In my continuing self-education about supporting our health, activated charcoal kept popping up. I added it to my mental list of things to get for my ever-evolving "home pharmacy." After my sister suffered through 36 hours of, um, episodes following a meal with some now-suspect coleslaw, I decided I needed to have that charcoal on hand sooner rather than later, just in case a situation hit in my own household.
On Monday, I walked to the chain-store pharmacy near my office, wallet in hand. I went to the counter, and explained for what I was looking. The aide remembered that she'd seen some charcoal in an over-the-counter aisle, but that it might have had its formulation changed. She strode expertly right over to the aisle location, plucked off a box, and... confirmed the change. She then turned me over the pharmacist for further help.
I told the pharmacist my story: I was looking for activated charcoal. My mom had some, but it had senna in it. I wasn't sure that a laxative ingredient would be the bees' knees if I had to use the charcoal in a case of, shall we say, already acute bowel motility. Therefore, I was on a quest for plain old charcoal. The pharmacist nodded, saying he knew just what I wanted. He reminisced about simple charcoal powder.. (Ah, perfect, I thought!)
He padded back to his computer, typed away, and came back to let me know that his supplier had charcoal tablets. He could order them and have them for me the next afternoon. Great, I said.
Tuesday afternoon, I walked expectantly back to the pharmacy. The pharmacist remembered me, and had a little box waiting. He handed it to me for my inspection. I went right to the ingredient list. Oh! In fact, it WAS a list. This wasn't just charcoal... it had some homeopathic remedies mixed in. I tried to overlook that fact, and my finger continued tracing along the back of the carton... FD&C this, and FD&C that... (Why the heck would I want fake colors in a black product whose job was to go into the gut, do its thing, and then pass back out?) I looked up at the pharmacist, who sensed that I wasn't liking where this was going. He quickly assured me that I didn't have to buy it. He would have no problem sending it back to the warehouse.
Especially since he had gone through the trouble of ordering this just for me, I really wanted to like this product and to buy it from him. That nagging gut (pardon me!) feeling told me otherwise. Stoically, I kept reading... propylene glycol... proplylene glycol?! Are you kidding me? Now, we had a deal-breaker. What part of just-activated-charcoal-please was not getting through? Was it really that hard to find a single-ingredient item?
With the confidence from my internal nagger, I looked back at the pharmacist, who kindly reassured me that sending the product back was no problem. Very well, I told him. Please do return it. I then thanked him effusively for his help, and headed back to work.
My non-internet options are not exhausted -- there are two other stores which I'm quite certain will have a product for me. It's a drive, not a walk, to get there, but I can chain the trip there with other things.
I'm enthusiastic about the power of such a simple remedy. I'm far less enthused about the challenge of trying to find it in its pure form.
Signing off on another installment of "Less is More"...
To our health!