Activated Charcoal History and Benefits
So exactly what is activated charcoal?
The activated charcoal in our Black Bamboo and Forest Path soaps is derived directly from the bamboo plant. When bamboo is burned and there is not enough oxygen to allow complete combustion, the carbon within the bamboo distills into the coals that are left behind. Activation occurs when the charcoal is introduced to steam, drastically increasing the surface area of the carbon molecules within it. These carbon molecules then develop deep pockets, or pores, that help capture unwanted impurities, dirt, and oils.
What are the advantages bamboo activated charcoal?
We use these evergreen perennials as they are highly sustainable and renewable (they are one of the fastest growing plants in the world!). These plants are often used in place of wood and offer the same clarifying benefits through their carbon properties as alternatives that are not as earth friendly or sustainable.
Is activated charcoal beneficial for my skin?
Not only does the increased surface area of the carbon molecule pick up unwanted impurities, it can also help to draw them out through the permeable top layer of the skin. Because of this and its ability to attract a wide array of impurities, it can be beneficial to many with mild skin conditions, such as adult acne. Activated charcoal is also a gentle exfoliator that helps to remove dead skin cells without damaging the skin or drying it out.
Is activated charcoal safe for sensitive skin?
Those with sensitive skin can also enjoy this boost of cleansing power as it does not remove the beneficial oils that soothe and protect the skin.
The History of Activated Charcoal
The first documented use of activated charcoal goes as far back as 3750 B.C., when it was first used by the Egyptians for smelting ores to create bronze. By 1500 B.C. the Egyptians were also using it for intestinal ailments, absorbing unpleasant odors, and for writing on papyrus. In 400 B.C. the Ancient Hindus and Phoenicians discovered the antiseptic properties of activated charcoal and began using it to purify their water. A well known practice for any long sea voyage was to store water in barrels that had been charred. By 50 A.D., leading the way for the use of activated charcoal in medicine was Hippocrates and Pliny, who began using it to treat many different ailments such as epilepsy, chlorosis, and vertigo. After the suppression of the sciences through the Dark Ages, charcoal reemerged in the 1700’s and 1800’s within the use of medical treatments - both for its absorbent properties of fluid and gases and for its disinfectant properties. Some popular uses during this time period included poultices made from charcoal and bread crumbs or yeast (favored by army and navy surgeons) as well as charcoal powders to alleviate fetid ulcers, acidity in the stomach, and even nosebleeds where subsulphate of iron had failed to do so. By the 1900’s charcoal was even starting to be sold as lozenges, biscuits, and tooth powders!
What is activated charcoal used for?
Today, activated charcoal is used in practical applications in hospitals and homes, for people and for pets. In medical facilities around the world, charcoal is used in filtering masks for lab technicians, in liver and kidney dialysis machines, and even as markers in breast cancer surgery (among many other applications). Just as charcoal has been used to help remove toxins ingested by humans, veterinarians also use this practice for pets who may have ingested something potentially harmful to them (such as when dogs eat chocolate!). Additionally, activated charcoal has found its place in day to day use, being used in air filters, water purification, and in products such as our Black Bamboo Activated Charcoal, and Forest Path soaps.