Shades of Black

Teeth whitening is often pegged high on the benefits list of AC, but it is the anti-bacterial effect that really grabs me. It has repeatedly come to the rescueof anyone with a gum or tooth infection.

– R K Chandrika

This is not mere charcoal scraped from the back of a pot that’s sat for long on a wood fire. Though I’ve heard a few swearing by the efficacy of even that in giving quick relief to a nerve-wrenching toothache.

There’s some impressive technology that goes into the ‘Activated’ prefix that makes this charcoal a different ball game altogether.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated Charcoal (AC) is used in industry and medicine, but the grades are different. The food or pharmaceutical grade is safe for human and livestock ingestion and external application. The industry grade should not be consumed, and is used in industrial and other applications like water filtration.

The food grade one is subject to high heat treatment, usually by steam instead of chemicals, and then oxidized. The remaining substrate, close to pure carbon, has a molecular structure with an enormous surface area that makes adsorption very powerful. Though it has been used in mainstream medicine as an emergency antidote for its adsorption function for over dosage of certain drugs, it doesn’t seem to work for corrosive acids, lye and alcohol.

You want to note the word ‘adsorption’ as different from ‘absorption’. In adsorption, the ions, atoms or molecules of the material attach themselves to the substance that is the adsorbent, whereas in absorption, the material dissolves or is pulled into the substance that is the absorbent.

As in a lot of traditional medicine (and charcoal, even if not activated, has been used traditionally in several systems of folk, ayurvedic, siddha, and unani treatments), there may be a paucity of ‘scientific studies’ that encourages the ‘fad slayers’ to throw out the baby with the bath water. If you scan ‘scientific studies’ for a whole bunch of medicines with the intent of proving them false, it won’t be very difficult to do so.

As I say often enough, and reiterate here, that it ispertinent in all approaches to health and healing to remember that the body follows the mind and spirit. What you believe in deeply is etched in your consciousness, and is what makes you and your reality.

There is vast anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of activated charcoal in a wide range of conditions. If you would like to explore more than my experiential narrative with this medium, I strongly suggest reading the book, Charcoal by John Dinsley, who has given a first hand account of its applications. There is a slew of other very readable books on the subject, but I mention this one because Dinsley’s is a detailed account of how he treated himself, his family, friends, acquaintances as well as animals with activated charcoal, and on the occasions when it was not available, with plain charcoal.

External Application

There are a lot of ‘cosmetic grades’ of activated charcoal used for oily skin face masks and spot acne or pimple treatment, but I always prefer using food grade for this purpose, since chemicals coming into direct contact with the skin have been time and again proven to cause short and long term health hazards, including skin conditions ranging from rashes to eczema and dermatitis, other than non-specific internal organ damage. It is the same degree of hazard that applying chemical based personal care products expose you to.

Teeth whitening is often pegged high on the benefits list of AC, but it is the anti-bacterial effect that really grabs me. It has repeatedly come to the rescue of anyone with a gum or tooth infection.

Swish about a quarter teaspoon of the powder in your mouth with saliva for five minutes or so, or tuck a tiny AC covered cotton wad and hold for half an hour at least at the site of infection. For a more acute condition twice a day is recommended.For maintenance, prevention and milder conditions, once a day should suffice. This almost always brings quick relief, and with the exception of cases where the infection is very deep-seated, a cure as well.

People apply a paste of the AC powder and water to cure a number of skin conditions – suppurating wounds, infected skin, inflammation, insect bites, eczematous conditions, boils, acne, non-specific lesions, etc. In dry and flaky skin conditions, a mixture of AC powder and coconut oil works very well too. However, an AC poultice is far more effective than the paste. This is because the poultice remains damp for far longer, allowing its action to stay for longer, thereby becoming more impactful. Moreover, the black powder doesn’t settle into open skin, leaving marks that are difficult to remove. Exercise caution in using damp poultices in conditions such as bed sores, where the imperative is to keep the skin and site dry.

A large number of people who have come to me with joint and non-specific pains and inflammatory conditions, have found marked relief and reversal from using AC poultices regularly. You can make a poultice by mixing equal parts of ground flax seed and AC with water to constitute a thick paste. The paste is spread on a thick tissue paper, or muslin cloth or thick gauze, folded up, and then fastened around the affected area with body tape or bandage. This sort of treatment is best left overnight, after making sure that the poultice won’t leak onto bedclothes.An extra layer of plastic wrap can do the trick, if the weather permits its use (think plastic wrap on bandaged skin on a hot and humid day!)

Some have got remarkable results for arthritis and rheumatism through soaking feet and legs in a warm slurry of AC and water for about 20 minutes. A full body tub soak will have an impact on the upper limbs too, but the cleaning up to be done after that is also a heavy consideration if you have no help with that part of it. AC powder, being rather fine, tends to adhere to surfaces like programmed mind-sets.

AC Consumption

In terms of ease, AC mixed in water is easy to drink, because it is tasteless and odourless. It can be a little gritty, but that can be washed down with plenty of water. Since it is known to adsorb quite a range of chemicals, it is best had at least an hour away from prescription medicine or supplements.

Food grade AC is best had in short spurts of a week or ten days, beginning with half teaspoon mixed in a glass of water, and building up as per comfort levels. I have found it fast acting for people with nausea, diarrhoea, indigestion, and bloating. In combination with other dietary protocols, it has helped with lack of energy, sluggishness, acidity, throat infections, fever, and as a general detoxifier making for better absorption of minerals and vitamins in food.

In short courses, it reportedly combines well with food grade diatomaceous earth (That is another story for another lazy day) for very effective detoxification.

Drinking plenty of extra water during an AC detox is essential to prevent constipation.

An end note -don’t black out when the stools come black; it’s only AC escorting the infamous toxins out. It will also help you note how long the food stays in your digestive system, when you stop the AC and count the number of times you continue to pass black.

R K Chandrika has been imparting nature treatment and spiritual healing and practices for the past 20 years, apart from being a professional documentary filmmaker. She runs a holistic nature care enterprise accessible on You can send in your questions at  She will answer the more relevant and generic questions of them, which will be carried the following Sunday. 

Disclaimer: Everything related to health in this column is for information purposes only. Readers are expected to exercise their own good sense in following any of them, and consult a professional therapist or doctor for conditions that warrant doing so. The author and The Morning Chronicle bear no responsibility for any outcomes from following anything described herein.

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