Activated charcoal: Health Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Activated charcoal is a fine, odorless, flavorless black powder used since ancient times to treat various ailments. For example, it is used to safely and effectively treat poisoning and drug overdoses. It is derived from natural sources and traps toxins and poisons in the body, allowing them to be flushed out and not reabsorbed by the body. It can also help with flatulence, kidney health, and cholesterol levels.

Activated charcoal is produced through the controlled decomposition of carbon-based substances such as coconut shells or peat, which are then “activated” with gases at high temperatures.

This process removes previously absorbed molecules from the charcoal and reopens bonding sites, lowering the size of the pores in the charcoal and creating additional holes in each molecule.

It is sold in supplement and powder form and can be added to various food and household products. It is not charcoal used in your barbecue grill, as it contains many toxins and chemicals. 

Benefits and Uses

1. Kidney Health

Activated charcoal may improve kidney function by lowering the waste the kidneys must filter, especially in persons with chronic kidney disease. It may also bind to urea and other toxins, helping them pass from the bloodstream into the gut and be excreted in the stool. 

Furthermore, animal studies have demonstrated that activated charcoal may aid in the improvement of renal function as well as the reduction of gastrointestinal damage and inflammation.

2. Teeth Whitening and Oral Health

Activated charcoal whitens teeth and promotes good oral health by changing the pH balance and absorbing plaque and microscopic tidbits. It is cost-effective and an all-natural solution for a bright smile. However, no significant research supports its use for teeth whitening or oral health. Therefore, when using charcoal toothpaste, it is vital to check the ingredients for unwanted additives and only work on surface stains that can bind to them.

3. Water Filtration.

Activated charcoal is a natural water filter that can absorb and absorb various toxins, drugs, viruses, bacteria, fungi, and chemicals in the water. It effectively traps impurities in water but cannot trap viruses, bacteria, and hard-water minerals. 

According to a 2015 study, carbon-based water filtration systems eliminated up to 100 percent of fluoride from 32 unfiltered water samples following six months of installation. Fluoride avoidance and detoxification are critical for oral health, immune system function, and kidney and liver health. As a result, restricting ingestion and utilizing an activated charcoal water filter is vital.

4. Overdose and Anti-poison Treatment

Because of its capacity to bind to many medications and reduce their effects, activated charcoal has been utilized as an emergency anti-poison treatment since the early 1800s. According to research, consuming 50-100 grams of activated charcoal within 5 minutes of taking medicine can limit an adult’s ability to absorb that drug by up to 74%. 

As a result, it is most effective in the first hour following an overdose or poisoning.

It does not adsorb alcohol but can quickly remove other toxins from the body. In addition, when taken at the same time as alcohol, it can reduce blood alcohol concentrations.

5. Reduction of Gas and Bloating

To relieve painful gas and bloating, take activated charcoal pills or powder. According to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, activated charcoal decreases intestinal gas following a typical gas-producing meal. In addition, according to a study published in UCLA Health, when charcoal is coupled with simethicone, it becomes even more effective. 

Also, consuming activated charcoal 8 hours before an abdominal ultrasound minimizes the quantity of gas in your intestines, making obtaining a clear ultrasound image easier. The EFSA recommends consuming at least 1 mg three times daily for ten days to treat intestinal gas.

6. Cleansing of the Digestive Tract

By eliminating pollutants that cause allergic reactions, oxidative damage, and poor immune system function, activated charcoal can help promote a healthy digestive tract.

It may also be able to differentiate between what should and should not adsorb, as one study found that toxin-producing strains of E. coli were more likely to be adsorbed by activated charcoal than normal bacterial flora.

7. Diarrhea Relief 

Activated charcoal has been proposed as a treatment for diarrhea due to its potential to prevent bacteria and drugs from being absorbed into the body by trapping them on its porous, textured surface. A 2017 review of recent studies found that it had few side effects, and one case study suggests it may help treat diarrhea, but higher-quality studies are needed.

8. Skin and Body Health

Activated charcoal treats body odor and acne, relieving discomfort from insect bites, poison ivy or oak rashes, and snake bites. Nevertheless, when used topically as an activated charcoal mask or combined with other components such as aloe vera, it can bind to poison, toxins, or dirt, causing skin problems or bite reactions.

It can also reduce foul odors when combined with baking soda. In addition, skincare researchers have reported that activated charcoal can help draw microparticles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, to the skin’s surface, making removing them easier. However, almost no evidence supports these claims.

9. Reduces High Cholesterol

Activated charcoal may help reduce cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids in the gut, preventing them from being absorbed. According to studies, ingesting 24 grams of activated charcoal daily for four weeks reduced total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 25% while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol by 8%.

Activated charcoal may also help treat poisoning, drug overdoses, and a condition called TMAU.

10. Mold Removal

Mold exposure can lead to significant health problems such as depression, kidney and liver failure, diminished brain function, heart disease, eye irritation, migraines, vomiting, poor immune system function, and severe respiratory distress. In addition, houses that have flooded or have tiny leaks can produce a climate conducive to mold growth, and poor ventilation exacerbates the problem.

Using activated charcoal can help mitigate areas of mold overgrowth in your home, as it has an adequate binding capacity and can significantly reduce mold absorption. However, be sure to look out for symptoms of mold exposure, such as wheezing, rashes, watery eyes, coughing, or headaches, and evaluate for mold spore levels.

Side Effects

When used in moderation, activated charcoal is generally safe for most adults. However, it may cause constipation, dark feces, lung regurgitation, slowing or blocking the intestinal tract, and dehydration. 

So, the best thing to do in case of an overdose or poisoning is to call emergency services or the local poison control center. 

In addition, activated charcoal can help detox the digestive tract but can also interfere with absorbing nutrients, vitamins, and other supplements.

It is critical to understand the source of the charcoal and look for activated charcoal generated from coconut shells or recognized wood species with ultra-fine grains. Avoid artificial sweeteners because they are high in chemicals.


Activated charcoal is a natural medicine that can cure toxic overload or poisoning, reduce gas, remove mold, improve skin health, and lower cholesterol levels. It is safe to eat and use topically but buy a high-quality product free of fillers and additives. Also, it may interact with other medications, so consult your doctor before using it.

Where to Buy 

Shop on Amazon


bmj00002-0006.pdf (

Combination of oral activated charcoal plus low protein diet as a new alternative for handling in the old end-stage renal disease patients – PubMed (

Effect of adding a capsule with activated charcoal to abdominal ultrasound preparation on image quality – PubMed (

Is there a role for charcoal in palliative diarrhea management? – PubMed (

Charcoal-based mouthwashes: a literature review – PubMed (

A Review of the Mechanism of Injury and Treatment Approaches for Illness Resulting from Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings, Mold, and Mycotoxins – PMC (


This information is not meant to provide medical advice or replace a personal physician’s advice or treatment. All readers of this information, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should check with their doctors before initiating any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program. Moreover, the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the information or commodities on this website.

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