Activated charcoal is a very old remedy for poisoning. It has been recommended in situations such as food poisoning, but the substance should not be considered a cure-all or a measure to protect the body from ‘environmental’ toxins.
Activated charcoal is treated to increase its ability to absorb (that is, adhere to) other substances so that it can trap many times its own weight in poison or whatever might be in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing its absorption into the body.
In many hospital emergency rooms abroad, activated charcoal is a staple though it is used for certain types of poisoning only. For example, it should never be used to treat poisonings with lye, sulfuric acid, cyanide, iron, ethyl or methyl (rubbing) alcohol.
Some physicians suggest keeping activated charcoal on hand to treat children who accidentally ingest households poisons. The substance comes in liquid and powdered form.
Activated charcoal is also recommended as an emergency treatment for pets who accidentally eat poisonous plants, garbage or other potentially toxic items. If you think you or anyone in your household has ingested something poisonous, immediately call our doctor. Then, if you have activated charcoal on hand, you may be instructed to use it. The dosage for older children and adults in one ounce of activated charcoal in water; use half that amount for children under five. If you do use activated charcoal, don’t be alarmed if the stool turns black. This is temporary and harmless.
Be sure not to use activated charcoal along with syrup of ipecac, which is used to induce vomiting because the charcoal will absorb the ipecac. However, you can administer activated charcoal after vomiting has occurred.
Many patients who suffer from ulcerative colitis have found that taking activated charcoal along with remedies such as aloe Vera juice, acidophilus and phylum helps keep their symptoms under control. There have also been some reports that activated charcoal can reduce both LDL cholesterol and blood levels of uric acid, but there is no evidence available yet to support either claim. A case was also put forward for activated charcoal saying that the substance could cure hangovers. However, this claim too has not yet been proved. Consult your doctor before you buy it.