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Activated Charcoal

What is this stuff anyway?

I’ve heard about activated charcoal here and there. Then I heard a friend took activated charcoal after a tragic visit to a swimming pool. I thought I should look into this further.


Activated charcoal is a unique form of charcoal, usually made from coconut shells, bamboo or other woods. It is first carbonized, and then oxidized at a very high temperature. This creates a substance that is very porous resulting in massive surface area.

Like… volcanic pumice. Like… the stone I scrub my feet with.


I read multitudes of claimed health benefits online and decided to have a real conversation with a real Naturopath. Dr. Bonnie Nedrow, ND, gave me the scoop on activated charcoal.

When asked the first thing that comes to mind about activated charcoal, Dr. Nedrow commented on its aid in detoxification programs. Dr. Nedrow guides patients through a cleanse program; under her safe supervision she recommends activated charcoal typically on day 4 or 5 of a 28 day cleanse.

Used in a cleanse program, the adsorption (yes, ad…) properties of activated charcoal draw toxins to ‘stick’ to it. Thus carrying them through the eliminative channels, and eventually, out of the system. Clay and fiber, on the other hand, are absorbent like sponges, incorporating the toxin, also resulting in elimination.

I asked Dr. Nedrow what sort of reaction one might experience and what would prompt her to suggest activated charcoal. during a thorough cleanse there can be a die off reaction, aka, Herxheimer response. In the case of an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria these little buggers no longer have sustenance to survive and thus, they die. However, they remain, lifeless, in your body. At this stage a patient may feel tired or nauseas.

Oh No! The good work of the cleanse results in an undesirable reaction!? Never fear… activated charcoal is here!

The activated charcoal works to bind the dead pathogens and carries them through the intestines where they are properly and fully eliminated. Dr. Nedrow is adamant, when using activated charcoal one must drink plenty of water and eliminate at least twice every day “by hook or by crook”. You wouldn’t want toxins to leach through the walls of the lower intestine, now would you?

So, now we know that activated charcoal can be used to aid detoxification. Now, is there anything ELSE we should know about it?

Dr. Nedrow cautions that activated charcoal is only for short-term treatment. Because it is so good at binding, it also has the unhelpful capability to leach nutrients from our systems. Even the vitamins and minerals we get from eating good nutritious food can be carried away. It is a good rule of thumb never to take activated charcoal for longer than a week.

As far as some suggestions on where to get this stuff, Dr. Nedrow is passionate about knowing the quality, purity and source of supplements. In her office at Hidden Springs in Ashland, Oregon she recommends Allergy Research Group (Brand) activated charcoal because of its proof of cleanliness and zero contaminants. Allergy Research Group creates a full complimentary blend of vitamins and minerals to suit the individual patient. She also suggests Dr. Shultz as a great source of activated charcoal available online.

As for myriad other health claims I found on the world-wide-web; Dr. Nedrow couldn’t back any of them up. I asked her about the most prolific proposed use of activated charcoal out there. Using it to draw out poison from that of a spider or snake. She said while she recommends keeping activated charcoal in any first aid kit; the sponge-like powers of clay seems a better remedy for the speedy removal of venom. Of course, if it comes to it, don’t hesitate to call poison control: 1-800-222-1222 or 911.

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