Charcoal: hype or benefits?

The latest trend is Charcoal…

From BBQ fuel to facial scrub and internal “magic” detox, charcoal is the latest trend

In the world of natural health, there is always a new trend, a “new kid on the block”. In this case, it’s actually an old kid, but rebranded and well marketed… the latest trend is Charcoal. What is it, why would you use it and what does it do? Read on and find out.

Charcoal: the basics

Once used as fuel for heaters, or for artists as a drawing tool, now charcoal is popular for different reasons. Charcoal is the end product of solid fuel burns. That can be things like wood or coconut husks. Technically, this is a slow process, done in the absence of oxygen, in a contained environment. No air means the very slow burning of wood allows charcoal to form. Uniquely, the slow-burn process means that water and gases are removed from the wood. This so-called “activated charcoal” is now porous, like a sponge with millions of tiny holes in it. These pores can capture, bind and remove toxins, heavy metals, and poisons.

Charcoal commercialised

Of course, having a natural “toxin sponge” that is relatively cheap to produce, and is widely available, leads to commercial exploration of such a product. Until now, charcoal was used mostly by savvy travellers who had heard about its ability to help with travel bugs such as “Bali Belly”. A few days of charcoal caps usually solves the problem efficiently, without harmful effects. As such, charcoal has been used for decades, and this is not a new find. Yet now, charcoal is the latest trend in self-medication for health and beauty…

What you need to know about charcoal

Charcoal is natural. That’s great. In gastric upsets, it binds the toxin or bug, and removes it naturally. However, charcoal also binds essential minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Therefore, charcoal intake should be limited to a maximum of 3-4 days at the most, at any given time. Unfortunately, the current new products come to market as Detoxifiers, a magic buzz word that sells products really well! Charcoal is a magnificent detoxifier, but only in the gut. Charcoal will do nothing for toxins circulating in the body, or trapped in organs such as the liver, lungs, kidneys and brain. So, that claim makes it a hype.

Moreover, even though these commercial health products may have a small printed warning about extensive use, you may not notice this. If you buy it in a supermarket, nobody will tell you, and if you buy it in a pharmacy, it all depends on whether someone advises you on the harm of using charcoal long-term.

The latest trend is charcoal…

To be honest, charcoal is really useful. You’ll find it in facial and body washes or masks, to purify the skin. You can buy charcoal toothpaste, for whiter teeth (claim unsubstantiated). It is great for a few days use for upset stomachs, bloating and travel bugs. But now, according to advertisements, you can use it in capsule form for detoxifying and beauty from within…and those claims makes it both a trend and a hype! So, beware of this, and use it sensibly. If you are after a total body detox, contact the clinic for a proper treatment plan at

Don’t add charcoal to smoothies, as it will prevent the absorption of the nutrients of that smoothie. Same goes for juices; if you make you own, don’t add charcoal, now matter how trendy it is. Research shows commercial apple juice with added charcoal has a reduced vitamin C, B1, B2 and B5 content. Adding charcoal to health foods is a waste of time and money, and reduces absorption of those magnificent nutrients in that health food you just spent a fortune on. Be wise, use charcoal only when needed!

Charcoal…make it your friend but not your permanent companion!

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