Activated Charcoal Benefits and Why You Should Try

Activated charcoal is one of the powerhouse supplements that has become a staple in my house.

If you know me, then you know I’m not really into hype. I had to do my research and try it out for myself. But after trying it, I’m sold.

It is not a new discovery. But there are many reasons why you should put some “respect” on its name. 

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What is activated charcoal?

No, it’s not the same charcoal your dad uses when he’s on the grill. 

Activated Charcoal is a very fine powder made from carbon materials, like wood, bone char, coconut shells, peat, coal, and olive pits.

You’ll find it in pill, powder or liquid form.

How is it “activated”?

The charcoal is activated by processing the carbon materials at very high temperatures. The high temperatures reduce the size of its pores and increase its surface area.

This structural change makes activated charcoal great at adsorption (not to be confused with absorption).

Plainly put, adsorption is when molecules bind to another surface whereas absorption is when molecules are dissolved into another substance. Hope that makes sense.

Adsorption is the thing that makes activated charcoal the bomb.com.

What is it used for?

In the emergency room, activated charcoal is sometimes used to treat overdoses or poisoning because it’s been known to help clear toxins and drugs that include:

  • NSAIDs and other OTC anti-inflammatories
  • sedatives
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • dapsone
  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • malaria medications
  • methylxanthines (mild stimulants)

However, there are limitations. It cannot be used for poisoning from things like alcohol, lye, lithium, or petroleum products (gas, paint thinner, commercial cleaning products). 

MAJOR KEY: Take activated charcoal within 1-4 hours of consuming a toxin. Longer than that, typically means the person has already digested the toxin. 

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8 At Home Uses for Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is also a popular home remedy for almost anything involving detoxing. 

  1. Gas reduction: Some studies report that activated charcoal may help reduce gas production following a meal and even improve the smell of gas. 
  2. Deodorant: Charcoal is thought to absorb smells and harmful gases. So it’s perfect as underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant.

    Additionally, it is able to absorb excess moisture and control humidity levels at a micro-level.
  3. Water filtration: It is thought to reduce heavy metal, toxins, and chemicals found in water. I’ll stick with my deer park though.
  4. Oral Care: Oral health products containing activated charcoal boast about being antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying.
  5. Tooth whitening: Using it to brush your teeth is said to whiten them.
  6. Hangover prevention: It doesn’t cure alcohol poisoning but I’ve personally taken it at the end of a night of overindulging and I woke up feeling amazing.
  7. Skin treatment: Applying it to the skin can be an effective treatment for acne and insect or snake bites.
  8. Skin Care: Activated Charcoal helps draw microparticles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, to the surface of the skin, to make removing them easier.

Note – not all of these are supported by “science”… (yet!)

Risks and Side Effects of Activated Charcoal Use

As with anything, you must be fully aware of the bad that may accompany the good. The same holds true for activated charcoal.

When taken orally, activated charcoal may cause a few side effects like

  • Black stools
  • Black tongue
  • Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Constipation/gastrointestinal blocks

These side effects are more likely when taking on a regular, long-term basis.

activated charcoal graphic 3

Activated charcoal can reduce or prevent the proper absorption of certain medications. So it’s advised that you don’t use it if you are on them. These include: 

  • Acetaminophen
  • Digoxin (Antiarrhythmic and Blood pressure support)
  • Theophylline (lung problem treatment i.e asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

You also should avoid taking it with other medications for constipation like magnesium citrate). 

Is it Safe to Take Daily?

There is a such thing as too much of a good thing. While activated charcoal is great for detox, it’s those very detox effects that can disrupt your regular diet and body function.

Regular ingestion can cause nutrition deficiency or malnutrition. So it’s not an everyday thing.

While you won’t die from an “overdose”, you will experience some of those more unpleasant side effects like cramping, diarrhea, or vomiting.

So please use as recommended.


Morgan Greene is a Maryland chronic illness and holistic wellness lifestyle blogger. After years of struggling with her autoimmune disease diagnosis, Myasthenia Gravis, she decided to combine two of her favorite things…writing and informing others

IsWasWillBe.com was created to have unfiltered discussions about having a chronic illness. It has since become a place to inspire and create a sense of community among women with autoimmune diseases. Morgan loves trying new things and sharing with other spoonies how to live an ill life on their terms.

When she’s not blogging she is probably reading a book, drinking a Coke Slurpee or listening to music.

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