Activated Charcoal

Did you know that the 4th leading cause of death in America is due to adverse effects of properly prescribed drugs?  (Journal of the American Medical Association – July 2000).  Did you know that the more toxic your body becomes the more you have to battle health problems?

Toxins can be as simple and common as metabolic waste products that your cells produce as they create energy and keep you alive. Toxins can come from pathogens living in your body or from their metabolic wastes.  They can also be found in cleaning supplies, industrial wastes, preservatives, and, yes, drugs.  It doesn’t matter if they are prescribed, sold over the counter, or illegal. Toxins can also come from plants such as nettles, poison ivy and poison oak when they brush across your skin.  And they can come from mercury in dental fillings, root canals and dental appliances.  Toxins can come from bee stings, spider bites, and the bite of a snake or sting of a scorpion.  Toxins can also be found in the digestive tract in the form of undigested, putrefied food and gas.

In our June newsletter I mentioned goldenseal root as an herb everyone interested in natural health should have in their “medicine chest.”  Second to goldenseal is charcoal and no “medicine chest” is complete without it.

One important quality of charcoal is that it never ages.  If stored in a sealed, dry container, charcoal will retain its adsorptive qualities indefinitely.   While some botanical herbs such as Echinacea root keep at room temperature barely a year, other herbs such as goldenseal root will keep their properties for up to 4 or 5 years.  On the other hand, charcoal, if stored properly, will keep forever.

The second most important thing to know about charcoal is its tremendous adsorptive properties. Adsorption should not be confused with absorption.  With absorption there is no chemical bonding.  An example of absorption would be a cloth absorbing water from a spill.   However, with adsorption there are chemical bonds that form.  In the case of charcoal, since it is 100% carbon, the carbon to carbon bonds are weak and readily break.  Poisons, toxins and free radicals are all very active substances and they bond readily with the charcoal. These newly formed bonds are very strong and do not let go. That is how those substances are kept from interfering with important biochemical processes taking place in the body.  Once bonded to the carbon they are kept from causing us harm. A small amount of charcoal can adsorb a fairly large amount of toxins.  For example, lab experiments have shown that 1 quart of activated charcoal powder will adsorb 80 quarts of ammonia gas.

In the book by John Dinsley, there are numerous stories about the effects of charcoal in the body.  You may be surprised to find out that every ER in the country has charcoal.  Here is an account from John Dinsley’s book, giving you an example of how powerful charcoal can be:

Pauline is a registered nurse, and has worked in Canada, the US and overseas.  She has had many experiences with charcoal in clinical settings, and she chose this unusual one to share.  Paula writes:

“I remember this case from when I was working at a hospital in northern California.  Sometime after midnight there was a car chase, by the sheriff and his men, after a young man who had a sizable amount of cocaine in his possession.  They were finally able to corner him.  He tried to make a run for it, but they caught him.  However, in order to prevent the police from getting the drugs he had swallowed them all.  The police brought him directly to our ER.  We literally had to pin him down and put a tube down his throat and into his stomach.  Then we poured down one and a half bottles of charcoal slurry.  He never showed any sign of cocaine overdose.”

As the director of the ER, Pauline has witnessed charcoal being used for poisonings, drug overdoses and attempted suicides and can testify to the rapid and powerful action of charcoal.  That experience has also come to aid her own family, as it can for yours.  That is, if you have charcoal near at hand.

Here is another account from a book by doctors Christopher and Agatha Thrash:

Rx Charcoal.”
“A prominent Columbus, Georgia executive was traveling to Mexico when he developed a bad case of tourista [the common euphemism for diarrhea amongst tourists.  It is generally caused from E.coli bacterium in unsanitary food and water].  He was having diarrhea two to three times an hour on the first day of his disease, with much discomfort in the abdomen.  A doctor treated him with the usual antibiotics and Lomotil.  A week later, when he returned home, he consulted his own doctor because the condition had settled down to three to five diarrhea stools a day, with continuing discomfort.  He got a change of medication but no change of symptoms.  After twelve days of the disease and eight different medicines, he called us, desperately seeking suggestions for a natural remedy.  We began a routine of one tablespoon of charcoal in a glass of water, followed by a full glass of water every time he had a loose stool.  Within days he was entirely well… and sold on charcoal.  Now he never travels without charcoal, and always takes a tablespoon with the first hint of a symptom.”

Here are some of my own experiences with charcoal:

“Mommy come quick, something is wrong with Bambi!”

One afternoon my daughter came running in the house because one of our pregnant goats was “down”.  This means the goat was not able to support herself and was lying on the ground, dying.  She was about a month short of her time to deliver those kids and, of course, she was one of our very favorite goats.  Her name was Bambi because she was a medium brown color with white spots like those of a newborn fawn.

After examining the goat it was obvious she was not in labor.  She didn’t appear bloated, and it was early spring with no new grass to graze.  Certainly there did not appear to be anything she could have gotten into or eaten that would cause any problem.  She did not have a fever or sign of infection.  But she did appear to be dehydrated as her face was sunken.  I thought it looked like she may have had some diarrhea.  So I took an empty 1 liter plastic bottle out of the recyclables and mixed up a charcoal slurry with water.  I forced her mouth open and slowly introduced charcoal water, patiently waiting for her to swallow each time.  Once that liter was in her, I waited an hour and did the same ritual all over again.  After that, every 2 hours she got another 22 oz or so of charcoal water until nightfall.  Again the next day she received more doses.  By this time, however, she was on her feet and fighting me because she did not like her mouth being forced open and was no longer dehydrated.  The following month she went on to have 2 healthy babies.

Until this time, when an animal became so sick that they “went down” I had been unsuccessful at getting them to recover.  I had used all types of herbs and fluids.  Nothing seemed to work.  On several occasions I had gone to vets and the animals had received injections.  Unfortunately, whether I used vets or did things naturally, I always lost them.  To this day, if I have an animal go down, I use charcoal and am quite successful at getting them to recover.

“Mommy, I’ve been stung by a bee!”

As a young child, somewhere around 4 or 5 years of age, I remember getting stung by a bumblebee in the back yard along with Susan, my friend and next door neighbor.  We both ran home crying.  She ran to her house and I ran to mine.

Susan’s mother cleaned the sting, put on a bandage and gave her Benadryl.  My parents were different than other parents.  They both had grown up on farms in Iowa and were not as “citified.”  My father took me out to the back yard with a butter knife and a cup.  He dug up some dirt in an area where the grass was sparser, placing it in the cup.  Then he went to the water spigot and added a very small amount of water – just enough to make thick mud.  Next he used the knife like a spatula and spread the mud over the area that was rapidly swelling from the sting.  I was given instructions to go ahead and play, but not to remove the mud until it was completely dry.  Oddly, the pain was gone within minutes.  A few hours later I came back into the house for dinner.  My mother washed my leg, removing the mud that remained.  To my amazement there was no swelling.  There wasn’t even a sting mark!  My neighbor friend, Susan, however, remained in her house all day.  That evening she showed me the large welt that still remained on her arm and she screamed when I touched it.  Both she and her mother doubted that I had ever been stung!

I never forgot this episode and from that time forward I always used a “mud poultice” for bee stings.   How simple!  Then about 15 years ago I discovered charcoal.  Charcoal works even better than mud.  Now, I can be in a hotel, at a friend’s house, in another city or another country, caught in a terrible  rainstorm, in Minnesota where the ground is frozen 6 feet under, or in any number of other situations and all I do is grab my jar of activated charcoal powder and add water!  As long as you keep a small “medicine chest” with you in the car or in your purse it will always be readily available.

An accidental poisoning – like all accidental poisonings.  They are never planned and usually very serious!

We are generally very careful with toxic substances and purpose to not have any in our own house.  However, several years ago I ordered a preservative that can be used in skin care products.  It is a dangerous poison and not acceptable for ingestion.  I placed a small amount of this preservative into a small container for some research and development and gave it to the person doing the work.  Later that container was returned to us.  Weeks later someone found this jar and put it on a shelf where we kept coconut oil samples.

One fine Sunday morning Ken, my husband, decided to finish up the coconut oil in a particular jar.   That particular jar, however, did not contain coconut oil; it contained this toxic preservative – a poison.  He downed the entire amount in one big gulp.  Of course it burned going down and he knew it was not coconut oil, but it was too late.  By the time our family was ready to pile into the car and leave for church Ken was nauseous, weak, and had a terrible headache.  It was then that he told me what had happened and I realized what he must have drank. He looked awful.  It took a few minutes for me to think of what to do.  Then we made up a pint of charcoal water and I had him drink it.  He sipped another pint as we ushered everyone into the car and I drove to church.  By the time we arrived he had drunk part of a third pint of charcoal water.  Each pint contained 2 heaping tablespoons of charcoal and about 16 oz of water.

Once at church Ken had one bout of diarrhea, but otherwise felt fine.  We went through the day just like any other Sunday and there were no other side effects.

No one plans on their child drinking kerosene or a toxic cleaning agent.  No one plans on their husband drinking a preservative.  However, it does happen.  Even if it only happens once in all the years you are alive, how much better to have at your fingertips something that you can use to save their life?  Having charcoal in your own home is much better than getting in the car and driving to a hospital and then waiting on a treatment.  The first thing they will do at the emergency room is give the victim charcoal.  When you rely on a hospital, the additional 10 to 40 or more minutes could be the difference between life and death or permanent damage to the brain or other organs. How much better to have begun the process a half hour earlier?  The quicker you can use charcoal, the more poisons you will neutralize.

I heard that the person who first promoted the use of charcoal drank 12 times the lethal dose of strychnine.  He followed this with charcoal and had absolutely no symptoms, no signs of poisoning.  Based on my experience this story is very believable.

How I have used charcoal:

  1. I have used charcoal as a poultice on the skin for bee stings, spider bites, poison ivy, poison oak, and anything that is a toxic irritant to the skin or poisonous to the body.
  1. I have used charcoal for the flu to neutralize toxins in the stomach from illness.  It will stop bad cramps, nausea, or vomiting.
  1. I used charcoal for years when I had dyspepsia.  This is caused by poor digestion.  In my case there were not enough stomach acids to digest the food (pathogens are likely present, as well).  So rather than digesting my food, it sat in my stomach and rotted.  Lots of gas formed and it was very, very painful.  Charcoal neutralizes the gases and products of purification.  It is the only natural thing that really works.  It is much better than calcium or Tums.  If you add digestive enzymes when you are in this state the gas become much worse.
  1. I have used charcoal for poisoning (poisons that are ingested).
  1. I have used charcoal as part of various detoxification programs.  Both with standard detoxifying (especially during fasts) and with mercury detoxifying.  There are many people who are extremely ill and almost anything they do causes them to feel more sick.  Detoxifying gives them a great deal of pain and discomfort because their systems are already overloaded.  I have found that if they use herbs or supplements to help with the detoxifying process, and they are really toxic, they just get too ill.  However, if these people begin by changing their diet to extremely nutritious foods and use charcoal (or bentonite clay), they will begin to lower the level of toxins in their body.  Charcoal is gentle on the system with no side effects, yet very effective at binding to and eliminating toxins.  Therefore, it can even be used by people with fragile health.One side note here is that drugs are toxins.  Therefore, if charcoal is taken with drugs they will be neutralized.  Often times people with fragile health are on prescription drugs and these need to be taken at a different time than the charcoal.  Of course, my goal in getting a person well would be to get them off the drugs and address the underlying root causes of their problems.  But this usually needs to be done gradually and their interaction with charcoal needs to be understood.
  1. I have used charcoal to purify water.

Because it is so powerful, because it keeps forever and because it is so inexpensive, I believe it is almost foolish not to keep it in your home.

One last comment:

In one animal study, Dr. V. Frolkis, a famous Russian gerontologist, and his colleagues, demonstrated that the lifespan in laboratory rats increased up to 34% by feeding them charcoal in their diet. (V. Frolkis, et. Al., Enterosorption in prolonging old animal life, Experimental Gerontology, 19; 217-25, 1984) Even digestion with our very own digestive enzymes creates free radicals.  Having charcoal in the digestive tract will swipe up any toxins in the food and any toxins created by digestion before they enter the body, adding to longevity.

Activated Charcoal sold in the US is made primarily from 2 sources: trees (usually pine) and coconut shells. It is a fine black powder made solely of carbon atoms. The source is not important because all activated charcoal, regardless of starting material, is put through a process by which all minerals and other molecules have been “burnt off”. This only happens at very, very high temperatures. This is the difference between active charcoal and other charcoals or burnt foods.

When selecting activated charcoal, the major difference is particle size. The smaller the particle size the more active and more absorbant it will be. From the manufacturer, activated charcoal is sold by mesh. The larger the mesh number the finer the particles. The finer the particles the more active the charcoal and the more absorbant it is. The most effective activated charcoal will have a 70-100 mesh. This is the finest particle size available.

For more information on Activated Charcoal visit the Health Information Library.