Welcome to Smallflower’s Ingredient Spotlight series! Here, we walk you through the benefits and characteristics of popular ingredients you’re probably seeing pop up in the products you shop for and use. Today our focus is on Charcoal.
What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is a rock-like substance produced by heating or burning wood and other similar substances. Usually it is processed at temperatures between 400 and 700 degrees Celsius. After it’s ignited, it’s transferred to an airless kiln where it burns out. This process removes water and other chemically volatile substances from the wood.
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is charcoal that’s specially produced for medicinal purposes. During the creation process, a special type of gas is introduced to the wood as it’s heated. This gas helps the charcoal develop “pores” or little spaces along the surface. These pores help the charcoal absorb and trap chemicals.
What is Charcoal Used For?
Charcoal is most commonly used for fuel — for transportation, cooking, or heating. You’re probably familiar with it thanks to a neighborhood cookout or backyard barbeque.
Medically, charcoal is widely used to treat poisoning. It works by a process known as “adsorption.” The charcoal attracts the poisonous molecules to itself and flushes it out of the system.
For hundreds of years, humans have also used charcoal to treat digestive woes. For example, in England in the 19th century, charcoal biscuits were sold as a remedy for stomach issues.
Charcoal is also popularly used in water purification and deodorization. Theoretically, all those little “pores” in the charcoal help it to grab onto contaminants (like stinky smells or impurities in water) and be gone with them.
There’s been a lot of buzz recently about activated charcoal in toothpastes. Enthusiasts claim that it’s a great, gentle whitener for teeth that are too sensitive for normal whitening formulas. However, there is no scientific proof that is the case.
What is Binchotan?
Binchotan is a charcoal made from ubame oak sourced from a specific region of Japan. It’s heated at a higher temperature and cooled faster than regular charcoal, which gives it a chalky appearance. Because of this, it’s sometimes called white charcoal.