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Glossary: Activated Charcoal

Sakara Glossary is your go-to place to learn the foundation of optimal health and wellness — we give you the 411 on the minerals, vitamins, and concepts that are integral to a healthier, more conscious, sexier life.


Activated Charcoal (Ack-teh-vay-ted Chh-aar-cohl), noun

Origin: Derived from either burning wood, or coconut husk at high heat without the presence of oxygen.

Activated Carbon (a precious element necessary for life on Mother Earth, or any planet, really)


Activated charcoal is one of, if not THE, most detoxifying powder of a sorts that you could slip into your precious body. It is delicate yet powerful, super binding and if we’re being honest, extremely delicious (yes, it is the not-so-secret secret ingredient in our Sakara Detox bar).

Activated charcoal is a carbon based substance that has been used for healing purposes for over 10,000 years. It is the most ancient detoxifying ingredient known to man — spanning healing methods such as Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and even common Western Medicine practices, to soak up poisons and toxins present in the body or a polluted environment.

Charcoal becomes “activated” through a process that combines high temperatures with gas, causing the charcoal to expand, creating large pores that then bind to, and simultaneously hold onto, large amounts of toxic foreign materials. And just a little goes quite a long way: 2g of the stuff corresponds to roughly the entire area of a football field! When impurities come into contact with activated charcoal, they are tightly bound, on a molecular level, and cannot escape except through the bowels. 

Fun fact story: Back in 2008, a Chinese chemical company encountered an accidental explosion that released millions of quantities of the highly toxic compound benzene into the Songhua River, which provides drinking water for over 10 million people in the city of Harbin. The Chinese government used copious amounts of activated charcoal to filter benzene out of river, all to much of a success, saving the village from a very near brush with annihilation.


But, what are the practical benefits of activated charcoal?

  • General detoxification from environmental + food toxins (especially when traveling, or floating from place to place in a highly dirty city -- NYC, we see you)
  • Stomach / digestive issues
  • Rids of bad breath + body odor (internal deodorant...bring it on)
  • Improves skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis 
  • General anti-aging regimen


    And it's important to note, that the common detoxification term "aBsorption" that definitely applies to other detox foods and compounds that help in binding to / eliminating toxicity from the system does not apply here. Activated charcoal works via a process of "aDsorption". Adsorption is the adhesion of molecules, ions and gas spanning across a larger surface area, making for deeper molecular purification. Scientifically speaking, it is the micro-transport of organic materials through the aforementioned pore-system of an already existing compound (i.e. the matter of in the stomach or colon). All meaning that activated charcoal will leave the good, and eradicate only the toughest, most undesirable environmental toxins in your system, all the while gently brushing upon the good stuff that your body wants to keep, and leaving it behind.

    Contemplating experimentation with activated charcoal to up your daily detox powers? Awesome then, because you really can’t go wrong. As always, we abide by the everything in moderation rule, and especially when it comes to all types of herbals and supplementation — you don’t want to be popping pills or mixing potions out the wazoo without previous knowledge on their superpowers, and possible side-effects (that's why the glossary is here for you!). And even more especially so, as it is with detoxifying agents analogous to activated charcoal, again, a little goes quite a long way, and a daily teaspoon or two is more than enough to get you going. Accidentally consume an entire tablespoon? Not to worry, you are going to be so fine. The only side-effects you may experience are slight headache, constipation or an uncomfortable belly sensation (all typical detoxification symptoms). And none of this is bad, it just means that all that carbon is doing you big service, all at once.

    Also, if you’re taking a daily dose of activated charcoal for supplementation, be sure that you’re also getting your two liters of water in, daily. All that toxin binding makes for some extra de-hydration, so be extra conscious of your liquids (high-water content foods count too!).

    And, the only warning and no-no advice that we will provide: do not take activated charcoal if you are taking any other kind of medication / prescription! It will render said medication ineffective, and therefore waste your money.

    You can find activated charcoal at your local health food store in pill form (Amazon works too), and we love this brand (pictured above!) for quick charcoal concoction making or baking. Sprinkle a teaspoon into water, mix through (but not with metal! The negative ions in the charcoal don't mix well with metals! Yeah, it's like science class in your kitchen), add a squeeze of lemon if desired, and drink up!

    Happy detoxifying!

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