The Truth About “The Truth Behind Activated Charcoal”
An Open Letter to Dr. Mike Roussel in Shape Dec 24, 2014 regarding the article “The Truth Behind Activated Charcoal”.
I would like to comment on your article. Mixed in with some facts are a number of half-truths and false reporting. I am the author of the book CharcoalRemedies.com The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal, as well as the website by the same name. I am also the owner of Charcoal House LLC the most diverse source of activated charcoal products anywhere in the world. Our customers include NASA, Dept. of Defense, FDA, USDA, medical research universities, agriculture research stations, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, Fortune 500, as well as common ordinary people. So I have a uniquely qualified interest in activated charcoal.
You correctly outline the most well known use of activated charcoal in hospitals as a sorbent for thousands of toxins including common drugs. You are correct in describing some of its physics and chemistry, but then you comment on the Internet health claims associated with activated charcoal:
“Unfortunately, these stories are all wellness fairytales. The purported benefit of activated charcoal as a detoxifier is a shining example of how knowing just a little bit of information—and not the whole story—can be dangerous.”
I would agree a “little bit of information… can be dangerous”, so I would like to add some facts that were not included in your article.
The first credibility gap in your article is your image of charcoal. It is not activated charcoal. It is not even plain lump charcoal for barbequing. Any coal miner would instantly recognize the image as just a chunk of coal used in coal-fired generators.
Does activated charcoal whiten teeth? Absolutely! And has been advertized as such for well over a hundred years. Charcoal’s bleaching properties is why it is used extensively in the food industry to bleach cane syrup to make white sugar, to remove pigments from different foods before they go to market, as well as to polish out unwanted colors from hundreds of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
Does activated charcoal prevent hangovers? There is no other product that diffuses a hangover as effectively as charcoal. Hangovers are primarily caused by substances called congeners, and activated charcoal adsorbs them extremely efficiently. In an experiment conducted at Columbia University College of Pharmaceutical Sciences in New York City, researchers found that in test-tube conditions similar to a person’s stomach, activated charcoal absorbed 93% of one congener and 82% of another.
Does activated charcoal reduce the effect of environmental toxins? If you include dioxins, anthrax, radioactive waste, and hundreds of other deadly pathogens, then yes again. That is why it is used in HAZMAT suits and NBC combat clothing, and as air scrubbers in nuclear power generating plants…
Does it detoxify your body from radiation poisoning after undergoing a CT scan? I don’t know for sure, but I would hardly be surprised since coconut activated charcoal is the #1 antidote for radioactive poisoning? How do I know? It is my business to know. Why did the Japanese government almost deplete the world coconut activated charcoal market after the Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant disaster? Each one of those nuclear reactors used a giant filter filled with eight to ten tons of coconut activated charcoal to scrub the contaminated air before leaving the stacks. The plant was destroyed, but they desperately needed the Coconut charcoal to try and decontaminate the surrounding areas. You never heard this on any syndicated news service, but I learned only because it is my business. I think you will find this article very eye opening. “Radiation poisoning here”
I am really not faulting you. Even though activated charcoal is my business I continue to be amazed at the far-flung applications of charcoal. How could something so lowly as charcoal be both the main ingredient in the number one homeopathic remedy for baby colic (recognized by the APA), and one of the vital ingredients in water and air recycling equipment on nuclear submarines and the International Space Station, and a marker in breast cancer surgery, and one of the filters in the most sophisticated sound systems to block out dirty sound and microwave, and capture and release far infrared waves… and neutralize E.coli, diphtheria and tetanus toxins? But it does, along with a host of other quite different applications.
You are correct in stating a common “misperception about activated charcoal is that it can prevent the absorption of alcohol, and thus reduce hangovers”. Those who make those claims, as well as yourself, have missed the real chemistry. As I mentioned above, charcoal reduces hangovers by neutralizing congeners not alcohol. Up until very recently it was accepted fact that charcoal adsorbs alcohols very poorly. But today activated charcoals are being precision made to target single sized molecules including ethanol, as well as such things as inflammatory cytokines IL-8 (100% removal), IL-6 (80% removal), and TNF (51% removal) in blood, which are not only associated with pathological pain, but are the fatal ingredients in septic shock. These new activated carbons are set to revolutionize hemodialysis. How do I know? It is my business to know.
The “detoxifying” link you make with reference to hospitals is true, but far from the whole story. Activated charcoal is used industrially in thousands of applications to detoxify the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the earth we grow our food in. It decontaminates drugs, nutraceuticals, vegetable oils, fruit juices, and other food products of unpleasant odors, flavors, as well as pathogens. But, when it comes to very sick people, activated charcoal is used in kidney and liver dialysis machines and hemoperfusion cartridges to “detoxify” the blood of millions of people every day and prolong their life. Surely all qualified doctors know that fact.
Actually “the idea that activated charcoal ingestion will cleanse your body from the toxins inside” makes perfect physiological sense. Up to 80% of digestive juices are recycled through the digestive tract reintroducing a host of waste products, and activated charcoal wastes no time binding them as it does in different sorption devices. Besides that mechanism, it is well documented in several of the leading medical journals that activated charcoal has the ability to pull toxins from deep tissue and organs. (JAMA, Lancet, BMJ…) A new protocol for End Stage Kidney Failure includes low protein diet and oral activated charcoal. “Activated charcoal for kidney desease”
While the WHO and CDC are lamenting that antibiotics are our next world health catastrophe (Antibiotic Failure), revolutionary activated charcoal fabrics are being used in the latest wound dressings that kill deadly microbes like MRSA on contact. Ask Johnson & Johnson. Is Activated Charcoal the single most detoxifying agent in the world, and outer space? Absolutely, with more than 4,000 natural and manmade toxins known to be neutralized by activated charcoal! That is why it is used extensively on the International Space Station and has a reserved seat on the first manned expedition to Mars.
The most common fairytale circulated by healthcare professionals and pretenders alike is that charcoal adsorbs essential nutrients. You say, “Charcoal doesn’t discriminate between “good” and “bad” either.” Where do these people get this very dangerous information? Of course everyone should be concerned if their nutritional uptake is compromised for any reason. I have repeatedly asked for some research. Because charcoal is my business, I need to know. But to date no one has furnished any research of any kind using conventional Food Grade activated charcoals. As for your statement that “activated charcoal may bind nutrients and phytochemicals from fruit and vegetables and prevent their absorption by your body”, that is a “shining example”, not of distorting facts, but outright falsehood. The fact is: food manufacturers around the world regularly use activated charcoal to remove unwanted colors, to remove any putrefaction or rancidity, to remove bad odors, and some pathogens. With all that food processing with activated charcoal by the Food Industry, you would think there would be no nutrition left at all, but somehow adding a small amount of charcoal to a smoothie drink is going to decimate its nutritional quality? If adding charcoal to smoothies “could actually make their product less effective and healthful”, then it is certain one would not want to eat a good percentage of the food in grocery stores that have been polished with charcoal. But leaving fairytales behind, the fact is, foods treated with charcoal are actually safer, cleaner, and tastier. Then there are those foods that use charcoal for coloring, such as black licorice, chocolates, jams, caviar, burger buns, cheese slices…
Another fact: animals routinely fed activated charcoal not only do not display any nutrient deficiencies, they actually thrive. In one study, old laboratory rats lived up to 34% longer on regular charcoal and 90% longer on super C60 (University of Paris Dept. of Pharmacology – 2012 study). (University of Paris Dept. of Pharmacology – 2012 study.
Dialysis and ostomy patients who are already at risk for nutritional compromise show no deficiencies even though they are daily exposed to activated charcoal. A certain tribe of African monkeys regularly eats charcoal and shows increased birth weights and lower mortality. How is it these monkeys are aware of charcoal’s “detox” properties, but most healthcare professionals have still not evolved to their level of knowledge?
Safe & Effective
The fact is, charcoal does have the uncanny ability to precisely discriminate between good and bad nutrients, leaving the good and eliminating the bad. That is why the FDA lists it as Category 1 “Safe and Effective”, with no known adverse side effects.
Normally I do not bother to comment on these kinds of articles. In the past when I have pointed out similar errors on other sites it seems it is easier to leave the errors as is, rather than to acknowledge the misinformation. I did send this reply to the above blog, but as with others, they neither posted it nor responded to me. For those who do read this short article, I hope you will not let healthcare professional fairytales go unchallenged. Instead, I invite you to research our website to acquaint yourself with more of the amazing truth behind activated charcoal as a medicinal. The truth shall set you free.