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What Are the Health Benefits of Activated Charcoal?

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Health Benefits of Activated Charcoal.

The year was 1831.

Professor Tourey stood before an auditorium packed with his esteemed colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine.

He held up a glass filled with a murky gray liquid and announced that this potion contained 15 grams of the deadly poison strychnine — ten times the lethal dose.

Then Professor Tourey did something that stunned and terrified his peers: he gulped down every drop of this lethal cocktail.

The auditorium at the French Academy of Medicine erupted in frantic shouts and screams. Men stormed the stage, prepared to drag Professor Tourey to the nearby hospital… or the morgue.

But remarkably, Professor Tourey wasn’t harmed by this apparently suicidal stunt. Why? Because he’d mixed the strychnine with activated charcoal.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is one of the world’s oldest and trusted detoxification methods.


It’s been used since ancient times in Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions as a potent antidote for poisons. Today, you’ll find activated charcoal in hospital ER rooms around the world.

When a patient is rushed to an emergency room because of poisoning or a drug overdose, nurses and doctors give them activated charcoal.  Millions of lives have been saved because of this amazing detoxifying agent.

But activated charcoal has health benefits that reach way beyond the ER room.

If you’re interested in better digestive health, less gas and strong protection against nasty foodborne illnesses, then activated charcoal could be a good fit for your lifestyle.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

To understand how activated charcoal works you must first understand how it is made.

You make activated charcoal by burning a carbon source such as wood, peat or coconut shells at extremely high temperatures (1,700 — 1,800 °F). This creates char. The char is then heated in a furnace at even higher temperatures in the presence of steam.

The charcoal is “activated” because this process causes it to have a very fine particle size. These ultra-fine particles are peppered with millions of tiny pores. And these pores are the secret to activated charcoal’s amazing detoxifying properties.

Activated charcoal works by adsorbing (trapping) poisons, heavy metals, and intestinal gasses in these pores. But it doesn’t absorb these toxins.

Absorption is when a fluid permeates a solid or is dissolved by a liquid. Adsorption is a chemical reaction where elements bind to a surface.

Once activated charcoal enters the body it acts like a “toxin magnet”.

Because activated charcoal has a negative electrical charge it attracts and binds positively charged toxins like heavy metals and industrial toxins before they have a chance to cause harm.

Importantly, the human body cannot metabolize activated charcoal. It passes through the digestive system like a million microscopic magnets, grabbing toxins as it goes.

Eventually, this activated charcoal and its toxic payload is harmlessly passed out of your body when you use the bathroom.

Dr. Al Sears, noted health and wellness experts, says an activated charcoal detox leaves you feeling like a “new person” because of how effectively it can flush out arsenic, copper, mercury, lead and other health-sapping toxins.

Do You Eat Out At Restaurants
At Least Once A Week?

You remember the news stories.


Late last year, Chipotle — the popular Mexican food chain — closed 43 of their locations in Oregon and Washington state. The problem? Nearly 50 customers got sick with E.coli after eating at their restaurants.

It was a high-profile example of the health risks we take every time we dine out. But food poisoning at restaurants is not just a Chipotle problem. Far from it.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year, sending 105,000 people to the hospital and resulting in 2,000 deaths. 

All told, about one in seven Americans will get sick this year from the food they eat.

But activated charcoal can protect you from restaurant kitchens that aren’t as clean as they should be.

Not too long ago I ate some bad sushi. I woke up in the middle of the night and had to make an emergency trip to the bathroom. It was miserable.

But after taking activated charcoal my stomach quickly settled down. I was able to go back to bed and sleep comfortably until morning.

Now I take activated charcoal an hour or two before I go out to eat with my family. It’s a lot more fun to talk and laugh over a meal at our favorite restaurants without the fear of food poisoning or painful digestive problems looming like a dark cloud!


4 Additional Health Benefits of Activated Charcoal

If you eat out at restaurants at least once a week, then I believe activated charcoal should be part of your regular health routine.

But gentler digestion is just one the health benefits of activated charcoal.

1. Ease gas and bloating. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a “cheat” meal you really love… but you worry about eating it because it gives you terrible gas and bloating. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that activated charcoal can “significantly reduce” gas, bloating and stomach cramps in people after they’ve eaten a gas-producing meal. [1]

2. Reduce high cholesterol. In one study, patients with high cholesterol took 8 grams of activated charcoal three times a day for a month. At the end of the study, patients’ total cholesterol decreased by 25 percent, “bad” LDL-cholesterol decreased by up to 41 percent. [2]

3. Prevent premature aging. We live in a highly toxic environment. And all of these toxins in the foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, even our cosmetics and clothing can cause cellular damage that makes us look and feel years older than our true age. Activated charcoal can help flush these age-accelerating toxins from your system.

4. Purify drinking water. Activated charcoal traps pesticides, chemicals, and industrial wastes found in tap water. If you have a water purifier in your home, it uses an activated charcoal filter. Drinking adequate amounts of pure, clean water is essential to help you maintain a healthy weight, promote digestive health, fight off fatigue and keep joints from growing stiff and sore.

How To Use Activated Charcoal

Not all activated charcoal is created equal. Make sure you look for a food-grade charcoal made from organic coconut shells.

You’re using activated charcoal to help purge toxins from your body. The last thing you want to do is get a low-quality source of activated charcoal that doesn’t work or, worse, hurts your health.

It’s also important that you drink 10 — 12 glasses of purified water daily when you’re detoxing with activated charcoal. This will ensure you’re flushing toxins out as quickly as possible and will prevent constipation.


Finally, because activated charcoal is like a super-powered magnet it adsorbs toxins and heavy metals as well as nutrients like magnesium and calcium. Take activated charcoal at least 90 minutes to two hours before meals.

This will give your body plenty of time to absorb beneficial nutrients.

Now It’s Your Turn!

We live in a highly toxic world. Even eating out at your favorite restaurant puts you at risk for indigestion, food poisoning or worse.

Activated charcoal is one of the oldest known detoxification methods. It’s also one of the most effective.

Your Turn: Have you ever used activated charcoal? If so, what did you think? Share in the comments below! And if you enjoyed this article, please share it by clicking on one of the social icons (Facebook, Google+, etc.) below. Thanks!


  • Dr. Pramod J Hurkadale says:

    This has been used in Ayurveda and other system of medicines with varied applications in pharmaceutical, medicinal, cosmetic, industrial etc.

  • Aika says:

    This is a very informative post. I love the way how the information was presented in this article. I didn’t know activated charcoal has these amazing health benefits. I’ve only used activated charcoal as a face mask and it makes your skin soft and glowy after use.

  • Dez says:

    Toxins by smoke are absorbed by the skin as well.

  • Dez says:

    Smoking and AC. There are many toxins in cigarettes and it works for overdoses. I’d say if one is trying to quit smoking it would help draw the toxins out. To smoke and take AC seems it would keep the toxins at bay, but your lungs would still be damaged.
    Addiction is also pychological so mindfulness, meditation, lifestyle change and such things are nessesary

  • Victoria says:

    Hello! Can this be used for addiction and smoker? Thank you

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      HI Victoria, hmmm… I haven’t heard anything about that. The toxins are going into your lungs and not so much your gut, so I don’t think it can help detox your lungs.

  • Tina says:

    Hi! Can this be used when sick/fever?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Tina, whenever I am sick, I always take charcoal because it will latch onto toxins and bugs in your gut that could be causing issues.

  • Suzan Scott says:

    I am interested in this product

  • Bunnie Rubiano says:

    I have used activated charcoal for a lot of years and don’t go out of the house without it! I have a hard time finding a product that I like. I like using the pills, that I chew up! They make my mouth feel clean and they help in so many ways. I use them for an upset stomach, a toothache, a sore throat, you name it, it works for everything! But the pills are easy to transport & I much prefer them over capsules. Only problem is, most of the companies that makes the pills put additives in them which gives them a sweet (nasty) flavor, which I can’t stand, especially for chewing, which works best for me. I started researching activated charcoal distributors on the internet and couldn’t find anything made & distributed in the US without the additives and had to end up ordering some from the Ukraine. Can you tell me if I can purchase charcoal pills without additives?

  • Barbara Raugust says:

    How can you order this product? Please send me the link.

  • Lydia says:

    Would this help after getting a CAT scan to detx from the stuff you have to drink before the scan?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      HI Lydia, I believe it would if you took it right after. But the drink should still be in your stomach when you take it otherwise it will already be absorbed by your body and the charcoal won’t be effective. In other words, you can’t take it a day later and get the same result as taking it right after the CT Scan.

  • Kendra says:

    Does it help with skin issues such as rosacea?

  • Nancy Wolf-Skaggs says:

    I’m on numerous medications. Should I only use this externally or for like brushing my teeth and not taking it orally? I’m very interested in this product!

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hey Nancy, if you are on numerous medications, then yes, I’d talk with your MD about taking charcoal internally, and you can take it externally and for your teeth.

  • Roxie says:

    Can a diabetic use this and what are the benefits?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Roxie, of course! Anyone can use it, even pets. It won’t have a direct effect on lowering blood sugar if that is what you are asking, but it will contribute to your overall health.

  • Kim says:

    What about for ileocecal valve backup due to stuck valve? And Hiatal hernia? I feel very toxic from all of this backup in my system…

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Kim, this can help to adsorb toxins. I’d see a chiropractor who knows applied kinesology or visceral manipulation. They can actually help to move the hiatal hernia or to open up the ileocecal valve.

  • Mahi says:

    Do you it can help in weight loss and eczema ?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hello Mahi, yes, it can help support both of those conditions. Remember that Activated charcoal can also be put on the skin as well.

  • Liz says:

    My mom has been using it for gout along with tart cherry..

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Dr. Livingston,

    I am interested in trying a detox with activated charcoal capsules. However, I have mercury tooth fillings (since 1970s or 80s). Would the AC still be safe to use in a detox regimen?? If so, what would be your minimum and maximum dosage recommendations? Thank you!

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hey Lisa, I”m right there with ya. I’ve slowly been getting them taken out. AC is safe as a detox regimen. The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology says this: Ingested Activated Charcoal Capsules have been suggested to prevent absorption of non-suctioned mercury from amalgam particles from the digestive tract. This procedure enhances the prevention of mercury absorption through all oral soft tissues as well. It is inexpensive, simple, fast and tasteless. Minimum dosage I’d take 1 capsule. Max, I’d say 4. Chlorella is also another great heavy metal detox supplment.

  • Kayla says:

    Will this help pancreatitis? How would I use it. I do not drink alcohol but pimento cheese causes a flare every time.

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Kayla, if I had pancreatitis, I would start by cutting out wheat, dairy and sugar from my diet. Those are inflammatory foods that cause inflammation throughout your body. Next, I would start taking supplements that help with inflammation, such as Perfect Omega and Livlean.
      I would also take digestive enzymes to help process your food better and activated charcoal I’d use for 10 days in a row to help me detox and then I would take it whenever I ate foods that are unhealthy for me such as fried foods, or pizza, pasta, ice cream, processed foods, etc.
      The key for this is diet though. Supplements are there to do just that. Supplement your diet 🙂

  • Kimarie says:

    We have used this to successfully treat goats who ate poisonous plants. We also use it regularly if anyone in the family gets a stomach bug. I actually have never thought of putting it into capsules and taking on a regular basis. Thanks!

  • Carole Edminson says:

    I am always looking for something to help with gluten . Do you think this would help with accidentally ingested gluten?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Carole, yes, I think it would help with ingested gluten. Whenever I eat heavy gluten foods, I definitely take charcoal 🙂

    • Donna Marie says:

      I have tried this for gluten and while it does help somewhat with digestion it does not have any effect on all the other symptoms that occur, like headaches, brain fog, muscle aches, fatigue and so on. Please be very careful

  • Elizabeth Taylor, DC says:

    I used it with my dog after he ate poisonous plant roots. Worked like a charm. Should be a staple in every household. Great article.

  • Elizabeth says:

    To detox how long should I take it.

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      If you are going on a detox, I’d take it up to 10 days in a row. The issue would be that too much charcoal would constipate you which would defeat the purpose of pulling toxins out of your body. That’s why I wouldn’t do it longer. When I take charcoal, I do it sporadically when I need it or if I’m going to an all inclusive resort, all take it for for 5-7 days straight.

  • Nicole says:

    I used charcol on my face for acne…. is this the same concept?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hey Nicole, yes. it is. Activated Charcoal is very porous and can grab onto toxins like a magnet whether it is used in water filters, on your skin or ingested.

  • Elaine says:

    We use activated charcoal anytime someone we have been around gets a stomach virus. It has helped us not to get the “bug”! Have it in our medicine as our first go to when we start feeling bad! It’s great stuff, and love using it!!!

  • Judy says:

    Would this be useful for someone with non-Hodgkins’s lymphomia to use in conjunction with chemo?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Judy, chemo’s treatment goal is to poison the cancer cells so they die. If you are using activated charcoal, it would lessen the effect of the chemo if it was oral. If it is intravenous chemo, then, that’s a different story. I would definitely check with your primary care doc to see if you’d be able to use it. My guess is that he’d say no simply because they don’t want anything interfering with treatment good or bad.

  • Mark says:

    Allegedly it is used to treat snakebites, too. Any confirmation on this?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hey Mark, yes, it can be made into a poultice and placed onto your skin. Because of it’s porous nature, the charcoal pulls the toxins out of the body.

  • Patsy Napier says:

    Something new that I have never heard of.

  • Judy Morton says:

    As people age they produce less HCL, hydrochloric acid, in the stomach. This is what breaks down the protein chains in a very important location so that the pancreatic enzymes can then do what they do to break the next protein bond that needs to be broken in order for proper digestion to take place. People also suffer from hiatal hernias. A very simple tummy digging technique will help to pull the stomach down below the diaphragm. Anyone can and should do it with their knees bent while lying on their backs. The stomach acidity is important as it is important in keeping the sphincter at the top of the stomach working properly. When there is less stomach acid the sphincter doesn’t close properly and there will be problems with the acid reflux that so many have. The activated charcoal will also absorb nutrients that are vital to health, so it should not be used willy nilly. One also needs to take probiotics in order to create the right bacterial environment in the intestines. This will help to reduce the gas caused by bacterial action on protein and other foods that are not being properly broken down in the stomach and then intestines. Another DC’s take on digestion.

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Fantastic info Judy. Thanks for sharing. I agree. activated charcoal is wonderful, but it is not specific to just toxins. It’s best not to take with other vitamins and to take 1 hr before or 1 hr after you take other supplements.

  • Brenda Meehan says:

    My neighbor has lime disease. Wil this help her? I know I need it too. Can’t wait till it’s released.

  • Diana says:

    I would love to know when its available. My friend has hemachromatosis and was wondering if it had ever been used for this.

  • Jaime says:

    Can you use while breastfeeding?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Jaime, yes, activated charcoal is generally regarded as safe to use during breastfeeding but as always, check with your primary care health practioner before using any supplements or changing diet or exercise.

  • Lissa says:

    I cannot wait to order!

  • Joyce says:

    They had to use it on me at the E.R. from a Huge suicidal OVER dose of medications 15 years ago. Also I have had to use it (capsule form) from ingesting bad food. It works wonders and I`m so glad you shared this as it comes to my mind every 2 months or so that I need to replace the way out dated bottle I had. Side note “Activated Charcoal can stain clothing and your lips and skin around your mouth if you have to drink it from like the hospital ER.

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Well Joyce, I’m glad that you are still alive 🙂 Yes, Activated Charcoal is one of my favorite detox supplements. It is also very universal as it is also used for pets who eat things they shouldn’t!

  • Ilona Miskolczi says:

    Hi Dr. Livingston,

    I would like to try Activated Charcoal.
    How can I order that? How much is that?
    Thank you
    Have nice day

  • Paulette Venhoff says:

    I overdosed twice and probably it saved my life.

  • Sandra Guarneri says:

    Hello Dr. Livingston,
    I’m very much interested in this product. how can i get it please?

    • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

      Hi Sandra, it will be out in a month 🙂 Keep checking back with us and make sure you are on our email newsletter list!

    • Milly says:

      We recently got food poisoning from fish in Thailand, and were given activated charcoal. Interesting that I read an article about it only days before this happened to us. And you do feel great! I think we avoided Thailand belly due to this product.

      • Dr. Charles Livingston D.C. says:

        Yeah, I recently ate some bad sushi and took activated charcoal the next day. Within an hour, all of my symptoms were gone. I love this stuff 🙂

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