In 1813 a french chemist by the name of Michael Bertrand swallowed a lethal dose of arsenic. It is said that the amount he swallowed was enough to kill 150 people. However, he survived without any ill effects because he had ingested a large amount of charcoal along with the poison.
Although the experiment performed by Bertrand resulted in astonishment among the scientists of that time, there were problems in verifying the absorbing properties of charcoal in the preparation process. So, over time, interest in charcoal diminished.
However, records concerning the awareness of activated charcoal indicate that its use has been around a long time. As early as 400 B.C. the Western father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, prescribed it as a treatment for epilepsy and anthrax. History also indicates it was used in the 1700s as a remedy for excessive bile excretation problems.
Then in 1831 the French pharmacist Pierre-Fleurus Touery, from Montpellier, determined to raise public interest in the value of charcoal by outdoing Bertrand's experiment. Risking his life, Touery ingested a dose of strychine that was 10 times more than a lethal dose. Toury also took 15 grams of activated charcoal at the same time.
This experiment was done publicly in front of the French Academy of Medicine. The audience watched and waited, anticipating a deadly outcome. Everyone knew that symptoms of styrchine poisoning include horrific pain. Minutes and hours passed, and Touery remained in normal health. The shocking outcome was startling proof to the medical community that activated charcoal was a substance well worth researching further.
WHAT IS ACTIVATED CHARCOAL?
Charcoal is made by cooking wood in a low-oxygen environment, such as a covered hole in the ground or large concrete or steel silos, which contain very little oxygen. The cooking process is ended before everything turns to ash. What results are black lumps and powder, weighing in all about 25 percent of the original wood load.
Activated charcoal is different from the regular charcoal briquettes one might use for cooking or grilling. It is processed to have very fine particles that increase its surface area and absorptive ability, making its valuable for medical use.
Charcoal is available in pill, capsule, or powder form and can generally be found at a pharmacy or health food store. It can also be purchased online. Charcoal has no smell or taste and is generally safe.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Ingested internally, activated charcoal works by trapping toxins and chemicals in its millions of tiny pores, much like a sponge soaks up liquids. This brings relief from excess gas, stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting, and poison ingestion. Because charcoal is not digested, it can carry harmful elements through the gastrointestinal tract to where they are ultimately eliminated. For the dosage needed in each incident, check the directions on activated charcoal container, or consult with your pharmacist or physician.
Charcoal can also be used on the outside of the body in the form of a poultice. Poutuces can be made of a variety of natural substances, including onions, mustard greens, bread, and herbs. However, their function is often similar--to draw out infection and poisons and alleviate pain and inflammation.
In a poultice made from activated charcoal, the porous properties of the charcoal attract toxins from areas of infection or inflammation in the skin or joints and bond to them so that they leave the body and enter the charcoal. Woundss from poisonous plants, bee stings and other insect bites, spider bites, and even some snakebites have been known to respond to activated charcoal poultices as evidenced by decreased pain and inflammation. Boils, skin infections, and even bruising all have been to heal more quickly with the use of charcoal poultices. However, keep a vigilant watch that infections do not progress, as noted by elevating fever, increased pain, swelling, prudent drainage, and heat at the infection site. A read streak progressing up the arm or leg from an infection site is a serious indication that antibiotics are needed.
HOW TO MAKE A POULTICE
Before applying a poultice, wash the skin very well with soap and water. Next:
1. Mix charcoal powder with water to make a wet paste.
2. Cover one half of a thin, folded piece of cloth with the paste. Then cover the paste with the other half of the cloth.
3. Place the poultice on the affected area of the body, making sure it completely covers the site.
4. Once the poultice is in place on the body, apply plastic over to keep it from drying ou.t
5. Ăpply either an elastic bandage or tape around the poultice sie, or wrap it with gauze to keep the dressing firmly in place.
6. Leave the poultice in place for several hours, or overnight.
7. In the morning, remove the old poultice and apply a new one.
This process can be repeated for several days, or until the swelling is gone.
SIDE EFFECTS AND WARNINGS
1. Charcoal may cause consti[ation if not taken with plenty of water.
2. Any patient with chronic gastrointestinal problems should consult with their physician before using charcoal.
3. If pain or swelling of the stomach occurs while on charcoal, the patient should consult with a physician.
4. Activated charcoal may cause the stool to turn black. This is a nomral and harmless side effect.
5. Always check with your physician before taking charcoal if you are already on a routine prescription medication.
6. Activated charcoal should not be mixed with chocolate syrup, ice cream, or sherbet to make it more palatable. Such foods hinder the effectiveness of charcoal.
7. A patient with severe gastrointestinal infection involving frequent vomiting and diarhea and the risk of severe dehydration may need more emergent treatment at a clinic or hospital. Charcoal improperly used can further enhance dehydration.
8. Do not give charcoal by mouth if the patient is sleepy, unconscious, or unable to swallow. In such cases, make sure the individual is transferred to the hospital as soon as possible.
When properly used, some of the simplest remedies can be very effective in promoting healing and bringing relief. Activated charcoal is one such remedy, one that has helped in countless instances, even to the saving of lives. The home medicine cabinet should always have charcoal in stock. The global traveler should always have some in their suitcase, as it's an especially vital, first-line aid in the case of gastrointestinal upset. For interesting facts regarding additional uses of charcoal, research your local library or check the internet.