CharcoalTimes™ April 2008
Table of Contents
WELCOME to the Third Issue of CharcoalTimes™, a courtesy newsletter of CharcoalHouse.com.
We want to thank those who responded to our February Issue. This is still a new venture so please let us know what you think, what works and what doesn’t.
In this Issue:
- Charcoal – A Lamb Among Dragons
- New Personal Testimonies
- Feature: Do You Have A Black Thumb? Charcoal and Gardening
_______________________________________________ Losing Weight
Our next Issue will look at the ability of Activated Charcoal to lower Cholesterol and to act as an aid in losing weight.
Sincerely john dinsley [email protected]
In our February Issue we briefly covered some of the science that has made charcoal so famous as a purifier, poison neutralizer, and a simple natural remedy for many common and some not-so-common ills. In this issue we will look back and see how charcoal gained a solid reputation as a simple yet powerful cure for many of those common and some not-so-common ills that date back to the early 1800s yet are still a plague to us in the 21st century.
A Lamb Among Dragons
For those of you who, like me, enjoy the richness of history, included here are an assortment of experiences from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a time in the development of charcoal, when its application as a healing remedy was being widely experimented with. It was also a time when doctors typically resorted to extremely poisonous concoctions. By comparison, charcoal was a lamb among dragons.
In Europe, interest centered mostly on charcoal’s antidotal properties with respect to poisons. Whereas in America, physicians were exploring other possibilities for charcoal, such as intestinal disorders.
If eating some fancy food gives a person nausea and indigestion, heartburn and gas, is it possible a little biscuit could bring quick relief? Notice these two ads from the early 1900s:
Bragg’s Vegetable Charcoal and Charcoal Biscuits
“Absorb all impurities in the stomach and bowels. Give a healthy tone to the whole system, effectually warding off cholera, smallpox, typhoid, and all malignant fevers. Invaluable for indigestion, flatulence, etc. eradicate worms in children. Sweeten the breath.”
Willow Charcoal Tablets
(Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue, 1908)
“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 from the breath after smoking.”
Are these just wild claims of the day? As you will see in the following excerpts the uses and benefits of charcoal as a medicinal were widely known and used by physicians well over a hundred years ago. Their claims have since been repeatedly substantiated by modern scientific research.
Of the different schools of medical practice in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, it can be shown that, despite all their different strategies for treating disease, doctors at least agreed on the efficacy of charcoal. Let’s begin with a few of the medical textbooks of the day. It should be noted that, when ‘animal’ charcoal is mentioned, it is referring to charcoal produced from animal bones. The reader is left to research for himself the more archaic medical terms. The portions described approximate modern measurements.
London Pharmacopoeia, 1856
“…Charcoal mixed with bread crumbs or yeast, has long been a favorite material for forming poultices, among army and navy surgeons. The charcoal poultice has also obtained a high character in hospital practice as an application to sloughing ulcers and gangrenous sores, and recently, this substance has afforded immense relief in numerous cases of open cancer, by soothing pain, correcting foetor, and facilitating the separation of the morbid structure from the surrounding parts. It is unnecessary to mention other instances of its utility; for in this form Charcoal is now admitted into the London Pharmacopoeia, and it is in general use in all naval, military, and civil hospitals…
… Charcoal has been mentioned by many of the British medical authors, as an useful remedy in certain forms of fever and dysentery, as they occur in tropical climates; and Sir J. Pringle, Drs. Calvert, Chapman, and Calleagno, having used it with success on various occasions, they have written favorably of its properties. Still more recently, Dr. Abercrombie, Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Martin, and others, have admitted its efficacy, and the Army medical reports contain isolated cases, in which its use has been attended with considerable benefit.” James Bird M.R.C.S. (Surgeon – Royal Glamorgan Militia, 1857)
King’s American Dispensatory of 1898
The authors Harvey Wickes Felter, MD, and John Uri Lloyd, Phr M, PhD, were both professors at the Eclectic Medical Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio. The many different therapies discussed in the book were carried out in both clinical and hospital settings. This is a revision of an earlier work by John King, an encyclopedic text that encompasses the entire materia medica of the Eclectic physicians of the 19th century. It covers botany, history, chemistry, uses and dosage. It is still referenced today by serious practitioners of botanical therapeutics. The Eclectic school of medicine dates back to the 1840s as part of an immense anti-medical reform movement in North America. It was a rural, primary care directed practice of medicine. They discarded the more poisonous drugs and drastic forms of treatment, and emphasized concentrated herbal medicines. Under Carbo ligni (wood charcoal), we read of its varied uses when taken internally:
“It acts as an absorbent (both fluids and gases) and disinfectant. Its internal employment will be found useful in those digestive derangements which are associated with offensive breath and disagreeable belchings; also to correct the fetid condition of the stools in dysentery. It is also useful in acidity of the stomach, flatulency [gas], and in the nausea and constipation attending pregnancy. It is also very useful in internal heat and irritation of the stomach, with acidity; sick headache; diarrhea; cholera infantum, etc. In cases of sick headache, due to gastric acidity or derangement, and which are ushered in with blurred vision, photopsia, and finally nausea and intense headache, I have found a drachm [dram] of charcoal mixed in a little syrup, to which is then added about a gill of water, and ten or twelve drops of ether, to afford prompt relief; in very obstinate cases, the dose may require to be repeated two or three times, every twenty or thirty minutes (J. King). In some cases charcoal may be advantageously combined with the subnitrate of bismuth as a sedative; and where a laxative action is required, rhubarb may be beneficially added to it. Bilious colic is said to have been cured by it, in doses of one drachm in two fluid ounces of burnt brandy, repeated as required.
Externally, it may be used in poultices to correct fetor of ulcers, arrest gangrene, etc., and is efficient in many cutaneous [skin] diseases. It absorbs foul gases generated in vaults, sewers, etc. It is also a useful haemostatic [agent to control bleeding], having arrested epitasis [nose bleeding] when subsulphate of iron had failed.
“The specific use of charcoal,” says Dr. Scudder (Spec. Medication) “is to arrest hemorrhage from the bowels. It has been used in enema, finely powdered, to four ounces of water, thrown up the rectum. Why this checks it I can not tell; that it does it, I have the evidence of my own eyes. For several years I have employed the second decimal trituration [finely ground powder] as a remedy for passive hemorrhage, with most marked benefit. I employ it in threatened hemorrhage during typhoid fever; in menorrhagia [abnormally high menstrual bleeding], especially when chronic; in prolonged menstruation; the watery discharge that sometimes follows menstruation; hemorrhage from the kidneys; hemorrhage from the lungs; and in some cases of leucocythemia. A good indication for this remedy is a small, pallid tongue with lenticular spots, and with this it may be given in any form of disease.” It occasionally enters into tooth-powders, and may be used with advantage to correct the fetor of the mouth, and cleanse the teeth.”
Under Charcoal cataplasm (poultice) we read:
“Preparation: Macerate bread, two ounces, with water, ten fluid ounces, for a short time near the fire; then gradually add and mix with it powdered flaxseed, ten drachms, stirring so as to make a soft cataplasm. With this mix powdered charcoal two drachms, and when prepared for application, sprinkle one drachm of charcoal on the surface of the cataplasm. Action and Medical Uses. Charcoal, properly prepared, has the property of removing the fetid odor evolved by gangrenous and phagedenic [rapidly spreading] ulcers, for which the above cataplasm is designed. It should be renewed two or three times in every twenty-four hours.”
Clearly, charcoal was not only recognized as a valuable remedy, but was used internally and externally as a poultice for a variety of ailments. You will find that the combination of flax seed and charcoal used in poultices is still popular today. The flax seed, when powdered or boiled whole, acts primarily as a binder for the charcoal which, by itself, dries out fairly quickly. Flax seed is also known for its own healing virtues.
The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911
This was the British equivalent of the American Dispensatory, for the use of medical practitioners and pharmacists. It includes hundreds of plants, some of them toxic, most not, and a few more or less toxic chemicals. It focuses more on single ingredients such as alkaloids and less on whole plants. It was written by pharmacists for pharmacists. Here are a few interesting entries published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, 1911.
“Action and Uses … It is used internally as an antiseptic and absorbent, in flatulent dyspepsia [acid indigestion], intestinal distension, diarrhea, and dysentery. Its action is mainly mechanical, removing mucus and stimulating the movements of the stomach and intestine. Externally, charcoal is absorbent and deodorant. It is sometimes employed as a poultice for fetid ulcers, some of the charcoal being spread on the surface of the poultice to retain its oxidizing properties. The powder… may also be administered on buttered bread in the form of sandwiches. Lozenges of charcoal… and charcoal biscuits are a popular form of administration. Charcoal tooth powders may contain from 25 to 75 percent of wood charcoal.”
Etiquette and Advice Manuals, 1893
Notice this womanly advice from Baroness Staffe, in a chapter entitled, The Lady’s Dressing Room:
“It is also advisable, when the feet are swollen from a long walk or much standing, to bathe them in water in which charcoal has been boiled. The water should be strained through a cloth before putting the feet into it. Swelling and fatigue will both disappear rapidly. Alcoholic friction is also very good.”
Blood circulation in our feet is more sluggish than in other parts of the body, and so swelling of the feet can be a problem. The footbath with charcoal would help to stimulate circulation and to draw out toxic waste products from the blood that might pool in the feet. Considering the source of the remedy, we can see charcoal can be “refined” in more than one way.
Three Square Meals, circa 1880
This next excerpt was taken from “The Toilet”, a chapter in the cookbook Three Square Meals. The word cookbook is a misnomer because it was much more than a cookbook. It was in essence a household bible – probably a much treasured wedding gift of its day. It included recipes, house cleaning tips, laundry and care of clothing, soap-making, items on invalid care, how to make sickroom remedies, medicine and tonics and dyes.
“Health is one of the requisites to the making up of a fine complexion. A sickly plant commands our care, but not our admiration. So with the individual. A buoyant step and healthful glow on cheek and lip, are irresistible in their power over us. To possess these the greatest care should be taken. Plenty of nutritious food well cooked and at regular intervals. Exercise in the open air. Early hours for rest and sleep are all absolutely necessary. Avoid medicine of a drastic and debilitating nature, and in the spring, when circulation is clogged and digestion sluggish, take a tablespoonful of French charcoal mixed carefully in water or honey before meals for several days, following this each evening with a teaspoonful of extract of dandelion; or take the same dose of charcoal at night, follow it with a large spoonful of finely minced onion. There is no greater purifier in the medical pharmacy than charcoal. In the spring of the year, eat freely of cabbage, lettuce and all herbaceous food. If this diet is accompanied and followed by the requisite amount of bathing, it will work wonders with the most stubborn complexion and give health and elasticity to the sluggish frame. If spring tonics are prescribed, never take them until after charcoal has been used as above directed, when the system will be found in a state to be benefited by their use… Powdered charcoal easily removes stains and makes the teeth white, though it occasionally works under the gums… Charcoal may be mixed with honey if it is used for a dentrifice.”
It was 1831 when, in front of a large group of his peers at the French Academy of Medicine, Pierre Touéry, a French pharmacist, reportedly drank a glass of deadly strychnine and survived to publish his story. There were no uncontrolled convulsions, no ill effects at all! Why? Because, he had combined fifteen grams of the poison (ten times the lethal dose) with an equal amount of charcoal.
In 1913, French chemist Michel Bertrand swallowed five grams of arsenic trioxide (150 times the amount that would have killed most people) mixed with charcoal. Again, there was no nausea, no vomiting, no diarrhea, no excruciating cramping, no severe burning in the mouth and throat, no collapse, no death. In a dangerous, but dramatic way, he had avoided the sure consequences of ingesting the arsenic and demonstrated charcoal’s phenomenal ability to hold poisons from being absorbed by the body. But don’t you try this at home!
Obviously these men did not carelessly endanger their lives. By carefully observing laboratory animals, they knew how powerful and fast charcoal worked to neutralize poisons.
Ellingwood’s Therapeutist, 1908
The following was a leading article in the Therapeutist and was contributed by A. C. Hewett, MD, Chicago, Illinois:
“I recently received a ‘hurry call’ to attend Mrs. H. — ‘very sick’. The patient, a woman in good circumstances aged about fifty years, was found to be in fact very ill; pale-gray in the face, forehead and limbs covered with a clammy perspiration, pulse so small and rapid that counting was next to impossible, suffering severe gastric and abdominal pain, ‘had been vomiting copiously till nothing but a stringy mucus could be ejected’. Asked what she had eaten; I was told coffee, cross buns and canned boneless chicken; I at once diagnosed toxins, and gave charcoal, prepared as per the following Rx: Calcined willow charcoal and wheaten flour two heaping tablespoonfuls each; common table salt a level teaspoonful; warm water four ounces. The charcoal, flour and salt were first well mixed. Water was added little by little for convenience and speedy result.
Dosage, a brimming tablespoonful every ten minutes regardless of recurrent vomitings. The first dose was partly ejected. The second retained in spite of attempts to vomit. After taking the third spoonful, pain and nausea gradually subsided. Of course a hot water bag and bottles were put to her feet, warmed flannels wrapped around her knees and a hot water bottle placed in her hands, which she smilingly and soon nested upon her stomach… I directed continuance of hourly doses of the charcoal mixture till all should be taken. An uneventful and rapid recovery ensued.
Not long after I attended another patient similarly but not so severely affected. She was much younger; had “lunched,” taking coffee, doughnuts and canned salmon. The charcoal mixture and applied heat, brought similar result, and the admonition to use charcoal in food poisoning.”
In spite of all the technical advances man has made, spoiled food, including spoiled canned food, and the many other health concerns of a hundred years ago, are still very relevant today. It seems clear that charcoal’s medicinal value was well known and enthusiastically promoted by some doctors in past generations. It is a shame more doctors today are not aware of charcoal’s proven track record when it comes to healing. (CharcoalRemedies.com – Chapter 6)
If the medicinal uses and benefits of charcoal were so well known well over a hundred years ago, it begs the question, “Why is it so little known today?” Why does there seem to be a calculated effort to not only camouflage this knowledge but also a growing trend to restrict access to medicinal charcoal itself? Stay tuned to CharcoalTimes.
We want to thank the many who have shared their personal testimonies with us and apologize that we are unable to post all of them. Each are a witness to the efficacy of activated charcoal as a simple natural remedy for a wide number of conditions – for people and for pets. We would invite you to the Your Stories pages to read some of the many touching stories we receive regularly. We have included a number of stories from February and March.
“I’ve been so sick for so long. Anorexia/Bulimia and using cigarettes to deal with the pain: emotional, spiritual, physical. My doctor gave me a scrip: 2 meal per day (vegan); don’t eat after 3 p.m. (trying: my issue is night-time binging or I cannot sleep – it’s like paying a terrorist); and 1 T. activated charcoal in glass of water 2-3 x /day. This is saving my life. When I would try to stop eating wrong or smoking I would have such dreadful detox sickness that I would have to [have a] “pick up”. But the charcoal makes not smoking now (7 days) possible. Also, please have mercy on me; will you pray to Jesus for me: I don’t know how or what to eat for just two meal/day. Thanks,
“…You ask what can you eat for 2 meals a day? A plant-based diet is especially helpful for individuals getting off coffee, tea, cigarettes, and alcohol. A diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts allow the body to taper off nicotine and other stimulants/depressants naturally so there are fewer withdrawal symptoms. Variety is a fundamental principle of good eating, not all at one meal but spread over a week. That way the body is exposed to a wide variety of nutrients to build good health with.
The apostle Peter tells us to “add to your faith …knowledge…” (2Peter 1:5)
I have attached a cooking school program with vegan recipes and some health handouts that we use in some of our programs. These will give you some ideas to plan you menu around, and support your growing faith.
You are in our prayers…
K. works at the Mayo Clinic and is a great fan and advocate of medicinal charcoal.
“Another co-worker, B., had a stomachache. She approached my desk and said, ‘J. told me you have something for my stomachache. Of course when I said charcoal, she asked ‘What?’ After explaining, I had her take 5 tablets. Thirty minutes later she approached my desk and asked ‘what did you give me? I replied, ‘Charcoal.’ She continued, “K., I had my stomachache for three days and even went to the doctor and was taking medicine that he gave me. That didn’t work. My stomachache is almost gone.” Another time when B. had the stomach flu, she was out two days and came in her third. She didn’t want to ask me for charcoal, she later admitted, but when I offered her some, she was thankful and took four tablets. I sent more home with her. She was back to work the next day…
The ironic thing is that I work at Mayo Clinic, and it seems like such an oxymoron that I work here and take natural remedies when I do become ill. They all work much better than traditional medicine. People know to come to my desk when they have ills as I keep the charcoal.”
“Hello from India – Ear Infection”
“I just went through your site. I would like to know if I can put charcoal paste into my ears as I have been suffering from ear infection since a month now and have taken a lot of antibiotics too. Please let me know if it is safe to put activated charcoal paste into the ear. I remember my doctor telling me that I do have a fungal sinusitis infection that is maxillary sinusitis. I used to take in charcoal water through my nostrils and it did help me a lot. But can I use the same for my ears too?”
Yes charcoal can be used for ear infections either inside the ear or as a poultice on the outside. The one precaution with using the charcoal inside the ear is to make sure the eardrum is in tact and not ruptured or punctured – in that case a charcoal poultice would be used.
We do have one story posted on our site (click here)
I would suggest trying mixing the charcoal with some cold pressed olive oil instead of water. I would also suggest trying a charcoal poultice over the ear to see which treatment seems to work better.
Follow the directions for Making a Poultice…”
Virginia replied late in March:
“Dear Mr. John,
Greetings to you. This is Virginia, I do not know if you would remember me. I wrote to you long back, asking if charcoal could be put into the ear for ear infection.
Well let me tell you that I did put a small pinch of activated charcoal powder in two tablespoon of boiled cool water and mixed it very well and then strained it in a strainer so that no sediments would be there and only just the liquid. I put two drops in my ear the first day and after two days just a drop of this charcoal liquid. My ear pain has gone and no more infection. I am so thankful to God. I took enough of medication earlier and nothing worked out. It is all part of the sinusitis problem that I had. I also take in diluted charcoal liquid into my nostrils when I have severe sinusitis and it does help a lot and clears the nostrils. I do that only once in a while, just like how we put saline water into our nostrils and it clears up. So next time my ear gives problem I now know what to do!
Thanks a lot for all your encouragement. May God bless you and your team is my prayer. Regards”
“Thank you kindly for your help. I’ve reordered the product and received a confirmation email for the new purchase.
I am appreciative of the products and information that you are offering. The case stories are definitely interesting and useful. A while ago, I deduced that my abundant mercury fillings were making me sick. A lucky recommendation from a friend led me to look into activated charcoal. Since then, I’ve been taking charcoal caps, with often times dramatic effects. I also notice that charcoal makes me feel better after I get out of a long, hot shower. I look forward to start using the bulk activated charcoal. Thank you again!”
Shingles in Eye
“The reason I need so much charcoal is that my mother has a terrible case of shingles in her eye and the medications the doctors have her on weren’t doing much good. She got an infection from the shingles and a second infection from the steroids. I finally was able to convince her to let me help and have been making charcoal and flax seed poultices for her eye and she finally can open that eye. After a few hour she could feel charcoal pulling out the infection. I take her to an ophthalmologist to monitor her progress and she is doing much better. It will still be a long while until she gets better it seems.”
I asked the folks at Alive Inn if they used charcoal medicinally. They replied:
“Yes, as a matter of fact we do use charcoal. We had a man with diabetic ulcers on his feet. The visiting nurses worked at healing them for over 6 months with conventional ways. When that failed we started using charcoal alternating with green papaya. He almost healed in 3 months, but since we were also dealing with osteomyelitis he never totally healed but he was well managed. Another one of our diabetics started to have very hard, red, swollen and weeping lower extremities. We used charcoal poultices for about one week, (on at night, off in the am) and that was very successful. Recently, one of my residents got a cat scratch, which caused her wrist to swell: two 8-hour days of charcoal application cleared the swelling.
We make our poultices with pure, psyllium husk as a thickener as it doesn’t require cooking or waiting for thickening. Is that something that you would agree with?” [Yes we do]Aldine (BSN, RN)
Do you have a Black Thumb? Charcoal and Gardening
Charcoal is used as a top dressing for gardens, lawns and golf greens. Used in potting soils and bedding compounds, charcoal works as a soil sweetener while it neutralizes pesticides and herbicides. It is also a natural insecticide for some insects. It is both a fertilizer and an insecticide for roses. Charcoal “by any other name would be as sweet”. In this Issue we will take a brief look at some of the many uses of charcoal in modern agriculture. We will then go back to the ancient practices of the Amazonian peoples and then finish with a glimpse into how those ancient practices have captured the attention of major agricultural universities and environmental and governmental organizations.
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in drafting their Using Activated Charcoal to Inactivate Agricultural Chemical Spills, state: “Activated charcoal is the universal adsorbing material for most pesticides.”Sometimes it becomes necessary to stop the activity of an applied herbicide, perhaps because of an accidental spill, perhaps because of a weed-control and grass-seeding combination. Activated charcoal adsorbs one hundred to two hundred times its own weight and comes in handy for binding, thereby deactivating some herbicides. Turf areas that have been treated with pre-emergence herbicides can be reseeded earlier than normal by treating with activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal will reduce the level of most organic pesticides in the soil, but is considered ineffective for inorganic pesticides and for water-soluble organic pesticides. It is a good idea to keep a bag or two of activated charcoal in stock at all times so it can be applied almost immediately after an accidental spill or application. If the active material has not been diluted with water at the time of the spill, apply the charcoal dry. If it has been diluted with water, apply the activated charcoal in a slurry.
The charcoal must be incorporated into the contaminated soil, preferably to a depth of six inches. With severe spills, some of the contaminated soil may need to be removed prior to the activated charcoal application. It is easier to apply activated charcoal as a water slurry, so this is the best way to go when possible. The final spray mixture should contain one to two pounds of charcoal per gallon of water, and there should be enough water to begin moderate agitation until a uniform mixture is attained. Maintain moderate agitation while spraying.
For reducing the effects from spills of organic pesticides, some petroleum products and hydraulic fluids, use one hundred pounds of activated charcoal for every pound of active material spilled, but no less than two pounds per 150 square feet (600 pounds per acre) of contaminated area.For turf areas that have been treated with pre-emergence herbicides, apply charcoal slurry at a rate of one pound per gallon of water for each 150 square feet. Wash the grass free of any heavy charcoal deposits, and, ideally, rake the charcoal into the soil. The area can be reseeded twenty-four hours after treatment.
To avoid the mess of a fine-powdered charcoal, look for granulated product that dissolves easily. It can be spread by a walk-behind spreader without dust or irritation.1
Jugalone is a natural hormone produced by black walnut trees, and is toxic to the roots of plants that encroach on the walnut’s space. Moreover, when walnut trees are cut down, the decaying roots still produce the poison, causing a build up of jugalone in the soil. Charcoal can be spread around the area as a thick slurry and washed into the soil, or it can be worked in.
Just as the ecosystems of nature are interconnected, so too there are related issues around environmental stewardship. In California, alfalfa production uses more water than any other crop – almost twenty percent annually of the state’s agricultural water use. Because of the use of irrigation systems, there is an increasing concern that unacceptable amounts of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides will end up contaminating the already compromised ground water supplies. Recommendations are now in place urging the use of activated charcoal and other filtering agents, in conjunction with different containment strategies, to hold and clean surface-water run-off before water leaves a ranch into ditches, irrigation canals, ponds and rivers.2
While charcoal helps to clean the soil of pollutants, it also acts as a soil conditioner. It is used as a top dressing for gardens, bowling greens and lawns. Charcoal also acts as a substitute for lime in soil additives because of the high potash content, and it can be a little cheaper than lime. It is used for potting and bedding compounds as a soil and mulch sweetener, and as a fertilizer and insecticide for roses. Some orchids seem to love it. One study showed that adding charcoal to the rooting medium of peas produced a marked increase in the weight of the pea plants and in nitrogen fixation by the plants as compared to controls.3 It is suggested that the benefits derived from charcoal are due to its adsorption of toxic metabolites that are often released by plant tissues, especially when the tissues are damaged.4Here are some planting tips using charcoal chips. Start with a plastic liner in a tray. Add half an inch to an inch of gravel in the bottom for drainage. Next, sprinkle enough charcoal chips to cover the gravel layer. Charcoal will help keep bacteria at bay. Top this with potting soil and add your plants.
Dating back to 1947, several studies have been conducted showing the benefits from activated charcoals in protecting seeds, seedlings, and crops from some organic pesticides and from the effects of herbicides applied to the soil to inhibit weed growth.One study demonstrated that, as an insecticide, powdered charcoal is a more potent deterrent to the Tribolium castenum beetle, than are powdered clays. Commonly known as the Red and Confused flour beetles, these pests attack stored grain products such as flour, cereals, meal, crackers, beans, spices, pasta, cake mix, dried pet food, dried flowers, chocolate, nuts, seeds, and even dried museum specimens.In fact, these beetles are considered two of the most damaging pests of stored products in the home and in grocery stores. It is speculated that the superior bleaching and desiccating properties of powdered charcoals accounts for its success in killing these pests.5
Dead Trees Revive Sick Trees
Just in. I listened to a doctor today explain how some people in an area of a forest fire had taken the scorched dead trees and cut them up and piled them around the base of other sick and dying trees (unknown cause). They found that the sick trees were being restored to health. Hmmm, dead trees revive sick trees. Please let us know of your experiences, no matter how off-the-wall they may seem. They may not be so off-the-wall as you would think. Read on….. _____________________________1 Adapted from University of Florida Fact Sheet #ENH-88 Activated Charcoal for Pesticide Deactivation)2 Cline, Harry, Western Farm Press, Jan 24, 2004
3 Vantis, JT, and Bond, G, The effect of charcoal on the growth of leguminous plants in sand culture, Annals of Applied Biology, 37, 159, 1950.
4 Cooney, David O, Activated Charcoal in Medical Applications, Marcel Dekker Inc., p.559, 1995
5 Majumder, SK, Narasinhan, KS, and Subrahmanyan, V. Insecticidal effects of activated charcoal and clays, Nature, 184,p 1165, 1959___________________________
Terra Preta – (Portuguese) “dark earth”
Terra preta was first documented in 1879 and has been studied scientifically since 1966. The American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in January 2006 dedicated a session to terra preta. Later, in July 2006 at the World Congress of Soil Science, an interdisciplinary group of agrichar enthusiasts got so fired up that they banded together to form the International Agrichar Initiative. The group is held its first conference in April 2007 in Australia. What is terra preta?
Amazonian Dark Earth, or terra preta do indio, has mystified science for the last hundred years. Three times richer in nitrogen and phosphorous, and twenty times the carbon of normal soils, terra preta is the legacy of ancient Amazonians who predate Western civilization. Scientists who long debated the capacity of ‘savages’ to transform the virgin rainforest now agree that indigenous people transformed large regions of the Amazon into amazingly fertile black earth. The Amazonians’ techniques remain an enigma but are believed to have used slash-and-smolder to lock half of the carbon in burnt vegetation into a stable form of biochar (definition) instead of releasing the bulk of it into the atmosphere like typical slash-and-burn practices.
The difference between terra preta and ordinary Amazonian soils (oxisol) is immense. A hectare of meter-deep terra preta can contain 250 tons of carbon, as opposed to 100 tons in unimproved soils from similar parent material, according to Bruno Glaser, of the University of Bayreuth, Germany. In other words, terra preta soils have as much carbon as all of the vegetation on top of them. Furthermore, there is no clear limit to just how much biochar can be added to the soil.
Besides the amazing growing ability of terra preta soils there is also has the amazing potential to sequester tremendous amounts of carbon that could theoretically offset the greenhouse effect that is so much in the news. Claims for biochar’s capacity to capture carbon sound almost audacious. Johannes Lehmann, soil scientist and author of Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management, believes that a strategy combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil fuel emissions!
One company EPRIDA, unlike some other giants, is developing small plants capable of producing 12 tons of enriched biochar a day besides biodiesel that could be utilized by small farm operations. Company president Danny Day explains:”Our primary goal is to increase the quality of life for subsistence farmers, and in doing so we have the capability of reversing CO2 release and converting that whole cycle downwards…The Eprida technology uses agricultural waste biomass to produce hydrogen-rich bio-fuels and a new restorative high-carbon fertilizer (ECOSS) …In tropical or depleted soils ECOSS fertilizer sustainably improves soil fertility, water holding and plant yield far beyond what is possible with nitrogen fertilizers alone. The hydrogen produced from biomass can be used to make ethanol, or a Fischer-Troupsch gas-to-liquids diesel (BTL diesel), as well as the ammonia used to enrich the carbon to make ECOSS fertilizer.We don’t maximize for hydrogen; we don’t maximize for biodiesel; we don’t maximize for char…By being a little bit inefficient in each, we approximate nature and get a completely efficient cycle.”But, the practical benefit for the moment is plant growth. Trials at Australia’s New South Wales Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) Wollongbar Agricultural Institute show that crops grown on agrichar-improved soils received a major boost. The Australian trials of ‘agrichar’ or ‘biochar’ have doubled and, in one case, tripled crop growth when applied at the rate of 10 tons per hectare.
There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist.
Terra preta creates a terrestrial carbon reef at a microscopic level. These nanoscale structures provide safe haven to the microbes and fungus that facilitate fertile soil creation, while holding carbon for many hundred if not thousands of years. The combination of these two forms of sequestration would also increase the growth rate and natural sequestration effort of growing plants.
One can instantly see the benefit of charcoal from the picture below. An unimproved piece of turf soil was rototilled and sewn with a row of corn seed. The control in the middle is unimproved soil with added raw charcoal on the right, and nitrogen enriched charcoal produced from biochar supplemented on the left. Even without the advantage of enriched charcoal the difference is dramatic not only in growth but color and vitality.
There are other pictures posted on the links at the bottom of this page.Imagine, a natural fertilizer that improves the soil, improves crop yields, aids in controlling greenhouse gases, and increase global security – all kinds of terrorists can’t blow it up. Talk about a healthier safer world! And all this without further straining forests in Africa, Asia, and South America for charcoal. The primary sources for these biochars are waste products from such diverse things as nutshells, corn stover, switch grass, and peanut hulls.
While some are waiting for government subsidies, I liked the poetry and vision of David Zaks and Chad Monfreda in the conclusion to their article Terra Preta: Black is the New Green on Resilience.org.
“Terra preta’s full beauty appears in this closed loop. Unlike traditional sequestration rates that follow diminishing marginal returns (aquifers fill up, forests mature), practices based on terra preta see increasing returns. Terra preta doubles or even triples crop yields. More growth means more terra preta, begetting a virtuous cycle. While a global rollout of terra preta is still a ways away, it heralds yet another transformation of waste into resources.How ironic it is that ancient humans cultivated the very fertility of Earth’s most pristine places so seamlessly as to be nearly invisible. Perhaps then our challenge as planetary gardeners is not to preserve nature in a bubble but to reweave ourselves into it-to invert our footprints into handprints.”With that I am off to our new garden spot for a whole new learning curve. We are new “tenants/stewards” on this acreage we live on here in NW Nebraska. The ground has been fallow for years. It is windy and the area has been in a drought for eight years. Our well only produces 2.5 gallons/min. In some ways it reminds me of when I taught organic gardening on a remote Pacific desert island (Rep. of Kiribati) – only sand for soil and precious little water. But after preparing this article I know now I have one amazing resource, charcoal. If I had only known then, we could have converted the abundance of coconut husks into charcoal and started the first inland “Charcoal Reef”. Once again the Creator has provided mankind everywhere with a remedy not only for sick bodies and sick animals, but also for the sick earth that, at its creation, was pronounced “Very good!” (Genesis 1:31) We have 150 bare-rooted trees coming this month. I will post our survival rate and some garden pictures later this fall – God willing. We would invite you “green thumbs” out there to do your own experimenting and give us your experiences to share.Till then, God’s blessings.
_______________________________________For further agricultural research on charcoal please visit the links on our section on Gardens and Farms.
There are numerous websites that explore the world of Terra Preta and its implications. All you have to do is Google “Terra Preta” “biochar” or “agrichar”. Here are a few links:
International Biochar InitiativeChristoph Steiner’s Biochar Website
Terra Preta message board
Biochar at Cornell University