Is there coal in your stocking?

Is there coal in your stocking?

Posted by Wellspring, Category: To Your Health,

Well, I guess we should hope not, but if there is, there are some really neat things about charcoal.  And that's not exactly the coal Santa supposedly leaves...but humor me!  Let's talk about what we do with charcoal!

Definition & History.  If you have a grill, you know charcoal.  Used as a fuel, it's generally made by burning down plant or animal material to the carbon and ash that's left in a slow and controlled way.  This is not the kind of charcoal that's used for health purposes!  For that we need activated charcoal.  Making this kind of charcoal takes an additional step.  Charcoal is oxidized with steam or hot air which makes it much more porous than regular charcoal.  This activation is what gives it the special properties medicine uses.

Historically, there is record of use of charcoal by the ancient Egyptians to get rid of odors of gangrenous wounds.  This use continued through the ages, but additionally it was discovered to help staunch bleeding, control gas and bloating of the gastrointestinal tract, diarrhea and many other maladies.  It was used topically and internally.

Usage Today. Activated charcoal is not as widely used as a medicine as it was a few hundred years ago.  However, it still has some very important functions.  Its ability to bind chemicals and other toxins is where we use it most today.  In water, air or in the human body, activated charcoal can hang onto toxic chemicals found in many of our environmental pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, some poisons and more.  You may have a charcoal-based water or air filter in your home doing that very job right now!  But it can also work this way in the body.  It may be used in acute poisoning cases in a hospital setting.  It may also be used as an adjunct treatment for helping the body rid itself of accumulated toxins.  Charcoal is not absorbed into the body, rather it hangs onto the toxins and passes through the stool with the garbage in tow.  Some people still use it for diarrhea and bloating, in a paste to soothe bee stings and spider bites and some even use it to whiten their teeth!

Cautions.  FOR ACUTE POISONING - Call Poison Control or 911!  If you are not in an emergency situation, however and looking to use activated charcoal, there are a couple things to remember.  Since it does bind other substances, do not take it within two hours of your regular vitamins and minerals.  They will be bound to the charcoal and eliminated - not used as you intend!  This applies to medications as well and you should talk to your prescribing physician about combining the two.  Drink plenty of water and have plenty of fiber as well, to help keep the bowels active for elimination.  Activated charcoal will most likely turn the stools very dark or black - don't be alarmed!  For more cautions and interactions, please follow this link. 

So consider activated charcoal for use in your home and in your medicine cabinet!