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.
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. thea Avatar

    should the charcoal be stored in air tight container, I have loose powder in a zip lock bag and didn’t seal it, Is it still ok for use

  2. Alina Avatar

    I have your activated charcoal with an expiry date January 2015. I think that it is still ok to take it, isn’t it? I do not think that activated charcoal really expires if it was kept in the original bottle. It was open though but I do not think that it should make a difference.
    Thank you.

  3. Emmanuel Avatar

    Why is it called activated charcoal…
    Is there any different between activated one and normal charcoal fire

  4. Charles Avatar

    There are many beneficial uses of charcoal. One popular use is for use in hangovers. The issue is that if you take them before drinking alcohol charcoal capsules will absorb a lot of the alcohol. For the best effects, they should be taken right after finishing drinking and again in the morning – at recommended dosages. Assisting with alcohol hangovers is perhaps one of the most famous uses of charcoal capsules.

  5. Paul Avatar

    yes,have used activated charcoal for excess gases,anti-diarrhea and also to relive ulcers.
    i prepare and package them in my clinic,i can supply anybody who needs it.

  6. Sara Avatar

    Thank you for this article. I have a question. About four days ago a nurse bullied me into giving my nearly three year old son to get a vaccine! I’ve never let him get any and she threatened me so I don’t know why but I succumbed to the pressure. I was very tired and scared. Anyway, the next day my normally vivacious and happy talkative baby acted totally out of it and stuttering! He has never stuttered until after the dang vaccine. I was wondering if giving him activated charcoal could help remove the toxins from his system and if you have any others home remedies that could help bring my baby back.

  7. Donna Avatar

    I appreciate the work that you do to educate all of the mammas and beyond on how to care for themselves and their families with healthy alternatives to traditional methodologies. I’m especially grateful to have found your article on the benefits of activated charcoal because I’m getting ready to try a new activated charcoal hair masque!! Thanks so much & many blessings!!

  8. John Avatar

    I’m just wondering does anyone use it as part of a treatment process for chronic Lyme disease

  9. Cheri Avatar

    I recently read an article on Charcoal and the possible dangers of taking it internally. I have to admit, I’d thought of the possibility before myself, as I’d remembered a little pre-med organic chemistry that made me suspicious. It’s the same reason I don’t often grill, or char meat to a crisp. I realize charcoal is administered for emergency poison detox, but to ingest it continuously–either for inner cleansing or tooth cleansing–seems risky to me.

  10. Dave Avatar

    Hello. Can activated charcoal help with pancreatic cancer? My only concern is constipation. Please let me know how to use it for that disease. Thank you!

  11. Diane Avatar

    I did get the activated charcoal that you recommend. I usually get most products you recommend; that’s actually why I’m leaving a comment. You have been my go-to-gal now for more than 4 years! I have introduced “you” (actually your wellnessmama site) to countless people, of whome, when I hear back, rave about the product they’ve made. Just wanted to let you know that you’ve touched more peoples lives in a positive way than you know! God Bless You Katie!…Diane H.

  12. Jacqueline Avatar

    I see there are a lot of comments here and many different responses. I apologize ahead of time if my questions were already answered, but I just wanted to get clarification on how and when to use activated charcoal and what type to use. A while ago I bought the powdered version Katie recommended off Amazon and have used it for brushing my teeth. I personally have not experienced any whitening of my teeth by this method, unfortunately, as that was my main reason for purchasing it. I have been using it for quite a while now brushing two to three days a week with it. I do believe, though, that it has made my teeth and oral health stronger. I have never had any trouble with my teeth, thankfully. Never needed any kind of dental work done. My main question is, however, can I use this same powder version for ingesting? Or do I need to buy the tablets? Can the tablets be chewed or do they need to be swallowed whole? Can children take activated charcoal? Is it just used for throwing up or food poisoning? Or can it be used as a digestive enzyme on a regular basis? Some one said it can be constipating. Sorry for all the questions, but I find the whole topic very confusing.

  13. mel stevenson Avatar
    mel stevenson

    I have used Charcoal a lot here in Cost rica over the last 23 years. I saved my neighbors dog from poisoning twice. I have stopped my own food poisoning in about 20 minutes. there is nothing more important in my medicine cabinet or the glove box of my car.

  14. Darryl Avatar

    Curious if I use activated charcoal tooth powder, does that also affect taking my vitamins and supplements???

  15. Jeanette Robinson Avatar
    Jeanette Robinson

    I use activated daily for gas and bloating after gastric bypass surgery. I still experience some but nothing like before I started taking it. I take 2 a day in capsule form.

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