This article at A Year Without the Grocery Store talks about the Survival Applications and Everyday Uses for Activated Charcoal
Old Wives’ Tales?
There are so many old wives’ tales about health. Your grandmother’s chicken soup for a cold. Feed the flu, starve a fever. Drink chamomile tea to help you sleep. Upset stomach? Try peppermint tea.
But several of those things have more than a shred of truth to them. Did you know that chicken broth is one of the best items to soothe your digestive tract and give your immune system – which many people believe is centered in your gut – a boost. Chamomile tea has been proven to help aid in sleep. And while “Feed a cold and starve a fever came into being in the 1500s, there’s very little truth to it. But Peppermint tea has been shown to help digestive issues. In a former article, I discussed eight OTC’s that could save your life. Activated Charcoal is one of those.
Another Well-Known Remedy
But there’s another natural remedy that many people tout as almost a cureall – Activated Charcoal.
Activated charcoal was first used by the Egyptians for medicinal purposes as early as 1500BC. But it was also used by the Phonecians by 400 for its antiseptic properties. By 50 AD was used by Hippocrates and the Greeks. But it was lost for a long time during the dark ages. It re-emerged in the 1700s as a medicinal treatment for many things.
But today, not only does activated charcoal have a ton of every-day applications. It also has many survival applications. So let’s jump in!
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Pertinent Info and Cautions
If you are on medicines, Activated Charcoal will nullify any medicines that you’ve taken in the last 4-6 hours. So if you do decide to use it and you’re on medicines, make sure that you don’t take it with the medicines or even near the time when you took the medicines.
Activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as the charcoal that you find at the grocery store and that you use in your grill. Not only will they not work the same, but charcoal briquettes have chemicals in them which are harmful. Please do not mistake the one for the other.
What is it?
Activated charcoal is created when organic materials like wood, bamboo, coconut husks, or coal are burned at temperatures of 600-900 degrees celsius to create a charcoal powder. Between that and charring it with chloride salts and exposing it to steam, a vast network of pores is created. It’s this network of pores that gives activated charcoal it’s properties.
So much additional surface area is created during the activation process that 50 grams of activated charcoal (which is about the weight of 20 U.S. pennies) has 17.5 times more surface area than a full-size football field, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
Forms of Activated Charcoal
I personally purchase activated charcoal in two forms. I purchase it in a powder and in a pill form. Each has its uses.
As you read below, you’ll find that activated charcoal can be used to make poultices for various medical applications. In order to use activated charcoal in this manner, having a powder form on hand is more than helpful. This is the one that I personally choose. It’s USDA Certified organic and food grade.
But at the same time, you may not want to try to drink activated charcoal mixed with water in a powder form because it will temporarily discolor your teeth and mouth. If you have somewhere to go quickly, but you want to take some activated charcoal, having it if pill form is much more convenient.
Before we jump right into this. I need to remind you all that I am NOT a doctor. I’ve researched these treatments, but I don’t understand 100% of everything I’m writing about. Please make sure that you do your own research before you commit to any course of action. I’m also not suggesting that anyone should use activated charcoal instead of heading to see a doctor. Survival applications are just that – these are for a time where you can’t get to a doctor either because there are none around that you can find or you’re in a SHTF situation where you can’t leave your house.
1.) Poisoning and Overdose
Activated charcoal has been used to treat poisonings or overdoses since the 1700s. It’s one of the oldest documented medicinal uses of Activated Charcoal. Even here in the United States, activated charcoal is used in hospitals to treat poisoning and accidental overdoses. As far as survival goes, having a way to treat an overdose or accidental poisoning is more than important.
There are certain types of poisonous substances that activated charcoal cannot counteract. Anything caustic – something that burns on contact, poisonous gasses, lye, petroleum products, metals such as lithium and iron.
Making a paste of activated charcoal will help draw out the toxins. I had a friend whose fairly young child (around 3) had gotten a bite, but because it was on the inside of his thigh, she didn’t find it right away. When she did, it was a weekend, and she didn’t feel it warranted a trip to the ER, so she made a thick paste of activated charcoal and wrapped his leg in saran wrap to keep the moisture in. It drew out the toxins and left a bit of a crater in his leg – until it filled in, but he healed just fine!
If you’re not living through a survival situation, if you have a snake bite or something else serious, please do seek medical help, though.
3.) Skin abscesses
Activated charcoal poultices don’t only work on stings and bites, but they also work on other skin problems like abscesses and cysts.
You make a poultice by starting with the dry activated charcoal powder, drip enough water into it to make a wet paste. Apply the paste to the skin and cover it with something like saran wrap to keep the paste wet. Change it every 12 hours.
4.) Water filtration
Because activated charcoal has so much surface area and so many pores, it makes a great water filter. Many companies that make water filters used activated charcoal in the filters – Including Brita. Just go to Amazon and search activated charcoal water filters. You’ll find a ton of them. Brita uses charcoal filters in their pitchers.
5.) Can improve kidney function in people with kidney disease
Activated charcoal is able to remove excess phosphorus, urea, and other toxins from the blood. Some patients in end-stage renal disease use it to lessen the time that they have to be hooked up to a dialysis machine. Since it removes excess urea from your blood, it may also improve/prevent gout.
6.) Digestive issues
These would vary from vomiting to diarrhea to bloating to stomach cramps to gas/flatulence. Because activated charcoal is able to adsorb (yes, that is the correct word) various contaminants in your digestive system, it is a great way to help quell and calm digestive upset throughout your digestive tract. When my children have an upset stomach or start throwing up, I will mix 1 capsule (about 1/4 tsp of activated charcoal with some water. For my littlest one, I will add a packet of stevia. Then I have them drink the concoction through a straw. If you don’t use a straw, they’ll have to brush their teeth as you’ll leave your teeth stained by the activated charcoal.
7.) Lymes disease
Lymes patients often suffer from die off reactions also called herxheimer reactions. It’s where dying bad bacteria give off toxins as they die. In research for this article, I went to article, after article, after article which talked about how people with Lyme’s disease benefit from using activated charcoal.
8.) Mold toxicity
We’ve had several families that used to attend our church that suffered from mold toxicity reactions. We had mold removed from the church, but apparently, the toxins are persistent even if the mold is removed. One of these families said that whenever they left the church building, they would experience reactions to being exposed to these mold toxins. One family would take activated charcoal every time they left the building. They said that it helped immensely.
But don’t take my word on their word. There are studies that have been done that discuss the benefits of taking activated charcoal for mold toxicity.
Activated Charcoal doesn’t just adsorb toxins, it is able to adsorb unpleasant smells. Besides being able to be used in a refrigerator to remove persistent stenches, it can also do the same with your underarms. Want to give it a try? Here’s a DIY recipe for activated charcoal deodorant.
10.) Plant Poisons
I’m not talking about poisonous plants that you ingest. I’m talking about plants like poison ivy, poison oak, stinging nettle. This is another instance that you can create a poultice using activated charcoal and cover the affected area with it. Wrap it in something that will keep the moisture in (plastic wrap works well) and change it every 6-12 hours…(continues)