been used as a folk remedy as far back as recorded history. North American
Indians used charcoal for the treatment of gas pains long before our
forefathers came to this continent.
Homeopathic physicians have used charcoal throughout the world for more
than 200 years.
Charcoal is rated in Category 1 (safe and effective) status by the FDA
for acute toxic poisoning.
Charcoal has been an official remedy in the United States for at least
100 years, and was eliminated from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia about 1950, not
because it was ineffective, but because of its general disuse in American
medicine following the phenomenal growth of the drug industry.
The light and fluffy black powder of charcoal has been used as a
officially recognized antidote since the 19th century.
It is easy to make by a destructive distillation of organic materials
such as wood pulp, petroleum coke, coals, peat, sawdust, wood char, paper
mill waste, bone, and coconut shells.
Any kind of wood such as willow, eucalyptus, pine, oak and others are
adequate sources of wood charcoal. Charcoals made from vegetable materials
such as wood and coal contains about 90% carbon.
The use of charcoal for medicinal purposes is ancient. In an Egyptian
papyrus of 1550 B.C., various kinds of charcoal are specified for
Over succeeding centuries, those who practiced as physicians believed
greatly in the healing properties and therapeutic values of wood charcoal.
In the times of Hippocrates (400 B.C.), and Pliny (50 A.D.), wood
charcoal was used to treat epilepsy, vertigo, chlorosis, and anthrax.
These practices gradually fell into disuses, but were still mentioned,
often even into the nineteenth century.
The discovery of how charcoal really works, that is, of the phenomenon
of adsorption as we presently understand it, is generally attributed to
Scheele, who in 1773 described some experiments on gases exposed to
charcoal. The charcoal was found to adsorb many types of gases to a
In the area of liquid phase systems, the earliest notice of adsorption
seems to have been in 1785, when Lowitz observed that charcoal was used to
clarify came sugar in a sugar refinery.
During nineteenth century many attempts were made to produce
decolorizing charcoals from other sources.
In 1822, Bussy found that by heating blood with potash, an effective
charcoal was produced.
Hunter, in 1865, reported on the great capacity of a charcoal derived
from coconut shells for adsorbing gases.
Other charcoals were made by Lee, in 1863, from peat, by Winser and
Swindells, in 1868, from paper mill wastes.