The Dark Powers Of Activated Charcoal

the essential medical support for home first aid

 Jess says: Activated charcoal is a staple for your home medicine cabinet and is a great, safe go-to remedy in our house for upset stomachs or over-indulging! It’s the only product I have seen that can significantly reduce bloating quickly in patients and is a great digestive remedy. I use a toothpaste containing activated charcoal, and despite its grey colour, I really think it helps keep my teeth white!

Activated charcoal has been used since ancient Egyptian times to remove toxins and was even used as an early method of mummification to preserve bodies, as it effectively prevented them from decaying. It’s a truly amazing substance, but make sure you buy yours from a reputable source, to avoid impurities. 

Activated charcoal is an excellent detoxifier. It’s one of the few natural substances that can absorb gas, to relieve uncomfortable bloating and wind. But it has many more powers and uses too. 

activated charcoal has been used through the ages

Activated charcoal was first used medicinally by the ancient Egyptians in 1500BC on infected ulcers and wounds, and to treat unpleasant gases from the digestion. It was used by both Hippocrates and Pliny (the famous ancient Greek physicians) to treat a huge range of diseases, including epilepsy and anthrax. It was used to make water safe as far back as 450BC. Its’ ability to remove toxins from the air, water and the body, when ingested, continues to be its main use today1.

it’s still used in hospitals, to absorb poisons and to treat drug overdoses

Activated charcoal is still one of the best treatments to help when given quickly for accidental poisoning2 (consuming something toxic). The first line of treatment in emergency departments, it is most effective when given within an hour of poisoning.3 This makes it a great product to keep in your home medicine cabinet (it has no taste, so can be mixed with liquid and drunk), especially if you have young children.

research shows that activated charcoal is very safe

90-day high dose studies show no evidence of toxicity in bamboo-sourced activated charcoal.4 It has been widely used to treat poisoning and toxicity for over 170 years and is generally considered safe for consumption.5 In the 1800s, it was popular to demonstrate the power of activated charcoal to medical students, by taking it with the poison strychnine and showing that it prevented any ill effects. While we definitely don’t recommend you do this, you can be assured that charcoal is very safe to consume!

gut health

activated charcoal helps to relieve bloating, gas and IBS symptoms

Studies show that activated charcoal taken after a meal can effectively reduce wind (belching and flatulence)6 and may reduce feelings of bloating and stomach cramps.7 A study of 262 patients with IBS saw a significant improvement in symptoms when taking activated charcoal for 12 weeks.8 Visit our gut health & digestion zone for more digestive support.

activated charcoal may help to lower cholesterol9

Studies showed that patients taking between 4-32g per day of activated charcoal for three weeks saw a dose-dependent improvement in their cholesterol levels. There was a reduction in LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol), and an improvement in their ratio of HDL (good cholesterol).11

activated charcoal potentially works as a natural teeth whitening agent

Although there are no large studies on activated charcoal use in dentistry, there are many anecdotal and experiential reports of the benefit of activated charcoal on oral health and staining of the teeth, which is why it has become so popular in toothpaste in recent years. 

Charcoal does not damage the enamel on the teeth, is very safe and its huge adsorption ability makes it a good choice for trying to remove staining on your teeth naturally, without harsh bleaching or abrasives. Because it absorbs gas, it’s also great for helping reduce bad breath. Although it is black (it can be quite scary the first time you try it), it washes off easily and doesn’t stain your mouth or teeth.

Why not give it a try? Also consider pulling with coconut oil, which is a fantastic practice for a healthy mouth.

use it to help treat nausea and diarrhoea from food poisoning

Activated charcoal has been shown to be effective and safe to use for diarrhoea from any cause, making it a great choice for the home medicine cabinet.12 Its ability to absorb toxins makes it a good choice if you think something has upset your stomach. It’s also been shown to be effective against chemotherapy-induced diarrhoea, helping significantly improve symptoms.13

activated charcoal can remove toxins from the body, by trapping them on its surface

Activated charcoal works because it has a huge surface area that acts like a sponge to attract and trap toxins on its surface, binding them and effectively removing them. 

make sure your activated charcoal is made from a natural source, like coconut or bamboo

Coconut shell is a wonderful, natural and eco-friendly source of activated charcoal. Coconuts can be harvested regularly, produce much less ash than other charcoal sources, and are easily renewable without damaging the environment. They make a superior activated charcoal, compared to wood, with better adsorption due to their smaller pores.

other uses and benefits of activated charcoal:

  • Activated charcoal may improve wound healing of long-term ulcers.14
  • It may reduce the risk of dying from malaria. In early animal studies, it appears that taking activated charcoal reduces inflammation in the brain.15
  • Activated charcoal significantly improved itching in patients with uremic pruritus16 (itching due to kidney disease) and in patients on dialysis with pruritus.17
  • Activated charcoal significantly decreased bile acids when given for eight days, which could help cholestasis of pregnancy.18
  • Activated charcoal improved levels of bilirubin in jaundiced newborn babies.19
  • When given with myrrh and chamomile, charcoal was as effective as the standard drug treatments, with fewer side effects for stopping episodes of ulcerative colitis.20
  • In treating systemic lupus erythematosus, immunisation is a process in which blood is perfused through activated charcoal, which has been shown to be very effective to improve symptoms, reduce the risk of kidney disease and in reducing antibody levels.21

Do not use activated charcoal if you suffer from the rare condition of variegate porphyria, as it may worsen the disease.22

how to use activated charcoal

Take as a capsule or tablet: Make sure to buy high-quality activated charcoal from a natural source (such as coconut or bamboo) and buy from a good supplier. Activated charcoal tablets can be taken as needed for digestive upset, bloating, reflux and gas, particularly after over-indulgence. Take two capsules or tablets up to three times a day.  Drink lots of water and make sure not to take them within two hours of other medicines or supplements (consult your healthcare provider to ensure that they are suitable for you).

For teeth whitening. Brush activated charcoal powder onto your teeth (be careful to charcoal-proof the immediate area and use a toothbrush you don’t mind discolouring, as it can be a messy process)! Brush your teeth for two minutes in small circles, then rinse your mouth well. Repeat this daily for two weeks, to see an improvement in staining. Make sure you use food-grade activated charcoal powder.

Help prevent (and help) hangovers. People often report that taking activated charcoal capsules with alcohol reduces the effects of a hangover (it also binds to other toxins, sweeteners, preservatives and additives that are found in many alcoholic drinks). It may also help to reduce blood alcohol concentrations.

Filter your water: Activated charcoal has been used for hundreds of years to filter water and removes a large number of toxins and chemicals from tap water. Filter jugs and whole house filtration systems are a great investment for your family’s health.

To keep for emergencies: A great addition to your medicine cabinet in case of food poisoning or accidental ingestion of chemicals or overdoses of medication. As well as urgently seeking medical advice, activated charcoal can help and is useful to have ready, in case advised by emergency services to use.

Reduce chemical exposure: Use charcoal bags or sticks to help with chemical ‘out gassing’ in new cars and buildings. Chemical solvents and plasticisers from new materials emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful to our health. Charcoal’s ability to absorb and neutralise odours and gases is likely beneficial. That ‘new car smell’ may not be so good for us!


Q: Sounds great, do you recommend any brands in particular?

For kids, we recommend Lizzie Loves for upset tummies. For adults, KiKi Health and Peak Supps are great options. If you are looking to take a daily activated charcoal supplement, G&G vitamins have one in capsule form. Whichever brand you choose, we recommend taking care to ensure the charcoal is derived from coconut or bamboo. 

Q: How do I use charcoal in case of an emergency? 

If you have a food reaction or are concerned that you have accidentally eaten a toxin, swallow 2 capsules of activated charcoal straight away or stir 1tsp of charcoal powder into a small glass of water and swallow. If you are concerned about an accidental overdose or consuming a toxin or poison you must seek medical advice straight away (but you could take the charcoal first) by ringing either 111 or 999. 


  2. Albertson TE, Derlet RW, Foulke GE, Minguillon MC, Tharratt SR. Superiority of activated charcoal alone compared with ipecac and activated charcoal in the treatment of acute toxic ingestions Ann Emerg Med. 1989 Jan;18(1):56-9. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(89)80314-2. PMID: 2562913.
  3. Green R, Grierson R, Sitar DS, Tenenbein M..How long after drug ingestion is activated charcoal still effective? J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2001;39(6):601-5. doi: 10.1081/clt-100108492. PMID: 11762668
  4. Zhenchao J, Yuting Z, Jiuming Y, Yedan L, Yang S, Jinyao C, Lishi Z.Safety assessment of dietary bamboo charcoal powder: a 90-day subchronic oral toxicity and mutagenicity studies Food Chem Toxicol. 2015 Jan;75:50-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.11.002. Epub 2014 Nov 13. PMID: 25445512.
  5. Derlet RW, Albertson TE. Activated Charcoal—Past, Present and Future West J Med. 1986;145(4):493-496.
  6. Hall RG Jr, Thompson H, Strother A.Effects of orally administered activated charcoal on intestinal gas . Am J Gastroenterol. 1981 Mar;75(3):192-6. PMID: 7015846.
  7. Jain NK, Patel VP, Pitchumoni CS. Efficacy of activated charcoal in reducing intestinal gas: a double-blind clinical trial Am J Gastroenterol. 1986 Jul;81(7):532-5. PMID: 3521259.
  8. Hübner WD, Moser EH. Charcoal tablets in the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome Adv Ther. 2002 Sep-Oct;19(5):245-52. doi: 10.1007/BF02850364. PMID: 12539884.
  9. Neuvonen PJ, Kuusisto P, Vapaatalo H, Manninen V. Activated charcoal in the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia: dose-response relationships and comparison with cholestyramine Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1989;37(3):225-30. doi: 10.1007/BF00679774. PMID: 2612535.
  10. Neuvonen PJ, Kuusisto P, Vapaatalo H, Manninen V. Activated charcoal in the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia: dose-response relationships and comparison with cholestyramine Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1989;37(3):225-30. doi: 10.1007/BF00679774. PMID: 2612535.
  11. Park GD, Spector R, Kitt TM. Superactivated charcoal versus cholestyramine for cholesterol lowering: a randomized cross-over trial J Clin Pharmacol. 1988 May;28(5):416-9. doi: 10.1002/j.1552-4604.1988.tb05752.x. PMID: 3292601.
  12. [Controlled clinical testing of an antidiarrheal]
  13. Phase II study of activated charcoal to prevent irinotecan-induced diarrhea
  14. Effect of activated charcoal dressings on healing outcomes of chronic wounds
  15. de Souza JB, Okomo U, Alexander ND, Aziz N, Owens BM, Kaur H, Jasseh M, Muangnoicharoen S, Sumariwalla PF, Warhurst DC, Ward SA, Conway DJ, Ulloa L, Tracey KJ, Foxwell BM, Kaye PM, Walther M. Oral activated charcoal prevents experimental cerebral malaria in mice and in a randomized controlled clinical trial in man did not interfere with the pharmacokinetics of parenteral artesunate. PLoS One. 2010 Apr 15;5(4):e9867. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009867. PMID: 20419161; PMCID: PMC2855344.
  16. Giovannetti S, Barsotti G, Cupisti A, Dani L, Bandini S, Angelini D, Antonelli A, Salvadori M, Urti DA. Oral activated charcoal in patients with uremic pruritus Nephron. 1995;70(2):193-6. doi: 10.1159/000188582. PMID: 7566302.
  17. Pederson JA, Matter BJ, Czerwinski AW, Llach F.Relief of idiopathic generalized pruritus in dialysis patients treated with activated oral charcoal  Ann Intern Med. 1980 Sep;93(3):446-8. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-93-3-446. PMID: 7436164.
  18. Kaaja RJ, Kontula KK, Räihä A, Laatikainen T. Treatment of cholestasis of pregnancy with peroral activated charcoal. A preliminary study . Scand J Gastroenterol. 1994 Feb;29(2):178-81. doi: 10.3109/00365529409090459. PMID: 8171288.
  19. Amitai Y, Regev M, Arad I, Peleg O, Boehnert M. Treatment of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia with repetitive oral activated charcoal as an adjunct to phototherapy J Perinat Med. 1993;21(3):189-94. doi: 10.1515/jpme.1993.21.3.189. PMID: 8229609.
  20. Langhorst J, Varnhagen I, Schneider SB, Albrecht U, Rueffer A, Stange R, Michalsen A, Dobos GJ. Randomised clinical trial: a herbal preparation of myrrh, chamomile and coffee charcoal compared with mesalazine in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis–a double-blind, double-dummy study  Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Sep;38(5):490-500. doi: 10.1111/apt.12397. Epub 2013 Jul 4. PMID: 23826890.
  21. Amosova EN, Iaremenko OB, Snezhkova EA, Drannik GV. [Efficacy of immunosorption in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: double blind controlled trial] Ter Arkh. 1997;69(12):18-22. Russian. PMID: 9503527.
  22. Hift RJ, Todd G, Meissner PN, Kirsch RE. Administration of oral activated charcoal in variegate porphyria results in a paradoxical clinical and biochemical deterioration Br J Dermatol. 2003 Dec;149(6):1266-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2003.05548.x. PMID: 14674906.

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