Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is a fine black powder made from regular charcoal that has been heated at very high temperatures in the presence of gas. This produces a black powder with lots of pores and internal spaces, increasing its surface area and making it incredible in absorbing toxins. What is Activated Charcoal Good For?


It’s commonly used in the emergency room to treat poisoning and drug over-use by trapping and preventing their absorption from the gut.

Since activated charcoal cannot be absorbed into the body, it’s eliminated together with the toxins through feces.

Activated charcoal is available in different forms, including capsules, tablets, toothpaste, powder, and face masks.

Take note that activated charcoal is not the same as charcoal briquettes commonly used for barbeque. And although they may be made from the same material, charcoal briquettes contain additional toxins and have not passed through high-temperature processing.

Here are some more proven health benefits 

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What is activated charcoal, charcoal pills on white backgroun

1.   Emergency toxin removal

Activated charcoal’s ability to bind toxins and safely eliminate them through faces has made it an essential commodity in the emergency department of every hospital.

It mainly helps prevent the absorption of poison or drugs in acute cases of poisoning or overdose, including over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophens, sedatives, and aspirin.

Research shows that ingesting activated charcoal within 5 minutes of an overdose or poison can lower toxin absorption by 74 percent. However, this absorption ability may vary with time. Taking activated charcoal within 30 minutes of ingestion will reduce its effectiveness to 50 percent, while a 3-hour delay lowers it further to 20 percent.

Keep in mind that activated charcoal may not be effective in some cases, such as iron, lithium, alkaline or acid, potassium, alcohol, and heavy metal poisoning.

2.   It may support kidney functions

Your kidneys do a great job at filtering out waste and other toxins.

However, in some cases such as chronic kidney disease, kidneys can be a little overwhelmed and in need of assistance.

It can help filter out drugs and undigested toxins, especially urea, a significant waste produced during protein metabolism.

Urea and other waste products diffuse from the bloodstream into the gut, where they bind to activated charcoal and are eliminated in stools.

This may be of great benefit, especially to those patients with end-stage kidney disease.

3.   It may lower cholesterol levels

Just as it can bind to toxins, urea, and other harmful substances, activated charcoal can bind to cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids, thus preventing their absorption and reabsorption into the bloodstream.

In one study, a daily intake of 4-32 grams of activated charcoal significantly reduced both total and bad cholesterol in patients with high cholesterol levels.

In a similar study, patients with high blood cholesterol were put on 8mg of activated charcoal three times a day for 4 weeks. At the end of the study, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol had reduced by 25 percent and 41 percent, respectively, while HDL increased by 8 percent.

4.   Great for teeth whitening and oral hygiene

Activated charcoal is mildly abrasive and may help remove surface stains from your teeth. It also promotes a healthy PH balance in the mouth, thus promoting oral hygiene, preventing bad breath, gum disease, and cavities.

Using charcoal toothpaste is the easiest way to use it for teeth whitening. It’s generally gentle at removing teeth stains compared to other teeth whiteners that might cause damage to the enamel.

Charcoal-containing toothpaste may also be beneficial at preventing stain recurrence after professional cleaning and stain removal.

However, charcoal toothpaste alone may not be able to clear deep-rooted stains.

5.   May reduce excessive gas

Activated charcoal is excellent at binding the gas-forming byproducts of food in the gut.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, activated charcoal may prevent intestinal gas production after a typical gas-forming meal.

Some individuals may also find activated charcoal effective in managing diarrhea, especially if caused by toxin overload.

How to Use Activated Charcoal

For teeth whitening, wet your toothbrush and dip it in activated charcoal powder. Brush your teeth paying more attention to areas with the most stains. Rinse and spit until the spit is clear. You can repeat this procedure 2-3 times a week. Discontinue in case of any reaction.

To reduce gas, take a 500 mg activated charcoal capsule or tablet followed by a glass of water an hour before an acid-producing meal.

For toxic overload or suspected food poisoning with diarrhea and nausea, adults should take 25 mg and children 10 mg at the onset of the symptoms. Follow with adequate amounts of water and Increase the dose if need be. For poisonings other than mild food poisoning, see a health professional.

To lower cholesterol, take 4-32 mg daily for four weeks. If taking any other medications, allow yourself about two hours before taking it since it can inhibit drug absorption.

Potential Side Effects

Common ones include constipation (that’s why you need to drink enough water), black stools, and in rare cases, one may develop an intestinal blockage.

In case of any underlying health problems like intestinal bleeding, chronic dehydration, recent abdominal surgeries, and slow digestion, activated charcoal may not be suitable for you. Or at least talk to your doctor before making a decision.

It may inhibit nutrient absorption and cause drug interaction, inhibiting their absorption, thus their function and effectiveness.

Final Thoughts

Activated charcoal is a powder supplement obtained by heating it at high temperatures in the presence of gas.

It has numerous health benefits, including toxin removal, lowering cholesterol, alleviating gas and bloating, improving kidney function, and promoting teeth whitening.

It comes in different forms. But whichever form you settle for, ensure you drink enough water to enhance its function and prevent common side effects such as constipation.

Also, since activated charcoal may interact with other medications and inhibit the absorption of some nutrients, always ensure you are taking it 90 minutes to 2 hours before meals or after other medication.

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