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.
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)
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)
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.
Recommendations for Taking a Supplement:
Here are some basic recommendations for using a charcoal supplement.
- Take Away From Other Supplements: Never consume a charcoal supplement while also taking other supplements. Space out use by at least an hour
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take Before Bed: The ideal time to take charcoal would be before bed, roughly 3 hours after eating dinner for pure detoxification methods
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
It tends to be very favoring of our gut microbiome. It is definitely not as harsh or potentially dangerous as anti-biotics.
How long should I take charcoal to treat candida overgrowth and persistent yeast infections?
Try it for a month and see if you notice improvements. Blessings!
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?
Yes this can be helpful!
Straight after meals or leave a timed gap?
Best to wait 60-90 minutes after the meal.
I’m supplementing ganoderma mushrooms,… would the activated charcoal absorb this out of my body? 😬
Only if you take them together. I would separate them by 2 or more hours and you are fine!
In questions above… I believe one tablespoon is too much.
how about stomach ulcers, how can it be use?
Yes it can be used for stomach ulcers but be sure to read this article on best strategies for stomach ulcers: https://drjockers.com/stomach-ulcers-causes-natural-solutions/
“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.
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.
Not 38 kg (or liter) of water, but 38 ounces!
Yes! Thank you so much Robert for clarifying the misunderstanding! Blessings to you!
Kenneth, your 76 kilos is approx. 168 pounds. Half of that is 84 ounces which is approx. 2.5 liters or 5 pints.
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.
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.
Hi Aquila, The main purpose of using Activated Charcoal is to bind and remove toxins and unwanted compounds from the body. It sounds like you may benefit from working with a functional health practitioner who will help you create a customized plan. Here is a helpful article: https://drjockers.com/functional-nutrition-tips-to-find-a-great-health-coach/
Hi Dr. My daughter has a barret, n stomach ulcer.is she advisable to take AC n may we know the dosage?.thanks
So sorry to hear this! I would recommend starting around 500 mg – 2x daily! Here is a helpful article on stomach ulcers: https://drjockers.com/stomach-ulcers-causes-natural-solutions/
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!
Yes it is! The charcoal stays in the gut, while the injections go straight into the blood stream where they take immediate action.
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?
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.
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?
Yes, I would take 2 BioToxin Binder – 2x daily with meals and take 2 activated charcoal – 2x daily away from meals!
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!
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!
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!
Ideally I would take charcoal about 2 hours away from supplements if possible.
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.
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.
No, you don’t need to drink that much at nighttime. If you take the charcoal at night, just be sure to drink a few glasses of water upon rising in the morning.
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.
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.
You can take it daily if you want, many people do with great results. Otherwise, you can do 1 week per month.
How should be use to help with high cholesterol ( high triglycerides)
Yes taking activated charcoal daily will help to grab the cholesterol in the bile and pull it out through your feces. Here is another helpful article: https://drjockers.com/cholesterol-what-is-it-and-what-are-healthy-levels/
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.
Yes absolutely charcoal can help you detoxify. Also, proteolytic enzymes which will metabolize the “spike protein” coming from the vaccine. https://drjockers.com/systemic-enzymes-powerful-immune-support/
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?
Sorry to hear about this! She should find a holistic doctor who can get her on bioidentical progesterone.
Could I use a powder form instead of buying supplements? If so, how much would I take?
No, you want to use this in capsules. Take 500 mg – 1 or 2x daily!
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.
Great to hear this Julie! Thank you for sharing!
Hi Dr Jockers!
Great Article.. Can you take Activated Charcoal while you are fasting?
Yes absolutely! Very helpful when you are fasting as it supports detoxification!
Dr J, l have osteoporosis and no gallbladder. Can I safely take this?
Yes absolutely it will help you detoxify. Here is a helpful article on what to do without a gallbladder: https://drjockers.com/no-gallbladder-strategies/
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?
You can take it in water or in capsule form.
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?
Sorry to hear about this, I would reach out to our functional health coaching team who can help customize a specific plan for you: https://drjockers.leadpages.co/long-distance-coaching-dr-jockers/
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?
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.