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Excerpt from 'Activated Charcoal in Medical Applications'

by David O.Cooney
University of Wyoming

During the late 1800s early 1900s there continued to be many reports on the efficacy of charcoal as an antidote, mainly in the European literature. In America, the interest grew in charcoal as an aid in curing intestinal disorders. For example, the 1908 catalog of Sears, Roebuck and Co (reprinted in 1969) carried the following advertisement:

Willow Charcoal Tablets
Every person is well acquainted with the great benefit derived from willow charcoal in gastric and intestinal disorder, indigestion, dyspepsia, heartburn, sour or acid stomach, gas upon the stomach, constant belching, fetid breath, all gaseous complications and for the removal of the offensive odor of the breath after smoking.

A similar advertisement of the same period touts claims of antibacterial and anti parasitic activity:

Bragg's Vegetable Charcoal and Charcoal Biscuits
Absorb all impurities in the stomach and bowels. Give healthy tone to the whole system, effectually warding off cholera, typhoid, and all malignant fevers. Invaluable for indigestion, flatulence, etc. Eradicate worms in children, Sweeten breath.

It was not until much later that scientific research demonstrated that most of the claims made in such advertisements are indeed valid. It is now known that activated charcoal can absorb poisons, bacterial toxins, and such, in the gut.


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