This activated charcoal is not the kind found on your burnt toast! Updated March, 2016.
Activated charcoal is a highly adsorptive antidote for emergency use (and a few other no-emergency uses), able to rapidly mop up toxins and chemicals. Toxins adhere or stick to the very porous surface of the charcoal, so nothing is absorbed by the body – instead passing through and out of the GI tract. It is a fine, black powder that is odorless, tasteless, and nontoxic, and it has proved its value over and over again.
But you have to know about it and have it on hand for it to do any good!
It was 1831. In front of his distinguished colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine, Professor Touery drank a lethal dose of strychnine and lived to tell the tale. He had combined the deadly poison with activated charcoal. (source) Need I say, please don’t try this at home!
In a 2001 study conducted by the Kentucky Regional Poison Center and reported in the medical journal Pediatrics, Henry Spiller, MS, and George Rodgers, MD of the University of Louisville, demonstrated the real value of giving activated charcoal in the home to children as an antidote for most poisons.
The authors of the study concluded the obvious: administering activated charcoal in the home is a lot quicker than taking the time to get to the closest emergency room. They added, “Greater efforts need to be put into educating parents (and pharmacists and pediatricians) about the need to stock activated charcoal in the home in advance of a poisoning.” (source)
Every 8 Minutes, a Child Goes to an Emergency Room for Medicine Poisoning, Dr. Mercola (source)
We have averted full-blown food-poisoning after eating out more than once as well as using it several times here on the farm. I wouldn’t be without activated charcoal in my medicine cabinet – and always keep capsules in the car – for spider bites, mushroom poisoning, accidental poisoning, a stomach bug, or even a snake bite until we can get to the ER. I don’t hesitate to share it if there is a need. Sometimes, minutes count.
In the case of aspirin poisoning, activated charcoal should be given right away, or if possible, at least within the first thirty minutes. Powdered charcoal reaches its maximum rate of adsorption in the stomach within one minute. The sooner it is given, the better the chances of successful treatment. After one hour, charcoal given for fast-absorbing drugs like aspirin is usually only about ten percent effective. (source)
It has also been used successfully as an external poultice (mixed with baking soda and plantain) on brown recluse and other serious spider bites.
Scientific experiments over many years attest to the effectiveness of charcoal as an antidote, both to humans and to animals. In one experiment, 100 times the lethal dose of Cobra venom was mixed with charcoal and injected into a laboratory animal. The animal was not harmed. In other experiments, arsenic and strychnine were mixed with charcoal and ingested by humans under laboratory conditions. The subjects survived even though the poison dosages were five to ten times the lethal dose.
Activated Charcoal Dosage:
Activated charcoal can be purchased in tablets, capsules, or powder form. Tablets have one-half the potency of the powdered charcoal and the capsules are a bit more expensive but easy to use. About 14 capsules equals a tablespoon of powder. It is best to take one to two tablespoons of powder in a small portion of water and followed with several glasses of water. (source)
Adequate water is a must to get the charcoal to its target. In the case of a poisoning emergency, I would certainly call a poison control center and follow their instructions. The National Poison Control Center in the US is 1-800-222-1222. Of course, if your area has it, you can always call 911. Please keep pertinent numbers in a readily visible place such as on your fridge. The information on this site is also helpful.
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(This little guy and his brother ingested Tylenol) For other true stories, go here.
Pumping the stomach is only effective immediately after swallowing a toxic substance (under a half-hour) and does not reach beyond the stomach as activated charcoal does. Some emergency rooms automatically administer large doses of activated charcoal for certain types of poisoning.
John is a minister, and while he believes very strongly in faith and its part in healing, he also believes one should heed the counsel to “add to one’s faith… knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5). For John and his wife Sharon that means understanding how to use simple natural home remedies.
“John and Sharon try to be prepared for any emergency. As a quick simple first aid, they always have charcoal near at hand. Because they were prepared for one emergency, they now know it really does work for aspirin poisoning. “It happened that a baby got a hold of a number of aspirins and swallowed them. Fortunately it was promptly noticed, and we immediately gave charcoal. For some time after giving the charcoal, we watched the baby carefully, and there were no observable side effects at all.”
Can activated charcoal work for you in an emergency? It can if you follow the Kentucky Poison Control Center’s advice and stock activated charcoal, the antidote for hundreds of common drugs and chemicals, in your medicine cabinet. Then, if it should happen to one of your little ones or a neighbor’s, you can quickly give the antidote as you consider the need to go to Emergency. But what if there is no Emergency Clinic nearby?
“While doing development work in Nepal, just before the rainy season set in, the small clinic at which I worked hosted a week long “health camp”. A group of American doctors, dentists, and their spouses made the exhausting six-hour hike up and down, and finally over into the Huwas valley. “After that very busy week, as some of the medical team rested up for the trek out, Joyce, the director’s wife, led a number of the others on a walk down to the river. On the way, they passed a family having a picnic beside a small Hindu shrine. The translator mentioned that the family lived just below the clinic. After stopping for tea in one village, Joyce decided to hike home by a different route. As they passed by the local health-post/pharmacy, the health worker called them over. A small, four-year-old boy was lying there not responding to anything. The group recognized him as one of the children at the family picnic. Joyce, herself a nurse, tells what happened:
“Among the group was a pediatrician. He examined the child and mentioned meningitis and a couple other serious possibilities as a cause for the child’s condition. Not able to confirm a diagnosis, the doctor decided to give a large dose of antibiotic by injection. It would take some time for the antibiotic to take effect, so we stood around observing the child, and conversing. At some point, I described a similar case, but it had been from poisoning. The baby had not been treated and had died. I suggested giving charcoal. After hearing my story, the physician agreed that this child could also be suffering from poisoning, “but poisoning from what?” he wondered. Nevertheless, he decided that charcoal was worth a try.
So I went to gather some coals from the nearest cook fires. We pulverized them as best we could and mixed the gritty powder in a four-ounce glass with water. We strained the mixture through a cloth and, because the child could not swallow, administered it through a small tube. We were able to get some down, and the child began to struggle against it. That encouraged us to keep trying, and eventually we were able to get about two ounces down. It was difficult to get it into the child because it was gritty and the tube was too small. As the others worked, another woman and I quietly offered a prayer that God would add His blessing to our efforts.
Very soon the child’s breathing, which had been shallow and irregular, returned to normal. We removed the tube, and before the child totally refused to take anymore, we were able to get one more ounce down. By then the boy was completely alert. From the time we were able to get the first bit of charcoal down to the time he was back up and running around was no more than five minutes. We were all absolutely amazed! The doctor insisted that it had to have been the charcoal, because the antibiotics could not possibly have worked so quickly.”
I hope those of you who are still skeptical never have to face such choices. But, by the time you’ve finished these pages and listened to those who have, I hope you will have enough evidence to try charcoal yourselves should an emergency arise. Faith is very powerful, but we need to add knowledge to our faith. (source)
Use and Storage
I wrote this post on how to administer charcoal in an emergency.
Should you ever need to use activated charcoal on yourself or a child for poisoning, use as soon as possible. Call a poison control center or go to the emergency room as well to make sure the poison has been fully removed as there are several things activated charcoal will NOT adsorb.
When storing it, be careful that young children or pets can’t access it for it is a huge PAIN to clean up from grout or other rough surfaces. The sink or counter, no problem. Think a small plastic container with a tight-fitting lid perhaps.
Activated charcoal has no side effects or known cases of allergic reactions. It has an infinite shelf life. It has also saved the life of many a child and pet.
No, activated charcoal is not the kind found on your burnt toast. At just the right time, it is worth its weight in gold!
Disclaimer: I am not a professional nor a doctor. I am a mother. I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use. Using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is intended to treat or prevent disease. Consult your doctor.
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