What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is made by processing organic materials (usually nutshells or coconut husks) at high temperatures and combining the material with a strong acid or base. The resulting "activated" material is extremely adept at absorbing and neutralizing other chemicals (specifically, toxins).
Because activated charcoal is so exceptionally fine and porous, a small amount goes a long way. One gram (about a 1/2 teaspoon) has a surface area of ~500 square meters (about the same as two tennis courts!).
Protect Against "Poisoning" By Toxins In Shitty Foods
Why do I keep this strange (and messy) black powder with me at all times? Because it is probably the best tool available for protecting yourself against potential toxins in questionable foods (such as most restaurant meals).
Here's an example: I love mexican food. I don't eat it often because it's generally devoid of nutrients, heavy on antinutrients (from beans), heavy on corn (which is almost guaranteed to be contaminated with mold toxins) and heavy in vegetable oils (rich in pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fats).
Still, mexican food is f'ing delicious and I will treat myself occasionally. Before I indulge I'll always take two supplements to minimize any negative effects that would come from eating this less-than-awesome food. 1. I take 2 grams of fish oil to counteract the high levels of Omega-6 fats in the food. -and- 2. Around 1 gram of activated charcoal to absorb any toxins in the food (specifically mold toxins).
Activated charcoal is one of the few substances that has been shown to effectively neutralize mold toxins.
It should be noted that activated charcoal doesn't discriminate in what it absorbs - it will absorb vitamins and minerals out of your meal as much as it will absorb toxins. This is not ideal - but realistically, you're probably rarely at a restaurant for the nutritional value. In almost all cases, minimizing the risk of toxin exposure is (way) more than worth the nutrients you'll be losing from your food.
(For meals where risk of mycotoxin exposure is quite low, but risk of exposure to heavy metals is quite high (specifically sushi), chlorella tablets are a better choice. Chlorella will neutralize heavy metals very effectively, but will leave you with more of the nutrients in your fish.)
Get Less Poisoned When Drinking Alcohol
A huge source for toxin exposure that most people overlook is the alcohol they drink. Yes, ethanol itself is a mild toxin, but that's likely not the biggest concern in your drink.
Almost all alcohols are made with grains, which as we've covered, are frequently contaminated with mold toxins. Because the grains used to make alcohol are generally below the quality of those used for human food consumption, they're even more likely to be contaminated with mold toxins.
As a result, most liquors, wines and particularly beers are significantly contaminated by mold toxins. In fact - it's my educated opinion that the "hangover" after a night of too much drinking is only partially caused by ethanol poisoning and dehydration. The other part of the equation is exposure to the mold toxins that are found in relatively high levels in most alcohols.
You can do a lot to reduce your mycotoxin exposure by choosing “cleaner” drinks (see our alcohol article). But even then, the risk of exposure is still very much there...
Fortunately, activated charcoal comes to the rescue again. Consuming about a gram of activated charcoal every 2 hours while drinking will greatly reduce your exposure to these mold toxins.
Powerful Teeth Whitener
Activated charcoal’s propensity for absorbing organic chemicals also makes it perhaps the most powerful natural teeth whitener. Sprinkle a pinch onto your toothbrush (still with toothpaste) and brush as you normally would.
This will turn your mouth into a strange grey foamy mess, but it is a seriously effective (and safe) way to whiten teeth. I was shocked at the improvement I saw in my own teeth after only a couple weeks of use.
Where To Get It
Activated charcoal is fairly widely available. You should be able to find it at most well-stocked natural food stores. Look for activated charcoal made specifically from coconut husk, as it tends to be the purest and most potent.
If you live in the SF Bay Area, you can find activated charcoal (and a ton of other awesome natural health products) at Happy High Herb Store. They have locations in Berkeley and San Francisco. These stores are a gem, trust me.
Activated charcoal is also available on Amazon. You can find my preferred brand here.
Activated charcoal is also available in capsule form, which makes it considerably easier to take with you when eating or drinking out.
Looking For More On Avoiding Toxins?
Why You Should Think Twice Before Eating Wheat and Corn (and it's worse than gluten)