A man walks into a crowded room and in front of everyone there swallows the poisonous drug Strychnine! He survives! Even more surprising is that the dose he takes was several times the lethal dose and remarkably he was a Pharmacist so he was well aware of what he was doing!
He took poison and survived? Yes and no trick was involved.
The Pharmacist also took a dose of charcoal to absorb the poison and protect him from its lethal effect. This does not work for all poisons and does not work for acids or alkalis – but crucially it did work for Strychnine as he hoped.
He also hoped that this dramatic demonstration of the ability of Charcoal to mop up substances would so impress the audience at the 1831 meeting of the French Academy of Sciences that Doctors would adopt Charcoal as a medical drug which they could use with their patients when needed.
Sadly for the Pharmacist involved the audience of scientists were not impressed by this stunt – although I admit I find it pretty convincing!
Did the Charcoal Detox the Strychnine?
No it did not – it adsorbed it because that is what Charcoal and Activated charcoal do.
Any fibrous food would absorb and soak up any liquid they come in contact with. The particular ability of charcoal is that due to the open structure of a block of carbon it is very porous and has a large surface area and the poison coats this surface.
Any toxin that is adsorbed is toxin that does not get into the bloodstream where it can poison us. To do this successfully you have to get the amount of carbon and poison in the right ratio.
Not enough carbon and you die!
What is Charcoal and Activated Charcoal?
Every living thing from plants to people is based on Carbon and even in death the carbon structure remains. When wood is burned the heat drives off any remaining liquid and becomes a better fuel. It has become char or charcoal.
If this charcoal is heated some more without oxygen being present the charcoal becomes Activated Charcoal. This is such a good filter that nowadays it is used instead of ordinary charcoal. Take a look at this “Product Description” found on Amazon it gives an idea of how versatile charcoal is…
“Bragg’s Charcoal Tablets provides 100% natural relief for indigestion, wind and heartburn. It can also be taken during pregnancy and lactation. It alleviates the symptoms of Dyspepsia (chronic or recurrent discomfort in the abdomen accompanied by bloating, belching, nausea) offers relief from occasional diarrhoea, is wheat and lactose free.”
And if your dog has excessive gas you can use Charcoal Biscuits as a dog treat!
In this product, charcoal biscuits provide a way that excess gas is adsorbed by the charcoal. I haven’t tried charcoal biscuits but I do take Charcoal tablets before I go to the Dentist.
The purpose of the charcoal is to mop up any debris from the drilling or filling processes that get accidentally swallowed. Yes the suction used by the Dentist is useful but it can’t get all the particles and a layer of charcoal in your stomach produced by taking a few Charcoal tablets is an extra precaution.
Activated Charcoal is such a fine structure that it was only a matter of time that it became a part of most household water filters and that is the Blog Post for tomorrow!