What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a powder that looks black and acts like a sponge to trap chemicals and toxins. It’s used to treat poisoning and drug overdoses in emergency trauma centers.


It’s also an effective treatment for insect bites and bee stings. Just mix some with coconut oil and dab on the affected area.

It’s Effective at Treating Poisoning

The adsorption of toxins and chemicals by activated charcoal is due to its porous structure. The activation process creates countless holes and crevices in charcoal particles, giving it an overall surface area of more than 1000m2 per gram. These pores make it possible for a wide range of chemical molecules to adhere to the charcoal’s surface. The negative electrical charge on the charcoal attracts positively charged toxins and gases, binding them to its surface.

In cases of poisoning, oral activated charcoal is the most effective antidote, especially if given early. It can prevent most drugs and toxins from being absorbed into the bloodstream, including acetaminophen, aspirin, barbiturates, theophylline, and some tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure medications. However, it does not adsorb alcohols, metals (such as iron and lithium), or acidic or basic substances.

Oral activated charcoal should only be used under a doctor’s supervision. It is not recommended for use in people who are unconscious or having seizures. It is important to hydrate during and after taking charcoal, drinking two to three liters of water each day to help flush the charcoal and toxins out of the body.

It’s Effective at Treating Food Poisoning

Activated charcoal’s ability to bind and trap toxins is the key to its effectiveness in treating food poisoning. It’s also what makes it so effective at alleviating the symptoms of stomach bugs (also known as gastroenteritis).

During the activation process, activated charcoal has millions of tiny holes and crevices on its surface, which dramatically increases its overall surface area. This porous quality allows the charcoal to effectively adsorb most chemical compounds and toxins.

In the emergency room, doctors will often mix activated charcoal with liquid and give it to patients who have ingested poison or drugs. Taking it immediately after ingestion reduces the amount of poison or drug that’s absorbed by the body.

Interestingly, activated charcoal can bind with some of the medications we take, so it’s important to only use it short-term for this purpose. It can also bind with some nutrients, reducing their absorption. It’s also not recommended to take it if you have an intestinal blockage or have a condition that slows the movement of food through the intestines.

It’s Effective at Treating Insect Bites

Activated charcoal is known for its health and detox properties, but it also works to reduce itching and swelling after insect bites. It does so by absorbing toxins that may be released from the bite and reducing inflammation.

To be most effective, activated charcoal needs to come into contact with the poison and bind to it. That’s why it’s important to give it within an hour of ingestion. A small amount of ipecac syrup can be administered along with the charcoal to help induce vomiting so the poison can be expelled from the body.

It’s important to use only high-quality activated charcoal products that are sourced and manufactured from a reliable source. Many herbal/health supplements aren’t regulated, so they can contain toxic metals and other contaminants. To ensure you’re getting the highest quality activated charcoal, choose capsules or powder from a reputable brand. It’s also best to avoid taking it with fatty or acidic foods, as they can reduce its absorption capacity. Lastly, it’s important to drink plenty of water when taking activated charcoal. This will prevent dehydration and keep the charcoal from binding to healthy intestines.

It’s Effective at Treating Skin Rashes

Activated charcoal has a long history in beauty, dating back to ancient Egypt (Cleopatra even used it on her face) for teeth whitening and skin care. Its pore-cleansing properties work to reduce oil, dirt and bacteria that lead to pimples, as well as redness, inflammation and itching.

In the case of bug bites or stings, activated charcoal can be applied as a paste to treat poisoning, swelling and itchiness. It works to bind to the poison, toxins and allergens that cause these reactions, preventing their absorption in the body.

Activated charcoal also works to reduce the odors that are caused by these bites and stings. When mixed with coconut oil and applied topically as a mask, it can help to bind to the toxins that contribute to these smells and reduce their presence in the skin, as well as the body. This is especially helpful when used for bites or stings from the brown recluse or black widow spider, as it can prevent their spread and help to prevent a serious reaction. However, this treatment should only be used a few times a week, as overuse may strip the skin of its natural oils and can lead to dryness and inflammation.

It’s Effective at Treating Teeth Whitening

Activated charcoal is used to whiten teeth because it has a porous texture that binds to the microscopic elements that stain your teeth, causing them to turn white. The charcoal also binds to plaque and bacteria in the mouth, preventing tooth decay and bad breath.

You can use activated charcoal to whiten your teeth at home by grinding up some tablets and putting them in a container with just enough water to create a paste. Then you can brush the charcoal on your teeth, being sure to only dab it on the surface and not rub. After you’ve brushed for about three minutes, rinse your mouth thoroughly.

Activated charcoal is not a substitute for professional whitening. It’s not as effective and it could damage your teeth if used too often. Plus, it’s abrasive and can wear away at your enamel, leaving your teeth more susceptible to future stains. It’s also not recommended for those who have fillings or crowns in their mouth, as the charcoal may get lodged between your teeth. These issues make it best to consult your dentist before attempting any whitening at home.