Updated: Apr 13
Learn how and when to use activated charcoal to your advantage.
The new popular fad, activated charcoal, is used as an antiflatulent, for reducing blood lipid levels, acute management of poisonings, preventing hangover, and cholestasis of pregnancy. (1)
Through the same mechanism as eliminating toxins and drugs from the body; activated charcoal can reduce absorption of micronutrients. It adsorbs enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and other nutrients in the gatrointestinal tract. With the new fads surrounding food products saturated with activated charcoal, you are actually reducing the amount of nutrients available for absorption by your body, and instead, eliminate them. (1,2) This is why activated charcoal cannot be used as a daily health supplement.
Ways to use foods with activated charcoal to your advantage
Food poisoning: "For lowering drug levels in overdose or poisoning, 50 to 100 grams [of activated charcoal] is given initially, followed by every 2 to 4 hours at a dose equivalent to 12.5 grams per hour. For children, lower doses 10 to 25 grams are used."(1) Caution must be taken to drink plenty of water with each dose and throughout the day. This helps to eliminate toxins and stay hydrated to avoid constipation. When traveling to countries where food poisoning is common, if you want to continue to eat out and don't care about nutrient absorption for the day, take one capsule before each meal. You can take up to
Alleviates gas and bloating: Personally I would try to understand what the cause of this is ie lactose from dairy products or the oligosaccharides in beans. As other enzymes can help break these down in ways that eliminate gas and bloating while helping you keep the nutrients of foods you consume. If you choose to consume activated charcoal on the rare occasion to ease these symptoms, it is recommended to have it about an hour before consuming such foods. This is often unrealistic, so you may end up consuming it once you start experiencing gas and bloating. At this point it may or may not help you with your symptoms.
Alcohol poisoning and hangover prevention: Just take one capsule after alcohol consumption to reduce hangover symptoms.
Tooth whitening: It just takes about one capsule, some coconut oil and a toothbrush. Just brush in the mixture onto your teeth, let sit for 5 minutes. Repeat ~3x a week.
Skin health: Many people use activated charcoal masks/ facials/ soaps/ scrubs to minimize black heads. It only takes about one capsule of activated charcoal to make a batch of face mask. I like to mix mine with some white cosmetic clay, adding water slowly to create a paste. I apply it to my entire face and neck and wipe and rinse off once dry. You could do this once a day if you like but it can be drying for the skin. Maintaining proper skin hydration using good facial creams can help offset the dryness from clay-charcoal masks.
1) Remember, if you actually do ingest poisons and take activated charcoal, you should still call the poison control line: (800) 222-1222 or 911.
2) Take activated charcoal 90 minutes to two hours prior to meals, supplements and prescription medications.
3) Do not continually consume activated charcoal on a consistent basis unless advised by a doctor.
4) Drink plenty of water on the day you have activated charcoal. This means doubling or tripling your daily water requirements. For a refresher usually we recommend half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water on a normal day. ie: 140 pound individual should drink 80 ounces of water on a regular day.
5)Note that your stool may appear black. This is normal.
1) Natural Medicines. (2012). Activated charcoal [Monograph]. Retrieved from
2) American Society of Health System Pharmacists. AHFS Drug Information 2008. Bethesda, Maryland 2008, p. 2968] **PEER REVIEWED**
3) For more dosing information visit: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/charcoal-activated-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20070087