How to Use Activated Charcoal

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Activated charcoal is something you can use as a healthy remedy, or to keep toxic gases and substances from harming animal or plant life. Activated charcoal is much different from charcoal briquettes or charred foods -- it has gone through a special oxidation treatment to allow it to attract toxins to itself, or "adsorb" them. Activated charcoal adsorbs things by drawing them onto itself and keeping them there, as opposed to "absorbs," which means to draw internally. You can buy activated charcoal for ingestion at health food stores and at pet stores for other uses.

  • Mix 1 tbsp. of activated charcoal powder with 4 cups of water in a glass and drink it. This is a natural remedy for bad breath, indigestion and nausea. Be sure to ingest activated charcoal on an empty stomach, and no less than two hours after you've taken a medication.

  • Take activated charcoal for the emergency treatment of ingestion of poison or a drug overdose. The activated charcoal will only be effective if it is taken within 30 minutes of ingestion of the drug or poison. It will draw up to 60 percent of the substance to itself and hold it there until it is eliminated through waste. This will not work if you have ingested a petroleum product, alkali, lithium or any type of alcohol, as activated charcoal cannot adsorb these substances.

  • Make a paste by mixing activated charcoal with a little water to draw the venom out of a bee sting.

  • Pour some activated charcoal in a jar with holes in the lid and place it in the fridge to draw out odors.

  • Spread a 1/2-inch layer of activated charcoal from the pet store (the kind used in aquariums) over the drainage pebbles in a terrarium. The activated charcoal will adsorb the toxic gases that will form in the soil of the terrarium from the plant life. The drainage layer, which can be pebbles or other small, hard objects, goes at the bottom as the first layer and the activated charcoal goes over it.

  • Read the specifics on your model of aquarium filter and purchase the activated charcoal form that it needs. Some marine use activated charcoal comes in the loose form or a sachet that you place inside of the filter. Rinse the sachet or loose powder in a strainer under running water for one minute to remove the dust or remaining residue that may have been left on the charcoal when it was being packaged. Use activated charcoal in your aquarium specifically for removing residue from medicine or if the water contains harmful bacteria.

Tips & Warnings

  • Call a poison control center first if you have access to a phone for advice on how to treat a poisoning.
  • Taking activated charcoal for a poisoning or drug overdose is an emergency measure. You should still seek medical treatment.
  • Check with your doctor before taking activated charcoal. Side effects may include constipation, vomiting or diarrhea.

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References

  • Photo Credit Jochen Sands/Photodisc/Getty Images
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