Q. What is activated charcoal best used for?
Activated charcoal’s usefulness comes from it’s ability to adsorb. Adsorption is a process in which atoms or molecules move from a bulk phase (such as a solid, liquid, or gas) onto a solid or liquid surface. When taken internally, since activated charcoal is not “digested,” it stays inside the gastrointestinal tract and eliminates the toxin when the person has a bowel movement. It is also effective against bad breath, gas and intestinal disorders.
This mechanism of action should not be confused with absorption. Absorption occurs when a substance passes into or through a tissue, like water passing into a sponge. Once the chemical or drug has been absorbed by the GI tract, activated charcoal can no longer retrieve the toxic ingestion. It will only attach to substances that are still inside the stomach or intestines.
When applied externally, the property of adsorption draws toxins and inflammatory substances out of the body through the skin. It is best not to apply charcoal poultices directly onto open wounds, as a tattooing effect may occur.
The only side effects known are the occasional irritation of the bowel in certain inflammatory states and the prolongation of the transit time (i.e. constipation).