This section is from the book "Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics", by W. Hale White. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics..
Carbo Animalis. Animal Charcoal. Synonym. - Bone-black. Source. - Expose bones, deprived of fat, in iron cylinders, to red heat without access of air, and then powder them.
Carbo Animalis Purificatus. Purified Animal Charcoal.
A dull black powder, odorless, tasteless, and insoluble in water or Alcohol. It should contain no salts.
Dose, 20 to 60 gr.; 1.20 to 4.00 gm.; 1/2 oz.; 15. gm. or more as an antidote.
Carbo Ligni. Charcoal. - Synonym. - Wood Charcoal. Source. - Wood charred without access of air.
A black, odorless, and tasteless powder, free from gritty matter.
Dose, 20 to 60 gr.; 1.20 to 4.00 gm.
Dry charcoal absorbs gases and condenses them within its pores. It thus absorbs oxygen, and hence has an oxidizing power, parting with the absorbed oxygen to oxidize organic and other substances. Organic matter is believed to be decomposed by aerobic micro-organisms which act by oxidation, and anaerobic which decompose directly, producing offensively smelling and toxic bodies. Wild suggests that the reason for the deodorant action of charcoal is that it converts anaerobic into aerobic decomposition. It attracts and oxidizes coloring matters, and consequently decolorizes them. It has no effect on living organisms, and is not antiseptic.
Formerly it was thought only to oxidize when dry, but to a less degree it has this power when moist, presumably because there is still some active oxygen in its interstices. It is passed in the faeces unchanged.
Charcoal has been recommended as an antiseptic and deodorant for foul ulcers, etc., but it is a dirty preparation, and large quantities must be used. Charcoal is used in pharmacy as a decolorizing agent.
It has been given as a powder, as lozenges, and as biscuits, with the object of preventing fermentation in the stomach, but it is not of much use. Garrod has shown that a tablespoonful or larger doses of charcoal frequently repeated, are antidotes against most active vegetable poisons, as opium, nux vomica, and aconite, for charcoal seems to have a special attraction for alkaloids. Animal charcoal is the best form to give as an antidote. Charcoal is used as a tooth powder but it should not be recommended because it abrades the enamel of the teeth.