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Healthy Habits: Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is activated carbon processed so that it is more porous. It can be purchased in capsule form and is a MUST to have on-hand in your home and vehicle medical kits. It can prevent toxic substances from being absorbed by the body, so it is essential in the immediate treatment when a poisonous substance has been consumed or for overdose.

In a case where a young child may’ve gotten into something that they shouldn’t have, or an adult has accidentally consumed something toxic, activated charcoal can be given to them immediately and the pores in it can trap the substance and prevent it from being absorbed. You would, of course, make the immediate phone call to 911, but this is something you can do before help arrives.

The usual recommended dosage is as follows, however do your research and consider all factors. For example, if one is taking pharmaceutical medications, the charcoal could absorb that as well. Let’s say you are planning to take activated charcoal once a day to detox your body of any harmful substances that may’ve built up over time through contaminants in the environment, water, etc. You would want to take it at least 2 hours before or after you’ve taken your doctor recommended medication because the charcoal could absorb components of the medicine as well and prevent you from receiving what you need from that. Also, activated charcoal should not be taken for any extended period of time.

Recommended Dosage

It is not recommended for activated charcoal to be administered to children. However, in a life or death situation such as that they have accidentally consumed something toxic and you need to act immediately before help arrives, this could save a life. Call the poison control center, a pediatrician or your family doctor in advance of a situation like this occurring so that you are prepared with the correct procedure and dosage for each of your family members and yourself.

If you have been told to administer activated charcoal and ipecac syrup to treat the poisoning, then do not give the charcoal until after the syrup has been taken to cause vomiting and the vomiting has ceased, which is usually around 30 minutes. Follow the recommendation of your child’s doctor, and not what I am writing here. The purpose of this column is to merely make you aware of helpful information that you may not have known otherwise.

The recommended pediatric dose for treatment of poisoning is: for under 1 year of age – a single dose of 0.23 to 0.45 grams per pound of body weight; for 1-12 years of age – a single dose of 25-50 grams; and for 12 years of age and older – 50-100 grams. Those who cannot or will not take the capsules, the powder can be emptied from the capsule and added to a small amount of water or applesauce, for instance. There are also liquid versions available, but check the label on those and make sure there are not harmful additives.

When activated charcoal is in the stomach it can trap harmful substances and stop them from being absorbed into the bloodstream, which can also prevent those toxins from traveling to organs and tissues. It could save a lot of discomfort, maybe eliminate the need for a stomach pump, and could even save a life.

Adults can take 1 or 2 of the 200 mg capsules daily, and for short periods of time, such as for treating indigestion or for detoxing, depending on factors such as weight.

Purification of drinking water is another main use of activated charcoal. It can also ease an upset stomach and possibly reduce cholesterol. And, for those who have found themselves in a situation that they are waking up with a hangover from drinking too much alcohol the night before, it is said to alleviate those as well and may also be a remedy for alcohol poisoning in an emergency situation before help can arrive, or in the meantime before arriving at the ER.

Activated charcoal can also be helpful in treating acne, reducing gas, treating/preventing diarrhea, treating skin conditions and wounds, treating chronic kidney disease by slowing its progression, and even whitening teeth. I recommend Mary Ruth’s Brand Activated Charcoal Capsules. These can be taken orally, and the capsules can be opened to release the powder for making a poultice, toothpaste, homemade facial mask, etc.

There are counterindications for taking activated charcoal, so do your research and/or talk with your doctor beforehand. The main reason to have it around is for an emergency situation where a chemical substance has been consumed by a pet or loved one and then it can be administered quickly before the body has a chance to absorb it. As to what the dose would be for a pet, that can be discussed with your fur baby’s vet.

Having it on-hand will eliminate the wait time for emergency personnel to arrive and could save a life! When they arrive, make sure and tell them that you’ve administered the charcoal already and how much. And, keep in mind that activated charcoal is not equally effective for all toxins.

Be Well and God Bless You.

By Jennifer Wimmer

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