How to use Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal Uses and Benefits why to keep it on hand How to use Activated CharcoalActivated Charcoal powder is used medicinally as well as in air purifiers and water purifiers. Its recorded use dates back to 1550 BC and in modern times is most widely used medicinally as a detoxifier and poison antidote. I always keep it on hand for spider bites, accidental ingestion of toxins or stomach bugs. (I also brush my teeth with it…)

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is well known as a  antidote as it adsorbs most organic toxins, chemicals and poisons before they can harm the body. Some Emergency Rooms administer large doses of activated charcoal for certain types of poisoning.

According to this article, activated charcoal has a long history of medicinal use:

“It was 1831. In front of his distinguished colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine, Professor Touery drank a lethal dose of strychnine and lived to tell the tale. He had combined the deadly poison with activated charcoal.

That’s how powerful activated charcoal is as an emergency decontaminant in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach and intestines. Activated charcoal is considered to be the most effective single agent available. It is used after a person swallows or adsorbs almost any toxic drug or chemical.

  • Activated charcoal is estimated to reduce absorption of poisonous substances up to 60%.
  • It works by adsorbing chemicals, thus reducing their toxicity (poisonous nature), through the entire length of the stomach and small and large intestines (GI tract).
  • Activated charcoal itself is a fine, black powder that is odorless, tasteless, and nontoxic.
  • Activated charcoal is often given after the stomach is pumped (gastric lavage). Gastric lavage is only effective immediately after swallowing a toxic substance (within about one-half hour) and does not have effects that reach beyond the stomach as activated charcoal does.”

How Activated Charcoal Is Used:

I most regularly use charcoal to brush my teeth as it whitens them naturally. I keep it on hand in case any of the kids ever ingest any toxins or household chemicals, though we also do our best to keep anything toxic out of the house completely. In case of any emergency, I would absolutely call a poison control center (we keep the number with all emergency numbers on our fridge) and follow their directions, but this basic use guide is also helpful.

I have  personally used charcoal to treat a spider bite on my son’s leg (we had confirmation that it was likely a brown recluse bite and a mix of charcoal and baking soda helped draw the toxin out and he healed with no long term scarring. I’ve also used it  when I got food poisoning (another good reason not to eat out!) and was able to get rid of it within a few hours with charcoal followed by apple cider vinegar and then epsom salt (to avoid the charcoal building up in my system).

As with any substance, you should always check with a doc or medical professional before use, especially in an emergency or life threatening situation or if there is any other underlying health problem.

Charcoal is not known to be toxic, though it should not be taken within two hours of vitamins or medications because it will keep the body from adsorbing them. Care should also be taken to find a high quality form of charcoal. I personally would not take charcoal on a regular basis and would only use as needed. This article has a full list of precautions.

Also, activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as the ashes from burning wood or other fires at home, so please don’t try to use those type of ashes for these or any other uses!

Where to get Activated Charcoal:

I keep this brand of activated charcoal (click here) on hand because it is made from coconut shells and is the most pure source I’ve personally found. I store in a glass jar and usually keep it on the bathroom sink since we typically just use it for teeth. Fair warning: activated charcoal is EXTREMELY messy if spilled. It will easily wash out of a sink or bathroom counter but isn’t so easy to get out of rough surfaces like tile grout (don’t ask how I know). I recommend keeping this out of the reach of children or messy pets for that reason!

Activated charcoal is also use in the carbon block filters on our water filter as it can pull toxins from the water as well.

Ever used activated charcoal? What did you use it for?

Reader Comments

  1. Lorigayle says

    I will be having silver fillings removed and heard taking charcoal will help if I take it befor. Hvae you heard of this? How much?

    • conniejo says

      I have used activated charcoal for so many things. I recently had an infected cut on my hand and a charcoal poultice cleared it up overnight. We buy it from blackwatercarbon.com which sells it for $17.00 per pound including shipping. Cheapest we’ve found.

  2. April says

    I’d like more info on why/how you used the cider vinegar and epsom salt after the charcoal? Thanks!

    • says

      I used apple cider vinegar (a teaspoon in water every couple hours) to help calm the stomach back down and then a regular laxative dose of epsom salt to make sure no charcoal had hardened in my digestive system

      • April says

        I’ve never heard of the charcoal hardening the GI tract – that is why I asked the question. I know it can cause constipation – did you need to take quite a bit of it (the charcoal) and that’s why you were concerned? Sorry for the questions, I appreciate all the info you give!

  3. Elizabeth Somerville says

    Will it help detox radiation? I recently had to have a CT scan that I’m trying to detox from

    • KatKarma says

      This is a little late but, no, activated charcoal would not detox radiation from a CT scan. Depending on what body part was scanned and whether or not contrast was used, you may have been exposed to anywhere from 6-20 millisieverts of ionizing radiation. We get, on average 3 millisieverts per year, from cosmic radiation (sun) and radon (soil). One-pack-a day smokers get more >50 millisieverts. Activated charcoal, on the other hand, adsorbs poisons (excluding alcohols, glycol, and a lot of heavy metals) by having the physical poison bind to it so it can be taken out of the body. CT radiation changes DNA, which the cells repair themselves. Cancer CAN occur down the road if patches of cells do not do a good job I self-repair. The best thing to do is eat fruits and vegetables, drink water, and exercise if possible.

  4. Cletus Bowinkle says

    I used it for my dog, he snuck out and ate leftover leek soup Id put out for my chickens and became very sick with loss of use to his back legs. (He is a 100 lb mastiff mutt, It was horrible watching him try to walk.) I figured out what had happened and mixed several ounces with peanut butter and he scarfed it down, within 20 minutes he was able to walk again and after a 2nd dose a few hours later he was fine. And I’m much more careful about leftovers for the chickens.

  5. Michelle says

    I currently have used it for making my own mascarra and I am now trying it in my toothpast concoction. I like the idea of a whitener that isn’t a chemical. I am also going to try a facemask recipe that uses it. Definitly worth keeping around.

      • Michelle says

        My mom and I both use the mascara and really like it. The only issue I have is that my eyes run to the hot side (steaming up my glasses and such even when it’s not cold) so I have always used water proof and this is not water proof. I end up with spots throughout the day. They are easy to wipe off but I think I will work on a slight change to the recipe to see if that helps.

        • MaddieJetzer22 says

          Ok thanks, and please tell me if you figure out how to make it waterproof (I live in a desert so this will be helpful)

          • Michelle says

            If you are on facebook add me and I can PM you when we come up with something a bit more heat and water resistant. I am Michelle Wiegel (Hutchens McCall Voth) or you are welcome to email me at saltnlime7@live.com

          • Hannah Mango says

            This looks great! I am having some eye health problems, but have to wear makeup as a performer. Can you possibly share your recipe with me as well? :-)

  6. ShellyMarstall says

    The link to Amazon’s activated charcoal listing isn’t working. Do you have a brand that you recommend for deodorizing?

  7. Rob Klash says

    It would be interesting to know how to prepare activated charcoal for use. Do I mix it with jam or add to drinking water, what?

  8. Angie says

    Thanks for sharing the miracles of this wonderful remedy! I have used charcoal for years. Our cat was bitten by a rattlesnake and charcoal was the cure!

  9. Hannah Mango says

    Thank you!! I’m going to try a charcoal poultice on my eyes. A few months ago, I became pregnant, got several styes and chalazions, then miscarried. It is horrible- not sure why my immune system seemed to let such yuckiness happen, only to my eyes. I didn’t get ill in any other ways. Anyway, it has been two months, and my eyes are still awful. I just got a new stye yesterday, and I wake up to crusty eye. I will let you know how the charcoal works.

    • zskp says

      I normally use a half of tablespoon in 8oz of water or I take it by itself and chase it with 8oz of water. I really like to take it by itself and chase it with water. I also take mines daily and have not had any bad side effects or problems just make sure you drink plenty of water to keep bowels moving that’s all.

  10. Stephanie says

    I have heard that Activated charcoal can shrink tumors and cure some cancers like breast cancer. Is this true? Is it because it removes toxins that cause the cancers? Do you have any knowledge of success stories where women have been cured of cancer because of daily dosages of activated charcoal? I feel much better when I take it but I wonder if its real or psychosomatic a bit? Please weigh in here.

  11. Tim says

    I use it to ease the pain of diverticulitis. I take psyllium husks and probiotics to keep it under control while eating anything I want to. If I have a “flare up” I take activated charcoal and it takes away the pain.

  12. Amy says

    I got some in capsule form from the natural grocer and use it when I eat something that doesn’t agree with me (I’m with you Katie, just eat at home and not have to worry about it). I am currently out of good quality acv, but I followed it with aloe juice to keep things moving. Perfect combination, I feel much better.

  13. Josephine makama says

    Please i have missed my period for about seven month now,i meet with a doctor and he say is a toilet infection, i have been treating it but nothing seems to work, can i use activated charcoal?

    • zskp says

      Yes you can use the charcoal I use the powder and have been using it for a while and I get my charcoal from DHealthfoodstore.com and you get about a ounce in a glass jar and it cost 3.95 a jar and I can’t live without. I just drink lots of water to keep bowels moving.

  14. Stacey Martin says

    My husband needs to take charcoal caps daily for high ammonia levels. What brand of capsules would you recommend? I would never be able to get him to take anything else…he takes so many supplements and to add a powdered version would be too much. I am trying to look for less expensive though good quality as our naturopaths prices are high

  15. Hillary Hyslope says

    We are using activated charcoal for a stomach bug that has hit my family of 6. How many days should you take it for ones who had the bug and how many days for those who are taking it to prevent the bug?

    Thanks so much.

  16. Anne Roraldo says

    One of my friend advised me to use activated charcoal to cleanse my colon.. is it really safe to be taken orally? I really need your advises… I already have an activated charcoal at home but dont know what to do on them.. Thanks!!!

  17. Kelsey A says

    Can you brush your teeth with activated charcoal on a daily basis or is this something you should only do a few times a week/month?

  18. Kristen says

    If I want to use thus for my kids that have diarrhea how much do we use and how often. They are 10,7,3? What about helping with toddler diarrhea? Would this help.

  19. Olinda Paul says

    I have used AC now for about 6 months. I use a capsule and just break it open and spill it into my mouth. The saliva will activate the charcoal. I just hold it in my mouth and swish it around for about 15 minutes. I get a good whitening this way. I don’t scrub it into my teeth until the 15 minutes are up. I then gently brush my teeth a bit to loosen up anything in my mouth and rinse and rinse with water. There will be lots of stuff on your tongue so brush and scrape your tongue. Then I use baking soda a few times to gently scrub my gums, teeth and sides of my mouth…don’t forget the roof of your mouth either. Rinse and rinse again until its fairly clear. Then I finish off with a good toothpaste and I gargle anything that is left. My teeth have never been so white. I was very skeptical when I first did this but I am a believer now. Each person has to do what works for them. We are not all the same. Just brushing a few times isn’t going to get the black off. In fact the first time I used it thinking I was golden …I smiled into the mirror and laughed my ass off. It was hysterical. I thought OMG! What have I done! But it all worked to my advantage. I have the new fillings etc. and they came out beautiful. I love that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to have white teeth again. I don’t want to pay the big bucks to the dentist and my teeth are also sensitive. It didn’t hurt either. They feel great. Pony up and use ACTIVATED CHARCOAL….other charcoal DOES NOT WORK. I an on occasion used it for gas, and to take out impurities in my gut before I change my diet. Good luck to you all. works like
    a charm.

  20. Angela says

    I really liked AC, but then I went to the dentist and he explained that brushing with it was wearing away the enamel of my teeth. So sadly I’m not going to use it for my once a week brushing. I will still use it for all it’s other properties.

  21. Kelsey A says

    So I’ve been using AC for about a week/week and a half now; sometimes I do it before I brush my teeth with toothpaste and sometimes after. I’m wondering if its kinda pointless to brush with toothpaste after the AC, or is that what I should be doing? And I’ve noticed others brush with baking soda as well…if I’m doing all 3 (toothpaste, AC, & baking soda) is the an order that is most productive?

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