Christmas stocking on wood flooring with lumps of coal and decorative lights

Why You Want Coal in Your Stocking This Christmas

December 14th, 2021 / Lifestyle Medicine & Nutrition


Even if you have been very, very nice, you still might want coal in your stocking this Christmas. Activated charcoal, that is. This pure natural product is made from carbon-rich substances such as hard wood, coconut shells, bamboo, or peat. Because it is prepared in a way that makes it ultra-porous, activated charcoal is highly absorbent. That’s why activated charcoal is used medically in cases of poisoning or drug overdose. It can absorb certain toxic substances before they cause too much harm. 

That kind of use should remain in the hands of professionals, but there are some ways you can use it at home, to enhance your beauty and personal hygiene routine. Activated charcoal is generally considered a safe natural treatment. You can buy it in a jar, in capsule form, or already mixed into products. Find it in health food stores or online, and look for pure, food-grade versions if you are buying it straight.

Some of my favorite uses for activated charcoal include:

  • For your teeth. Dip your toothbrush in activated charcoal and clean your teeth. The activated charcoal will absorb odors and it’s a great tooth polish and whitener. (Avoid if you have crowns and porcelain in your mouth, as activated charcoal could stain them, unless it is already formulated into a toothpaste.)
  • For your face. You can buy soap with activated charcoal already in it. The charcoal binds to dirt and impurities on the skin, so you get a deep clean. It’s especially good for acne. You can also mix it with aloe vera gel for a detoxifying face mask. 
  • For your underarms. Activated charcoal is a perfect match for deodorant products, as it absorbs odors.
  • As a digestive aid. When ingested, active charcoal can bind to bacteria in the digestive tract that could be causing gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. Studies have shown that it is a good remedy for bacteria-based diarrhea, with very few side effects, and that it helps with intestinal gas and bloating. It’s also anti-inflammatory and could preserve the intestinal barrier, protecting against leaky gut. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of this tasteless black powder (be sure you get a food-grade variety) to a glass of water and drink it down.
  • As a refreshing and trendy beverage. Trendy charcoal lemonade is a nice way to take activated charcoal, for digestive distress or just for general detoxification. Mix ½ teaspoon into a cup of water with the juice from one fresh lemon and a bit of maple syrup or honey, to taste. Or, check out my Halloween mocktail recipe, which uses activated charcoal. The black color it gives to foods is a conversation-starter.
There are just a couple of things to be aware of before ingesting activated charcoal. First, activated charcoal could absorb medications you take, rendering them ineffective. If you are on medications, talk to your doctor about whether activated charcoal is safe for you. Second, if you ingest it, don’t do so more often than every other day, unless you are under the care of a physician. It might be safe, but it’s good to be sure. It could absorb more than you want it to, including nutrients from supplements you take.

Otherwise, activated charcoal is a trend I support because coal is not just for the naughty! Put in a special request this season for this vibrant natural remedy. You might discover that Santa, whose teeth are white, whose complexion is rosy, and who seems to be able to eat several million cookies in one night without digestive upset, might just be a fan of activated charcoal, too!

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