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Is activated charcoal really as healthy as the claims?

Activated charcoal is, shall we say, having a moment. Whether we’re hearing about celebrity-white teeth, baby-smooth skin or better digestion, this power powder is on everyone’s minds as the latest miracle product. But is it as healthy as all the claims say? Yes and no.

The history of charcoal

First of all, history repeats itself. Turns out, our ancestors were using the stuff long before it even crossed our radars.

“The use of activated charcoal dates back centuries,” says Jillee Nystul on her blog One Good Thing.

“Egyptian doctors, as well as Hippocrates (the Greek physician), recommended the use of charcoal for medicinal purposes. North American Indians used it for gas pains and skin infections,” she explains.

Activated charcoal vs. regular charcoal

But wait! Before you grab that briquette of coal from the cookout and rub it all over your mug, it’s important to know that activated charcoal is a bit different.

“Charcoal doesn’t seem like something that would be beneficial to your health. After all, regular charcoal is a known carcinogen,” says Sara Novak on the blog Organic Authority.

“But activated charcoal — a product that’s made from the byproduct of slow-burned peat, wood and coconut shells — is much different than barbecue charcoals. It’s treated with oxygen, leaving behind a porous, delicate substance that’s excellent at absorbing toxins on the inside and outside of the body,” says Novak.

More research necessary

Yes, there are plenty of claims out there that activated charcoal alleviates everything from hangovers to nausea to insect stings. However, modern medicine is still researching the benefits and potential risks of using activated charcoal — and, let’s be real, you should not replace a visit or call to your doc with a DIY charcoal remedy.

“Just as green tea ice-cream isn’t a health food, it’s important to note that just because a product contains activated charcoal, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Avoid being fooled by unvalidated health claims,” warns Novak.

Give it a try!

Want a fun, easy and safe way to incorporate activated charcoal into your life? Try this goth ice-cream recipe from Baking Bites. You’ll definitely keep the conversation going at your next gathering serving up this dark and sweet treat!

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