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The Amazing Benefits of Charcoal

Who would have suspected that the remnants of burned wood could prove so effective in healing?

By Sabrina Petersen

The students of French pharmacist P.F. Touery must have gazed in horror as their instructor gulped down “ten times the lethal dose” of strychnine. Had he lost his mind? Students best remember emotionally-charged events, and Touery taught his students at the French Academy of Medicine an unforgettable lesson that day in 1831. He proceeded to consume three tablespoons of charcoal powder, thus surviving the strychnine poisoning!1

As this account illustrates, the use of charcoal in medicine dates at least to the mid-1800s. If you’ve never encountered remedial charcoal before, it might sound like a strange remedy. But the many benefits the lowly substance of charcoal actually possesses make it a true unsung hero of your first aid kit and medicine cabinet.

The Chemistry Behind Charcoal

Charcoal results from the burning of wood under very high heat without the presence of oxygen. The high pressure carbonizes the wood, activating

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  1. A. & C. Thrash, Rx: Charcoal: Startling New Facts about the World’s Most Powerful Clinical Adsorbent, NewLifestyle Books, 1988, p. 12.

  2. The word “charcoal” in this article will always refer to activated charcoal.

  3. Thrash, Rx: Charcoal, pp. 6, 7.

  4. “Adsorb,”,

  5. Thrash, Rx: Charcoal, p. 22.

  6. Ibid., p. 39.

  7. Ibid., p. 74.

  8. Ibid., p. 72.

  9. Ibid., pp. 65, 69–70.

  10. “How Does Activated Charcoal Interact with Medication?” WebMD,

  11. D. N. Juurlink, “Activated charcoal for acute overdose: a reappraisal.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Vol. 81, No. 3 (2016): pp. 482–7

About the author

Sabrina Petersen graduated from Hartland College as a Bible instructor. Passionate about healthful living, she is currently pursuing a certificate as a plant-based nutritionist while freelancing as a writer.