Activated Charcoal Uses and Benefits (For Beauty, Health & Home)

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Uses of activated charcoal
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Activated Charcoal Uses and Benefits (For Beauty, Health & Home)

Activated charcoal has been part of my natural medicine cabinet for years, but now it is showing up in beauty magazines and DIY websites for its many other uses!

Activated charcoal is one of those rare areas where ancient traditional medicine and today’s medical literature agree. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine used this sooty, jet-black powder for thousands of years. (Its first recorded use dates back to 1550 BC.) It is also well established in medical literature as a powerful antidote that adsorbs most organic toxins, chemicals, and poisons before they can harm the body.

Interest in activated charcoal grew in 1831 when a French Academy of Medicine professor famously drank a lethal dose of strychnine and did not suffer any ill effects … all because he combined it with activated charcoal.

Oddly enough, I also brush my teeth with it … so there are other reasons to have activated charcoal around!

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated Charcoal Uses and Benefits - why to keep it on hand

It is important to know right from the get-go that activated charcoal is not the same thing as charcoal for your grill or charred wood from the fire. Please don’t try to substitute or make your own!

Activated charcoal consists of some substance—usually bamboo, wood, coal, or my preference, coconut shell charcoal—burned without oxygen to create char. The char is then heated to a high temperature and exposed to certain gases through a multi-step process to make it extremely porous. This is the “activation” part of the process.

Once activated, the increased surface area of the molecules can bind powerfully to any substance. This process of adsorption (not to be confused with absorption) is what makes charcoal so powerful. True activated charcoal is odorless, tasteless, and nontoxic.

Benefits of Activated Charcoal Use

There are 3 main benefits to having activated charcoal in a healthy mama’s bag of tricks:

1. Poison and Toxin Remedy

Studies show that activated charcoal may be the most effective GI tract decontaminant available. It can adsorb up to 50-60% of unwanted substances in the stomach and intestines when taken quickly after ingestion. It can even have a positive effect as long as two hours after ingestion!

In fact, emergency rooms routinely administer large doses of activated charcoal for certain types of poisoning. Unlike ipecac syrup or stomach pumping, activated charcoal binds with and removes much of the offending substance even after it enters the bloodstream.

Of course, anyone who experiences poisoning or exposure to toxic substances should absolutely contact a poison control center or hospital immediately and follow any instructions they have. I know of cases where a poison center instructed someone to administer charcoal at home and then follow up in the ER.

Proof of activated charcoal’s power to purify? It’s routinely used in water and air filters for just that function!

2. Oral Care

The same properties that make charcoal beneficial for removing harmful substances in the digestive system also make it beneficial for oral health as well. It doesn’t neutralize toxins, but rather binds them to the many tiny pores on its surface.

When used in toothpastes, powders, and oral health rinses, it can bind to bacteria and other harmful substances and remove them from the mouth. Many people like using it in this way because it also binds to substances that stain the teeth and can whiten the teeth in only a few uses.

3. Beauty Ingredient

Activated charcoal is showing up in many beauty products lately too. This is because it is effective at removing bacteria, chemicals, dirt, and build-up on the skin. Check out all the beauty uses below or try mixing it into a face wash or scrub. (Don’t worry … it washes off!)

Activated Charcoal Uses for Home & Beauty

I keep activated charcoal on hand in case any of the kids ever accidentally ingest any household toxins or chemicals, though we also do our best to keep anything toxic out of the house completely. Thankfully, we haven’t yet had to use it for that purpose!

I find myself turning to charcoal almost daily for other uses though:

1. To Whiten Teeth Naturally

This is the first beauty use for charcoal that I tried, and it worked wonderfully!

Read all about my charcoal teeth whitening experiment here but the method is simple. Just dip a wet toothbrush in a high quality charcoal and brush gently. Alternately, you can swish with charcoal water by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of charcoal into a small amount of water.

Charcoal is mildly abrasive so be gentle and don’t do this more than once or twice a week!

2. In Toothpaste

Similarly, charcoal can be used in toothpastes and tooth powders to get the same effect. I wouldn’t use these daily, since they are abrasive, but adding a little charcoal to a homemade toothpaste or DIY tooth powder a couple times a week can whiten and freshen the teeth.

My pre-made Wellnesse charcoal toothpaste has clean ingredients and works really well!

3. As a Face Mask or Cleanser

I love using charcoal on my skin. Fair warning, it looks a little bizarre to paint this stuff all over your face, but it does wash off and leaves skin super soft!

For a maskEasily make your own mask with this simple recipe or buy a high quality pre-made natural mask like this one.

As a cleanser: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of activated charcoal powder into a face wash and scrub skin gently. Rinse well and pat dry.

4. In Shampoo

Charcoal has been showing up in shampoos for the same reason people love it in facial products. It removes build up and impurities. The easiest way to try this is to add a tiny amount (1/2 teaspoon) to shampoo before washing hair. Scrub gently and wash out.

I’ve yet to find a pre-made shampoo with good ingredients so just add to a natural shampoo that you like! I’ve added charcoal to this natural shampoo with good results.

5. Clean the Air

Charcoal’s porous structure makes it great at removing odors, harmful chemicals and allergens from the air. This is why you’ll often find charcoal in air purifying products. These charcoal bags are the easiest way to use charcoal to clean the air in a home. They last for years and can be recharged by putting them in the sun once a month or so.

6. Purify Water

How to use activated charcoal in toothpaste hair beauty and more

Activated charcoal also helps remove contaminants from water. It is used in the Berkey system that our family used for years and even in most water pitcher systems. The 14-stage filter we have now also uses charcoal to filter water.

7. Relieve Bug Bites

I use charcoal in my drawing salve for its ability to draw out irritants. This recipe is also great for applying to bug bites to relieve itching and pain! But charcoal alone can also help draw out venom.

In one scary episode, I used charcoal to treat a spider bite on my son’s leg after we had confirmation that it was likely a brown recluse bite. Our doctor confirmed that the conventional approach is “wait and see.” I wasn’t comfortable with this, especially since my son was uncomfortable. A mix of charcoal and baking soda helped draw the toxin out, and he healed with no long-term scarring.

8. Help an Upset Stomach

I give my kids these charcoal gummies whenever they complain of a bad upset stomach. The chewy texture and natural fruit flavor helps the medicine go down, and activated charcoal goes to work absorbing and neutralizing the substances causing the trouble.

Is Activated Charcoal Safe?

Activated 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. I personally would not take charcoal on a regular basis and would only use as needed.

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

Remember, 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!

I also don’t recommend activated charcoal-infused food or drinks. Charcoal can bind to the nutrients in food or drinks, making these less nourishing rather than enhancing them. The one exception? Charcoal cocktails are getting more popular, and since alcohol is a toxin anyway, these may be worth trying. In fact some experts recommend charcoal as a hangover remedy.

Where to Get Activated Charcoal

I keep this brand of activated charcoal on hand because it is made from coconut shells and is the most pure source I’ve personally found. I store it 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!

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Ever used activated charcoal? What did you use it for? Share below!

Activated charcoal is a good resource for teeth whitening, in case of accidental poison ingestion, and spider bites and similar maladies.
  1. Derlet, R. W., & Albertson, T. E. (1986). Activated Charcoal—Past, Present and Future. Western Journal of Medicine145(4), 493–496.
  2. Guss, D. A. (1989). Emergency Medicine: Activated Charcoal—The First-Line Agent in Cases of Overdose. Western Journal of Medicine151(1), 63.

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


262 responses to “Activated Charcoal Uses and Benefits (For Beauty, Health & Home)”

  1. Victoria Avatar

    Another use for activated charcoal: To remove the remains of bacterial overgrowth when you are doing a SIBO treatment. The “bugs” die and then your system has to remove them. If you have significant die-off, and aren’t feeling well as a result, the use of activated charcoal helps with the removal of dead bacteria, in order to detox from the die-off.

  2. Jean Avatar

    I took 4 activated charcoal capsules a day for over a year for chronic Lyme disease. The doctor told me to also take fiber because activated charcoal is constipating.

    1. Peter Avatar

      I took 16 activated charcoal capsules/day for one week and my C-Diff was gone. It also got rid of my ulcerative colitis (had it 16 years, gone for 5)
      I’ve used it for headaches instead of aspirin and since I don’t get them very often (2x/yr) the AC worked both times in 3 hours or so.
      I”ve done about 20 juice fasts lasting on the average about 18 days and have had side effects (herxheimer’s) a few times, but next time that happens I’ll take activated charcoal capsules to see if they “capture” the toxins that are causing the problem. Also, 16 capsules at night before bed while doing a juice fast will adsorb any toxins that could be lurking from the fasting cleanse so possibly no herxheimer’s will ever take place

  3. Gwen Avatar

    A beginners tip, no matter your planned use, get it is the pill/capsule format. If you need more, you can open up another capsule. Genius that I am, I bought a half pound of it and I am forever using too much when playing with recipes for face masks, soap and the like because of it.

    Once you are used to it, by all means, grab it in larger quantities. I’m using it now, for example, as a layer in my terrariums, which is ideal for the larger quantities, yet continue to struggle with using too much in health/body recipes. Oh yeah, and it’s messy, that black dust can get everywhere if you’re not paying attention, even with something as simple as opening the package and while it comes off in the laundry easily, it turns washcloths and or whatever you use black. Kind of obvious still should be noted.

    This being said, it is a great ingredient in my skin care regime. There is that one week a month that I’m oilier than others and this takes care of it without over drying. Just start with really small amounts and work up to more if you need it.

    Side note: I also obviously either do not follow recipes to the letter and like to experiment on my own. Therefore, this may not be an issue for you if you follow recipes and the rules.

  4. Kathleen Kahl Avatar
    Kathleen Kahl

    I use charcole for upset stomach or indigestion. I just take 2 or 3 capsules and usually get immediate relief. Also great for face mask. A little to messy for toothpaste but I may try the store bought one.

  5. Julia Avatar

    I have a jar of charcoal pellets from the pet store. Is this the same type of thing?

  6. Peggy Avatar

    My Grandson has Down Syndrom…..and has caught the flu….the doctors put him on tami flu…this am he cannot walk straight…..and when he attempts walking he says boo boo… The doctor thinks he is having a reaction to the tami flu… discontinue it and watch fir any other signs…if he develops any other symptoms they want to put him the hospital…
    Does anyone have any advise as to detox this little guy? He is 5 years old and weighs almost 50 pounds..he is also on azithromycin 900 mg….all g with Children’s Tylenol and ibuprophen…I have Redmond Bentonite Clay……among other detox items…..act…peroxide…. Epsom salt…and Ginger..

    1. Pete Avatar

      Are his eyes dilated? If they are you need to take him of ibuprofen and Tylenol. I suggest you give him supplements like pantothenic acid, B6, Vitamin C 1000mg and zinc. Also he needs probiotics. These are the ones I can think of right now. Take him of those drugs.

    2. Kathleen Kahl Avatar
      Kathleen Kahl

      Tamiflu has horrible side effects. Use high does vitamin C . It can kick any virus. You can make it yourself but lysosomal is the best form for fast absorption. Take until bowl intolerance. Dr. Suzzanne Humprhries has the protocol.

  7. Pete Avatar

    Hello ma’am, please I’d like to know apart from coconut shell, can I also use the husk for activated charcoal?
    I’d appreciate it if you can give me a clear descriptive step by step process in producing activated. Thank you

  8. Heather Avatar

    I take hydrogen peroxide every morning in my juice to help get rid of toxins. Can i add charcoal to my cleansing as well?

  9. Peter Avatar

    After having C-Diff for 3 weeks I tried activated charcoal capsules and it was 80% better in 2 days and 100% gone in one week. It was amazingly effective for something so dangerous for the body.

  10. Rene Avatar

    I read a different post from you on the Internet from my phone stating you could clean badly stained teeth for 3 days in a row with the charcoal, five days if necessary, then once a season. My question , can I use this with clear braces and a colored power chain? Will it stain them black? I have not been able to whiten my teeth since braces and I drink English tea & coffee so, yay, I’m in trouble. I did ck with the Orthodontist, they knew nothing. Neither did the company that sold the activated charcoal. Also, is there a danger of using it too much? I was a bit concerned that you said once a season.

  11. monika Avatar

    Isn’t one of the dangers associated with A. charcoal the fact that it will bind to minerals and remove them (along with toxins) out of the body?

  12. Darby Avatar

    I am trying to get higher doses of vitamins and minerals I have been lacking and I am taking a probiotic. I have activated charcoal but haven’t yet taken it. Would this just cancel out all of the other things I am doing, and should I hold off on the probiotic for a few days while I take the activated charcoal?

  13. Gary Avatar

    The ability of activated carbon charcoal to bind to other chemicals has limitations it has an expiration of its own because it will bond with oxygen if it’s left out too long that’s why those who use activated charcoal carbon filters on safety masks know that they have to keep them in a plastic bag if they haven’t used them for the full 4 hours because if they’ll even sit out right out of the air and become useless in a short time. So if you have some that you’re using keep it tightly closed up don’t let it be exposed to the atmosphere any longer than you must.

  14. Janine Duval Avatar
    Janine Duval

    Could you please explain to us how you can be an expert on so many different subjects while being a good mom to a large family? Where do you find time to study and describe all of the topics (some scientific), run all your media outlets, do blogging, write books, cook, bake, clean your house, play with kids, spend a high quality time with them…. list can go on and on…. I am highly intelligent and very capable person of grown children but simply find it impossible to do all what you do even if you would sleep only 4-5 hours a night. Please let us know what is the secret 🙂

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      The secret is that there is no secret. I’m not perfect and don’t do all things I recommend all the time. I’m also not a “helicopter parent” and don’t feel the need to spend the majority of my time with my children. When there are more of them, it’s easier for the them to entertain themselves, as they play together and don’t need a parent to entertain the constantly. I also have a lot of systems in place and regular routines that make managing a large family much easier. This post explains a bit about some of the systems I use:

  15. Mary Avatar

    Re activated charcoal, following Balch and Balch “A Prescription for Nutritional Healing” (1997), I have used activated charcoal capsules to fend off diverticulitis attacks for some time. At the very first sign of an acute attack, usually pain and wind (gas) in the abdomen, I take 4 capsules (about 1000mg) followed if no improvement by 4 more for hours later. It certainly seems to alleviate the trapped wind symptoms which, for anyone who has suffered from this painful condition, has to be a plus, and it sometimes seems to stop the attack altogether.

  16. Barb Avatar

    Love, love, love activated charcoal and take it for diarrhea or nausea. I was sure I was about to throw up not too long ago and took two capsules and the nausea left promptly. I also give it to the dog when she has diarrhea and once when a friend gave her too much turkey (thinking she was giving her a treat) the gas was horrible and I actually thought she was dying. Gave her a little charcoal in water (squirt a small amount in the back of her tongue with an eye dropper) and she recovered nicely. Pretty amazing stuff and I will always have it on hand.

  17. Cindy Avatar

    I’m a little confused about one thing. Every year in the spring and summer, scientists say we should limit the foods we eat on the BBQ because of the “char”. The char on our BBQ’d foods cause cancer. Why is this char healthy while the other char is cancer causing???

  18. Amy Avatar

    My eyes have been sensitive to the chemicals in ordinary eyeliners, so I actually use activated charcoal as a liquid eye liner. I mix loose, finely ground activated charcoal with coloidial silver (the silver helps prevent bacteria) and paint it on with a thin artist’s paintbrush (or an eyeliner brush would work well!).i keep it in a small jar with a lid.
    It dries quick and doesn’t bother my sensitive eyes. It also stays on all day. Of course, if you have watery eyes, you’d probably have to experiment before wearing it out in public for the day… It’s super cheap too!

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