements. While activated charcoal has historically been used for medicinal or environmental cleansing purposes, it is now being included in a variety of beauty, health, and home uses that can all contribute to the improvement of your overall health and the quality of your daily life.

The History of Activated Charcoal

Charcoal has played a role in a variety of applications throughout history with the earliest recorded use dating back to 3750 b.c. It was utilized by the Egyptians and Sumerians in the manufacturing process of bronze, as well as a preservative. Even in construction projects along the River Nile, Egyptians used fire to char posts in order to prevent rot once they were implanted into the wet soil. After discovering the preservative powers of charcoal, the Egyptians began using the substance in their process of preserving the corpses of the dead. Once wrapped in cloth, the bodies of those who had passed would be buried under layers of sand and charcoal for preservation purposes. The Egyptians incorporated charcoal in their embalming processes as well.

In 450 b.c., the charring of wooden barrels was a common practice to prepare for the safe transport of potable water on long journeys at sea. In addition to water, a number of other foods and organic materials were transported using the charred carriers. This practice led to the fine-tuning of charcoal in water preservation and purification that has evolved into the effective filtration and processing procedures we use today.

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