Activated charcoal (AKA activated carbon or AC) is one of the secret weapon supplements my family takes as part of our mold and detox protocol. I have discovered over the course of my extensive research and my own personal experience that it is simply one of the best natural filters and detoxifying agents known to humankind.
Activated charcoal can help rid your body of almost all unwanted toxins, including mold mycotoxins and other harmful gasses. In this article, I will share with you the science behind this black alchemical gold.
Many experts also claim that activated charcoal is an anti-aging formula, and helps various medical conditions such as asthma, blood disorders, bronchial asthma, deodorant, disease diagnosis, inflammatory skin conditions, diarrhea, bloating, gas irritable bowel syndrome, liver disorders, metabolic disorders, ulcerative colitis, Lyme disease, and toxic mold illness.
It is given with great success to farm animals who eat mold and myctotoxin contaminated food to offset the toxic effects of the mold. Studies have shown that it greatly extends their lifespan by approximately 50% and their maximum lifespan by approximately 34% compared with other animals who eat moldy food, but do not consume activated charcoal.
It is also effective in blood purification for removal of various circulating toxic materials and waste metabolites, directly. Activated charcoal binds its positively charged molecular surfaces with negatively charged molecular surfaces of toxins in the blood and digestive system (Edwards and McCredie, 1967).
This is why it is given by medical professionals to people for emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning such as when people have overdosed on drugs or have swallowed poison. Activated charcoal helps prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body. It is very effective in this manner and has saved countless lives. The FDA rates it as a universal antidote Category 1 (safe and effective).
It is also used for commercial and industrial firms to remove impurities from water, air, gas, food, beverages, medicines, air filters in gas masks and respirators, and used for many other applications.
Activated charcoal is called an “adsorbing agent.”
It does not absorb chemicals and toxins, it adsorbs them which means it deactivates the harmful substance by creating a film of the adsorbate on the surface of the adsorbent which makes it biologically inactive. It does this because charcoal has millions of tiny pores that can capture, bind, inactivate, and remove up to 100 times the charcoal’s weight in toxins which it then carries safely out of the body through the digestive system. One teaspoonful of it has a surface area of more than 10,000 square feet which allows it to adsorb large amounts of chemicals, toxins or poisons.
Dr. Al Sears, and integrative medicine practitioner and founder of the Center for Health and Wellness, says, activated charcoal is “so potent that one gram of it—an amount the size of your fingernail—can adsorb enough toxins to fill the square footage of four tennis courts.”
This science that has been known for thousands of years.
As early as 1500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians documented several kinds of charcoal for various therapeutic uses such as for putrifying wounds to remove odors, and for problems in the gastric intestinal tract. The Egyptians also used charcoal as a topical antidote to poisoning. 160 (Yehaskel, 1978). Ancient Hindus filtered their water with charcoal (Cheremisinoff and Ellerbusch, 1978)
The Greek physician and Father of Medicine, Hippocrates recommended it for medical use as early as 400 BC. for the relief of dizziness, epilepsy, chlorosis, anthrax, and that pregnant women eat clay and charcoal. The students of Hippocrates recommended the dusting of wounds with charcoal to remove their unpleasant smell. Native Americans used charcoal for abdominal gas pain hundreds of years before the arrival of the Europeans.
True activated charcoal was not invented until the beginning of the last century and activated carbon derived from coconuts was used in gas mask filters in the 1’st World War (Cooney, 1980).
What is AC made of?
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. Common charcoal is made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell, or petroleum. “Activated charcoal” is similar to common charcoal, but is made especially for use as a medicine. To make activated charcoal, manufacturers heat common charcoal in the presence of a gas that causes the charcoal to develop lots of internal spaces or “pores.” These pores help activated charcoal “trap” chemicals. (wikipedia)
Ion exchange is defined as a ‘reversible chemical reaction between a solid and an aqueous solution that allows the interchange of ions . . .’ (Ockerman, 1991). Coal is a natural ion exchanger (Helffrich, 1962). Ion exchange can be enhanced by chemical activation.
Carbon surfaces have both negative (anionic) or positive (cationic) charges to attract free ions in solution or suspension, depending on how they are treated. Treatment of carbon with a base increases the capacity of carbon to exchange anions; acidulation of the surface makes carbon a powerful cation exchanger (Jankowska, et al.1991).
Surface oxidation involves the chemisorption (=chemical adsorption) of atmospheric oxygen to the carbon and the further reaction of the surface oxides that chemically react with other substances that are oxidized. The surface of activated carbon has an electrical double layer (Mattson and Marks, 1971).
Here is the science that proves the statements above.
Activated charcoal effectively adsorb pesticides, environmental hydrocarbons, pharmaceutical agents, mycotoxins, phytotoxins, feed additives, antibacterials and most bacterial toxins (Buck and Bratich, 1986). AC successfully treated a variety of toxicity problems in ruminants (Buck and Bratich, 1986; Bisson et al., 2001; Banner et al., 2000; Poage et al., 2000) and bacterial toxins (Buck and Bratich, 1986).
Activated charcoal is useful in the removal of E. coli O157:H7 organism and toxin, both in vitro and in vivo (Naka et al., 2001; Marks et al., 1998; Pegues et al., 1979). Naka et al. (2001) reported significant reductions in E. coli O157:H7 concentrations (from 5.33 × 106 to 0.80 × 103 within 5 min) on feeding 5 mg/ml of AC. Initial concentration was reduced below detectable levels with 10 mg/ml.
Removes Toxins and Mold Mycotoxins from the Gastrointestinal Tract
A USDA article states that activated charcoal is given to animals as a high priority livestock medication who eat toxins such as moldy food and toxic plants so that they are isolated in the gut pass through the intestine without being absorbed. Commonly used with all Mammal livestock (especially dogs who tend to eat nasty things). It is a therapeutic treatment used on an as needed basis. Usually kept on hand and administered by the farmer upon a Vet’s recommendation. Typical usage situations include suspected ingestion of toxic plants (Yew) and to control diarrhea caused by moldy silage. (1)
Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, G2, M1 and M2 are mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus) which can be found both indoors and outdoors. Aflatoxins are one of the most carcinogenic substances known to humankind. Aspergillus is also one of the most common molds that regularly contaminate human food, and also buildings. It is also one of the most common molds that wreaks havoc on human health causing many illnesses and diseases.
Activated charcoal has been shown in studies to adsorb aflatoxin B1 in an efficient manner in vitro at a neutral pH. One mg aflatoxin was adsorbed by 100mg activated charcoal. The complex appeared to be quite stable. Destruction of the aflatoxin by alkaline conditions was confirmed, and a large measure of destruction was also noted at acid pH. Implications of the adsorption phenomenon include prevention of systemic absorption.(2)
Biochemical and molecular genetic studies on the protective role of activated charcoal against aflatoxin Binduced genotoxicity in mice. The ability of dietary activated charcoal (AC) in reducing the detrimental effects of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) in mice diets was evaluated in a 2014 study. Researchers had shown that the addition of activated charcoal to AF contaminated diet led to improvement in biochemical and genetic parameters that were adversed by AFB1 alone in male and female mice. Biochemical analysis revealed that the AC treatment decreased the elevation of ALT, AST, uric acid, creatinine and MDA levels, as well as increased the TLC and RBC counts and Hb (g/dl) concentration.
In all cases, the treatment with high level of AC was more effective for amelioration of the adverse effect of AF than the treatment with low level of such adsorbent. Also, the AC treatment diminished the damage of genomic DNA, where comet assay analysis indicated that the rates of DNA damage significantly decreased in AF+AC or AF+AC groups as compared to AF group alone.
Moreover, DNA fragmentation using gel electrophoresis laddering assay observed that the treatment of male and female mice with activated charcoal plus aflatoxin decreased the DNA fragmentation induced by aflatoxin. In addition, the ISSR analysis especially by using HB10 primer proved that the supplementation of AC to contaminated diet with AFB decreased the DNA fragments produced from aflatoxin alone.
In conclusion, the present study proved that AC application can be used to protect the animal species against the genotoxicity of aflatoxin B1. The protection degree of AC is probably related to its concentration ratio.(3)
In another study, mice were injected with the mold mtcotoxin known as T-2 trichothecene. This mycotoxin is a member of the fungal metabolites known as the trichothecences. It is a naturally occurring mold byproduct of Fusarium spp. fungus which is toxic to humans and animals which can cause death or illness upon ingestion.
The researchers had found that mice who did not receive charcoal after the T-2 trichothecene was administered showed only 6% survival after 72 hours. Charcoal treatment (7 g/kg,po) either immediately or 1 hr after toxin exposure resulted in significant improvement in survival with values of 100% and 75%, respectively. Following parenteral toxin exposure (2.8 mg/kg, sc), untreated and charcoal-treated (7 g/kg, po) mice showed 50% and 90% survival, respectively, after 72 hr. LD50 value for T-2 toxin, determined at 96 hr after intoxication, increased significantly from 2 mg/kg for untreated controls to 4.5 mg/kg for activated charcoal treatment.(4)
A 1988 study, Oral activated charcoal in the treatment of intoxications -Role of single and repeated doses, had shown that this property can be applied to prevent the gastrointestinal absorption of various drugs and toxins and to increase their elimination, even after systemic absorption (
AC does Not Remove or Interfere With Nutrient and Mineral Absorption
According to British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Elaine Allerton, “Through absorption of toxins, activated charcoal is a natural gut cleanser. Nutrients, vitamins and minerals are either too large or don’t bond with charcoal.”
From the 1980 book Activated Charcoal by David O. Cooney: “Charcoal added to the diet of sheep for six months did not cause a loss of nutrients, as compared with sheep not receiving charcoal. … A level of 5 % of the total diet was given as charcoal. It did not affect the blood or urinary levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, inorganic phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, creatinine, uric acid, urea nitrogen, alkaline phosphatase, total protein or urine pH.”
Removes Toxins from the Blood
Some people claim that activated charcoal only removes toxins, gasses and other harmful substances from the digestive tract, this is not true. It is a blood purifier and is used to filter toxins from the blood due to poisoning and in liver and kidney diseases.
The inner linings of your small intestines are covered with millions of small villi, tiny appendages that absorb nutrients into the blood’s circulatory system, which cycles completely throughout the body at an average rate of once every minute, though more with exercise and less at rest. After the abundant tiny villi get coated with activated charcoal, within a few minutes blood cycles through them often enough for the charcoal to adsorb many toxins from the recycled blood. So it acts as a blood purifier.
In one study that was reported in the British journal Lancet on patients with high cholesterol, 8 gm.. of Activated Charcoal taken three times a day lowered total cholesterol 25%, lowered LDL cholesterol 41% and doubled their HDL/LDL (high-density lipoprotein/low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol ratio. Microscopic tissue examination studies have shown that a daily dose of Activated Charcoal may prevent sclerotic changes in the heart and coronary blood vessels.
A 2010 study had shown that oral activated charcoal plus low protein diet as a new alternative for handling in the old end-stage renal disease patients. They studied nine very old patients who did not agree with starting chronic dialysis and were put on a low protein diet and oral activated charcoal to reduce serum urea and creatinine levels in their blood. After 10 months of treatment, a significant decrease in blood urea and creatinine levels was observed and none of them required emergency dialysis during that time. (6)
Extracorporeal blood purification especially charcoal hemoperfusion is an efficient way to eliminate the toxins and poison contents from the blood. Extracorporeal blood purification is the process of removing pathogenic substances from body fluids through their clearance from flowing blood in a diverted circuit outside the patient’s body (extracorporeal). Pathogenic substances may include endogenous toxins (i.e., uremia), exogenous poisons (i.e., ethylene glycol), administered drugs, fungi, viruses, bacteria, antibodies/proteins (i.e., IMHA, myasthenia gravis), abnormal cells (i.e., leukemia), or excessive water.
Charcoal hemoperfusion is a treatment technique in which large volumes of the patient’s blood are passed over activated charcoal in order to remove toxic substances from the blood. Blood or plasma is passed through activated charcoal which attract solutes through hydrophobic or ionic interactions so that solutes adhere (“adsorb”) onto the sorbents. Solute clearance depends on the solute size, affinity to sorbent and ability to penetrate the porous membrane.
It has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including poisoning and hepatic failure. This type of blood cleansing or blood detoxifying was introduced in the 1940s, and refined from 1950 to 1970 and then introduced clinically for the treatment of poisoning in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite its availability, this technique is only infrequently utilized.
This 1986 study had shown that extracorporeal activated charcoal hemoperfusion can eliminate the majority of circulating endotoxin from the blood of dogs within 30 minutes. The researchers in this study had written:
“Circulating endotoxin is an important factor in the pathogenesis and clinical symptoms of endotoxin shock. The effect of extracorporeal activated charcoal hemoperfusion was investigated in experimental endotoxin shock of dogs produced by i.v. injection of Escherichia coli 089 endotoxin (1 mg/kg body weight). The endotoxin was labeled with 99mTc. The aorta and vein cava caudalis of anesthetized dogs were cannulated through the arteria and vein femorales.
The cannulae were contacted to the hemoperfusion charcoal cartridge. The efficiency of hemoperfusion was tested from the blood samples, and the endotoxin content of blood was measured biologically (in lead acetate-treated rats) and isotopically (99mTc radioactivity) at 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 min after injection. It was demonstrated that extracorporeal activated charcoal hemoperfusion can eliminate the majority of circulating endotoxin from the blood within 30 min.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3719924)
A 2010 study titled, “Intravenous lipid emulsions combine extracorporeal blood purification: a novel therapeutic strategy for severe organophosphate poisoning,” had found that charcoal hemoperfusion is an excellent blood purifier and an efficient way to eliminate the poison contents from the blood. The researchers in this study concluded:
“Extracorporeal blood purification especially charcoal hemoperfusion is an efficient way to eliminate the poison contents from the blood. We hypothesize that the combination of intravenous lipid emulsions and charcoal hemoperfusion can be used to cure severe organophosphate poisoning. This novel protocol of therapy comprises two steps: one is obtained intravenous access to infuse lipid emulsions as soon as possible; another is that charcoal hemoperfusion will be used to clear the OP substances before the distribution of OP compounds in tissue is not complete.
The advantages of this strategy lie in three points. Firstly, it will alleviate the toxic effect of OP pesticide in the patients by isolation and removal the toxic contents. Secondly, the dosage of antidotes can be reduced and its side-effects will be eased. Thirdly, a large bolus of fatty acids provide energy substrate for the patients who are nil by mouth.
We consider that it would become a feasible, safe and efficient detoxification intervention in the alleviation of severe organophosphate poisoning, which would also improve the outcome of the patients.” (7)
Many people take it daily or every other day like we do. This is called multiple-dose activated charcoal which involves the administration of more than 2 doses of oral activated charcoal to enhance the elimination of toxins.
A single-dose for multiple-dose therapy would be anywhere from 2-10 grams which normally equates to 2-5 capsules from most manufacturers. 2 capsules should be fine for a child and 3-5 for an adult. For severe poisoning, you would take anywhere from a minimum of 25 g. to as much as 100 grams.
In the article above, I present research that shows AC does not absorb nutrients and minerals. I have also found that my family does fine with nutrients when we take it and see no adverse effects.
- Activated charcoal adsorbs aflatoxin B1
- Biochemical and molecular genetic studies on the protective role of activated charcoal against aflatoxin B1-induced genotoxicity in mice
- Assessment of efficacy of activated charcoal for treatment of acute T-2 toxin poisoning
- Oral activated charcoal in the treatment of intoxications. Role of single and repeated doses
- Combination of oral activated charcoal plus low protein diet as a new alternative for handling in the old end-stage renal disease patients
- PubMed: Intravenous lipid emulsions combine extracorporeal blood purification: a novel therapeutic strategy for severe organophosphate poisoning
- Other sources are linked to in the article
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.