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Activated or non-activated charcoal?

Updated: May 13, 2021

We are often asked whether our charcoal is activated or non-activated,

so we thought it might be useful to explain the difference.

Activated charcoal is quite the buzz word when it comes to both cosmetic and dietary charcoal. In fact it is the most popular term put into the Google search engine when searching for charcoal powder. But do people actually know why they are looking for "activated" and what the difference is between this and natural non-activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been created and then put through a secondary process. This process can either be physical (where high pressure steam is driven through the charcoal and then the charcoal is subsequently dried again), or chemical (where the charcoal is immersed in acid and then cooked again to remove this acid). The purpose of these alternative processes is to increase the porosity of the charcoal on an internal molecular level.

It is said that one teaspoon of non-activated charcoal powder has a surface area of one football pitch as opposed to one teaspoon of activated charcoal powder that can have the surface area of 2.5 maybe 3 football pitches.

It is possible to argue that the surface area of one football pitch has the desired result that the charcoal is being employed for.

So where does the interest/demand for "activated" charcoal come from and what implications does it have?

It would appear that having established that the surface area of natural charcoal is pretty phenomenal, the fixation with activated charcoal is mainly a fashion/ trend.

The use of activated charcoal does however have major implications;

Efficacy - Due to its super porosity the use of activated charcoal has to be carefully controlled as it has the potential of doing more harm than good. With regards to its use as a dietary supplement it should be regulated/restricted as it has the side effect of not only removing unwanted toxins from the digestive system but also stripping vital beneficial nutrients. Non-activated natural charcoal does not pose this problem and consequently can be used continuously without the fear of causing any detrimental effects.

Environmental - Secondly the environmental impact of the two types of charcoal should also be considered. As far as we are aware the activation process is unavailable in Europe and all activated charcoal is sourced from Asia (e.g. Indonesia/Bangladesh/Malaysia). The majority of this charcoal powder is made from coconut shells. There is little environmental information on how these coconut shells are sourced or the forestry involved in their production. Often coconut trees are cleared for palm oil production or palm kernels are passed off as coconut shells.

The Dorset Charcoal Company produces natural charcoal from sustainable woodland sources and we are always trying to educate people about the harm of using imported charcoal. Yet we are regularly contacted by overseas companies seeking to sell us their charcoal!

PALM KERNEL SHELL CHARCOAL - Supplier Charcoal Origin Indonesia.

Do you really want to use activated charcoal that is a by product of the palm oil industry?

Coupled with this is the negative environmental impact of moving the subsequent activated charcoal half way around the world.

The opposite of this is true for natural non activated charcoal. Our charcoal is made locally here in the UK from our native timber (often Oak) from truly sustainable forestry practices. Our charcoal has the highest environmental credentials.

The Dorset Charcoal Company produces and supplies charcoal that is "natural" and non-activated!


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