By now, there’s no doubt you’ve heard about charcoal. You can find it in everything from skincare to pressed juices. But what’s the big deal anyway? Not to be confused with the lumps of coal found at the bottom of your barbeque, activated charcoal has a variety of proposed benefits, from clearing breakouts to lowering cholesterol.

In science speak, charcoal has a negative electrical charge, which attracts positively charged molecules (this includes toxins and gases). It’s so effective in binding toxic properties, activated charcoal has been used in a variety of medical emergencies, including anti-poison treatments and drug overdoses. While it’s not effective in all cases of poisoning, like alcohol, or lithium poisonings, studies show that a single 50 to 100 gram dose of activated charcoal taken within five minutes of ingestion (including over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen and sedatives) may reduce absorption in adults up to 74%. Clearly, activated charcoal carries some major clout in the medical world, but it can also be incorporated into your daily life to cure a variety of ailments.

Everything from bites to acne
When applied topically, activated charcoal still promotes detoxification — it has even been touted as an effective treatment for insect and snake bites. When applied to a bite, it absorbs the poison, this reducing swelling and pain. For external use, a powdered charcoal can be mixed with water and applied directly to the bite. Believe it or not, activated charcoal works the same way to treat and heal acne. It draws infections from the skin and even helps absorb excess oils, which in turn help clear up the skin. Luckily, there’s an abundance of activated charcoal-infused skincare on the market from face masks and cleansers, to spot treatments and face oils

Ingestible cure-all
A 2014 study found that rats induced with chronic kidney disease that were fed four grams of activated charcoal had significant reductions in intestinal damage and inflammation. It’s believed that activated charcoal may assist in better kidney function by filtering out toxins and drugs unable to digest. Additionally, it can help ease intestinal gas, treat diarrhea, lower cholesterol and even reset your body by removing toxins from the liver and bloodstream after a night of drinking. To incorporate charcoal into your daily diet, you can buy it by the case or make this charcoal lemonade recipe at home.

Water filtration
Just as activated charcoal does to the body, when used to filter water, it can absorb a range of toxins, chemicals, drugs, fungi, bacteria and even viruses found in unfiltered water. A study in 2015 found that water filtration using charcoal removed 100% of fluoride in 32 unfiltered water samples after 6 months. Though it’s huge in a commercial setting, you can also DIY your own charcoal-filtered water at home, using these charcoal sticks.

Now that you know some of the benefits of this miracle ingredient]l, it’s time to experiment!Whether you observe the benefits via a new skincare routine or a DIY elixir, let us know what you think in the comments.

Stephanie Montes is a Los-Angeles based fashion, beauty and wellness writer. Her work has been featured on Elite Daily, Brides, Well + Good, Hello Giggles, The Zoe Report and more. She loves traveling, trying new beauty products, photography, and cuddling her two dogs and husband. Follow her on Instagram at @stephanie_montes.