4 Reasons to Use Activated Charcoal

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Activated Charcoal

4 Reasons to Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has traditionally been used for healing purposes for more than 3,000 years. It is a carbon based substance that is very porous with the ability to attract and bind toxins in water based environments. For this reason activated charcoal is used to aid in human health by detoxifying the body of harmful substances and relieving symptoms of nausea, gastrointestinal upset, inflammation and even supporting healthy cholesterol levels.

A recent chemical explosion in 2008 along the Songhua River in China contaminated the supplied drinking water for more than 10 million people in a city called Harbin. Significant quantities of the toxic chemical benzene was released in which the Chinese government acted quickly to filter the toxin from the water with activated charcoal. Successfully, the activated charcoal cleaned the benzene out of the river and prevented fatalities from contaminated drinking water.

Charcoal’s Remarkable Absorbency:

Lacking the presence of oxygen, charcoal is produced from exposing coconut husk or wood to high heat and burning it to produce millions of pores in the charcoal debris. Through Van der Waals forces or London dispersion forces, this activated substance is able to hold toxic debris and liquid.

In fact, activated charcoal can take in outside materials weighing more than 100 times its own weight. The inner surface of charcoal is about 200 to 300m2/g coal which approximates roughly into the area that spans a football field for every 2 grams of activated charcoal. When used properly, activated charcoal is a powerful detoxifier which can eliminate toxins not only from water but from the air and human body. (2)

Notice the adjective used to describe activated charcoal. It is able to “adsorb” foreign materials as opposed to “absorb”. Sponges can absorb liquids and are then squeezed right back out. Substances which adsorb matter actually hold and bind the toxins at a molecular level within so that they are unable to escape. This interaction of impurities with the charcoal prevents their release.

Health Benefits of Activated Charcoal

Ancient Egyptians documented their use of activated charcoal to remove the rotting odor from wounds. Hindus used activated charcoal to filter water for drinking purposes. Hippocrates used this detoxifying substance as an epilepsy and anthrax treatment and the list continues on in history.

While some skeptics barely batted an eye to acknowledge the absorptive powers of this healing agent, researchers improved the refining process for producing activated charcoal making it more porous and better capable at absorb chemical vapors and toxins. (4)

Today activated charcoal can be found in various beauty products for skin care, oral hygiene and is sold in supplements for detoxifying the body.

activated charcoal

1. Reduce Toxic Load

Organic chemicals which are those that are carbon based like charcoal can also interact with activated charcoal. In other words, such substances like herbicides, pesticides, contaminants in plastics, other industry pollutants and environmental toxins are able to become trapped within the charcoal.

Research suggests that activated charcoal decreases the toxic load on the body by greater than 60% when used daily (1, 4). This is because activated charcoal can also effectively bind and limit the presence of chlorine, bacteria, viruses, yeast, toxic excretions and metabolic byproducts in the body. As a result of its passage through the body, activated charcoal and its impurities contained are passed through the body as feces.

Removes Chemotherapy Drugs: Activated charcoal is effective at removing most water soluble toxins from the body including some chemotherapy drugs. Drugs that have been absorbed into the body have a dramatic reduction in the drug’s half-life reduction, or time it takes for the toxin to rid the body.

It may be possible that activated charcoal removes drugs from systemic circulation by diffusing toxins back across the GI tract for binding in the gut and excretion from the body’s tissues. (4)

activated charcoal

2. Treat Gastrointestinal Complications

Activated charcoal is a safe way to detox as it is gentle on the colon and does not disrupt the intestinal mucus lining and rather cleanses the intestines. Toxic gases, parasites, Candida and physical impurities in the gut binds to activated charcoal and eliminated from producing symptoms of flatulence, bloating, constipation and an array of many other symptoms linked to poor gut health. It is important to drink a lot of water when using charcoal to help it flush and move things through the bowels.

Universal Antidote: Hospitals have used activated charcoal for decades as a tool to prevent the absorption of toxic substances through the GI tract and to stimulate the removal of chemicals already absorbed. For patients who present themselves in hospitals with a life threatening dose of a poisonous substance, activated charcoal has been administered resulting in a low morbidity rate. (3)

activated charcoal

3. Activated Charcoal Reduces Inflammation

As previously mentioned, activated charcoal exhibits a “back diffusion” process in which it is able to not only interact with toxins that have yet been absorbed by the body, but it can also draw poisons back into the gut from circulation in the body (3). Blood vessels that carry toxins to neighboring and distant areas of the body promote the diffusion of drugs to critical organs. This introduction of chemicals to tissue causes systemic inflammation and initiates your body’s immune system defenses.

It may be the process of back diffusion which is why activated charcoal has been used to treat in skin ailments such as rashes. The purifying properties of charcoal are not used to heal from the inside out but heal the skin when applied topically.  People have praised the health benefits of activated charcoal for healing spider and mosquito bites (4).

4. Activated Charcoal Can Lower Cholesterol Levels

Studies have found that activated charcoal can actually reduce bad cholesterol levels and improve total serum cholesterol concentrations. Results of one study showed an improvement of 41% in patient’s LDL cholesterol levels and a 29% improvement in total serum levels. (5)

I don’t believe that having what is considered higher cholesterol is all that bad, however, the fact that charcoal can soak up LDL is a sign that it enhances the bodies ability to remove toxic bile from the gastrointestinal system.  This is a vital area of detoxification that is rarely discussed.  If toxic bile is not recycled or removed through the stool it will cause oxidative stress in the gut and contribute to an overgrowth of unwanted microbes in the gut.

activated charcoal

Recommendations for Taking a Supplement:

Here are some basic recommendations for using a charcoal supplement.

  1. Take Away From Other Supplements:  Never consume a charcoal supplement while also taking other supplements. Space out use by at least an hour
  2. Do Not Take With Medications:  Seek advice from your doctor if you are currently taking any other medications as certain medications will bind to charcoal and be rendered inactive.  You can avoid this by taking it several hours away from the medications.
  3. Drink a Lot of Water:  Drink no less than half your body weight in ounces of water while taking the supplement or you risk constipation and poor elimination.  The adsorbency of the charcoal will soak up water, so drinking extra fluids will help you eliminate more toxins and regulate your bowel motility.
  4. Consume A Good Amount of Fiber:  Adequate fiber intake is necessary to move activated charcoal through the intestines so that it may be eliminated from the body as feces and should be taken with a proper fiber source.  The fiber does not have to be taken with charcoal, as we often will want to take charcoal all by itself, so focus on good fibrous vegetables throughout the day.
  5. Take Before Bed:  The ideal time to take charcoal  would be before bed, roughly 3 hours after eating dinner for pure detoxification methods
  6. When To Take With Meals:  You can take activated charcoal with meals if you are trying to avoid a food sensitivity as the charcoal will grab up much of the nutrition in the meal and reduce the inflammatory compounds from influencing the body.  This is only recommended if you are either eating unhealthy food or a food you have an allergy or sensitivity too.  This is great for individuals with leaky gut who have a lot of food sensitivity.  If they consume something and notice an increase in inflammation, than taking the charcoal will help to reduce the inflammatory activity.
  7. Consume a Mineral Rich Diet:  Charcoal can pull minerals out of the body so be sure to have a mineral rich diet to balance this out.
  8. Best Dosages:  You can take as low as 100mg and up to 2 grams.  I will typically start clients with 500-1000 mg.  I like to use our Activated Charcoal for a deep detox or with foods to reduce sensitivity reactions.

activated charcoal

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Sources For This Article Include:

1. Guss, D. A. (1989). Emergency Medicine: Activated Charcoal—The First-Line Agent in Cases of Overdose. Western Journal of Medicine151(1), 63.  PMCID:  1026953
2. Sushrut Chemicals: Activated Carbon Link Here
3. Activated charcoal for pediatric poisonings: the universal antidote? Link Here
4. Derlet RW, and Albertson TE. Activated Charcoal- Past, present and future. West J Med 1986 Oct; 145: 493-496. PMCID: 1306980
5. Neuvonen PJ, et al. Activated charcoal in treatment of hypercholesterolaemia: dose-response relationships and comparison with cholestyramine. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1989; 37 (3): 225-30. PMID: 2612535

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  1. You did sn EXCELLENT job with your presentation. I have watched at least 4 times and intend to watch again. Very informative and understandable! I will be purchasing soon. Thank you so much.

  2. Does it harm the good bacteria or probiotics? I imagine it absorbs everything but if it has potential to do harm like antibiotics in that they destroy brute force everything that leaves me very reluctant.

  3. For detox/toxin/mould removal as well as candida/SIBO, is it okay to take AC 3x daily for up to 3 days-1 month, after meals – 1 tbsp in 200ml of water?

  4. “Drink no less than half your body weight in ounces of water while taking the supplement or you risk constipation and poor elimination”

    Is the above passage a typo error? Say my weight is 76kg, so I have to drink 38kg of water in a day?

    Apparently this is not right. Please correct it.

    1. Hi Kenneth, The statement is correct. Staying well hydrated is critical to detoxification pathways in the gut. You can add a pinch of pink salts for electrolytes.

    2. This is for weight in POUNDS, not kilograms; 76 kg is roughly 168 pounds, so half would be 84 – that’s how many ounces of water you should drink a day.

  5. I have read your statement on activitied charcoal, my question is will it be go for those who are diabetic, and for weight loss?
    I also would like to know if it would help with sugar addiction ?
    I am wanting to start taking better care of yourself, I will be 60 years old this month and I don’t want to have an unhealthy body.
    Question if I have been a diabetic since 1985, will it help spleen to restore it’s own insulin?
    These are some of the questions that I have.
    Aquila L

  6. Hi Dr. My daughter has a barret, n stomach ulcer.is she advisable to take AC n may we know the dosage?.thanks

  7. Hi, dr Jockers! I want to ask You is it safe to use activated chorachol with insulin injections ?It’s about children with diabetes type 1.
    Thank you very much!

  8. You often recommend BioTox for the same reasons as you do charcoal. The product seems easier to take (use at any time instead of away from food, supplements & meds) and appears to be equally effective? could you comment on which to use, when and why. And, I’ve read that it’s not advisable to take charcoal for more than a few months. would you agree?

    1. Yes Carla, the BioToxin Binder is excellent for full body system detoxification while Activated charcoal sits in the gut and detoxifies the gut. I don’t think there is any danger in taking activated charcoal long-term as it selectively detoxifies pathogens, toxic bile and toxic chemicals.

      1. Thank you. So in the case of gut issues do you suggest taking both the BioToxin Binder and the charcoal? And, if so, how would you dose them?

  9. I am currently taking chemo for breast challenge. Will taking AC orally remove the positive effects of the chemo on the tumor? Or is it better for me to make a poultice with AC & apply it topically to the affected area? Thanks much!

    1. No, taking Activated charcoal orally will help sit in your gut and pull out toxins from there. I would recommend taking it about 4+ hours away from the chemo so it dosn’t pull the chemo out of the system.

      A poultice can be applied topically as well!

  10. Hi, Thank you for the information! I have some probiotics I take on an empty stomach. Is it ok to take those with the charcoal or will the charcoal bind to those? The quercetin is on an empty stomach as well – I guess that would be something the charcoal could bind to, but Let me know if you think they are ok together as I would prefer not having to time too many supplements!

  11. Great article on Activated charcoal. I’m reading up on how to take it to treat Candida. Taking it before bed time makes the most sense. Another site said take it first thing in the morning but then you need to leave a gap of 2 hours between food. Your strategy will suit me down to the ground and is far more convenient for everyone. Thanks.

    1. Who wants to drink 3 or 4 glasses of water with it, at bedtime? I would be sitting
      on the throne several times in the night.

  12. Any thoughts on taking AC while breastfeeding? I don’t want to pull too many minerals from my system but would like to see if it will help with some inflammation I’m dealing with.

  13. What is the recommended amount of time to take the activated charcoal for? I’m assuming it’s not a daily supplement that you’d take for very long.

  14. In the event I am mandated to get the Covid vaccine- would this help to eliminate the toxins, and what else can I do. I do not want the vaccine but I can’t afford to loose my job either.

  15. A friend has had what theybate calling a “Mirena Crash”. It’s been terrible. She left her Mirena IUD (Bayer) in too long. Apparently it no longer produces progesterone so she has NONE! It has caused a whole range of horribly scary issues. What do you suggest, other than the obvious, get it removed and eat foods that produce progesterone?

  16. When I had covid my kidneys started hurting. I took charcoal to see if it would help. Not only did my kidneys quit hurting but the inflammation covid was causing all over my body quit hurting too. It worked for my husband also. We had to take it about every six hours.

  17. Dr. I have a large container of coconut activated charcoal. Usually I mix it with chlorella, psyllium and powdered sea kelp in water and swallow. Should I put it in capsules?

  18. Hello Dr. David Jockers, thank you for this article. I underwent for total thyroidectomy in 2012 due to thyroid cancer. It is under control now but I am taking T3 regularly. I am also anemic so taking iron supplements and my ferritin is 19 now.
    If I want to take activated charcoal to detox is it advisable and if so how do I take this?

  19. You stated: “Drink a Lot of Water: Drink no less than half your body weight in ounces of water while taking the supplement or you risk constipation and poor elimination. The adsorbency of the charcoal will soak up water, so drinking extra fluids will help you eliminate more toxins and regulate your bowel motility”.

    “The ideal time to take charcoal would be before bed, roughly 3 hours after eating dinner for pure detoxification methods”.

    So do we drink half our body weight of water throughout the day, or do we drink this amount of water along with the charcoal at the same time? I hope we don’t have to take the charcoal at the same time with half of our body weight of water, before bed, because that wouldn’t be a great idea. I can only imagine having to use the restroom throughout the night from drinking that amount of water. Can you give me some advice on this?

    1. Yes drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily (throughout the whole day). Drink very little before bed. Drink most of your water in the morning and between meals.

  20. Thank you, David, for such an insightful piece of info. I was wondering if there is any interaction between caffeine and activated charcoal, as I skip breakfast (part of my IF protocol) and would like to take a charcoal supplement right before or after my morning coffee.

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