Activated charcoal is a fine black powder made from bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust. The charcoal is “activated” by processing it at very high temperatures. The high temperatures change its internal structure, reducing the size of its pores and increasing its surface area.
This results in a charcoal that is more porous than regular charcoal.
Activated charcoal shouldn’t be confused with charcoal briquettes that are used to light your barbecue. While both can be made from the same base materials, charcoal briquettes have not been “activated” at high temperatures. Moreover, they contain additional substances that are toxic to humans.
Its most well-known home uses include:
Some studies report that activated charcoal may help reduce gas production following a gas-producing meal. It may also help improve the odor of gas. However, not all studies observed this benefit.
Activated charcoal is a popular way to reduce heavy metal and fluoride content in water. However, it doesn’t appear to be very effective at removing viruses, bacteria or hard water minerals.
Using activated charcoal to brush your teeth is anecdotally said to whiten them. It’s said to do so by absorbing plaque and other teeth-staining compounds. However, no studies could be found to support this claim.