Squid ink in paella, yes.
A fad among foodies maybe, activated charcoal powder is made in a process that involves slowly burning wood – or coconut shells, to be more familiar about it. Then it is treated with oxygen to produce a highly porous substance, making it a binder that gets rid of toxins and odors from gases or liquids.
Activated charcoal has been used to treat cases of poison or drug overdose. It’s been used in cosmetics as facial masks to bind to dirt and oils to get them off the skin.
In recent years, activated charcoal has become a popular teeth whitener.
Now, these are claims made without much scientific evidence to back them up, according to Mother Nature Network.
It cites a British Broadcasting Corporation report that charcoal-based products can increase the risk of tooth staining.
“The side effects of activated charcoal have not been well documented but were mild when it was tested on healthy people,” states the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a post on activated charcoal not connected to oral health. “Children should not be given activated charcoal for diarrhea and dehydration. It may absorb nutrients, enzymes and antibiotics in the intestine and mask the severity of fluid loss,” it says.
Ingested orally, charcoal powder may cause black stools, black tongue, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, according to WebMD. In more serious cases, it may cause gastrointestinal blockages, it says.
Activated charcoal may even interact with medications such as those for constipation and should not be taken in such instances. Activated charcoal may lessen, if not prevent, the absorption or effectiveness of medications. That is, when it is taken at the same time that a person is on acetaminophen, digoxin, theophylline, tricyclic antidepressants and birth control pills.
“If you do decide to use activated charcoal toothpaste, dentists agree that you should do so cautiously and sparingly,” says health.com, quoting a dentist. “Brush with it no more than once every other week, and not for an extended period of time, even if your teeth feel normal.”
“It’s an abrasive ingredient,” the dentist says, and frequent use could wear down the enamel on your teeth, health.com says.
A charcoal toothpaste from a reputable brand is best, if ever you are using it. And signs of raw or bleeding gums and an increase in sensitivity must be brought to the attention of your dentist.
And that paella with activated charcoal powder? In small amounts taken occasionally, it could be okay. Taken regularly, well that’s another story.
Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about it: “Activated charcoal may be available without a doctor’s prescription; however, before using this medicine, call a poison control center, your doctor, or an emergency room for advice.”
As always with any medication, consult your doctor. The same is true with activated charcoal, consult your dentist first./WDJ