Activated Charcoal

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Activated charcoal, or carbon, is used to manage and treat acute poisoning as it absorbs toxins before they are absorbed by the stomach into the body. Activated charcoal is also used as an antiflatulent, to reduce blood lipid levels, and can to prevent hangovers by removing toxins from the body.

Also known as:  Activated Carbon, Animal Charcoal, Carbo Vegetabilis, Carbón Activado, Charbon Actif, Charbon Activé, Charbon Animal, Charbon Médicinal, Charbon Végétal, Charbon Végétal Activé, Charcoal, Gas Black, Lamp Black, Medicinal Charcoal, Noir de Gaz, Noir de Lampe, Vegetable Carbon, Vegetable Charcoal

Diseases and Conditions

Activated charcoal is likely effective when used as part of a standard treatment for acute poisoning. The supplement has gained recent popularity for its use in skin care and teeth whitening, due to its ability to absorb 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities. However, there is not enough scientific research to assign an effectiveness rating to this supplement for these conditions.


Activated charcoal is likely safe when used orally in the short term. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may use activated charcoal safely when taken orally in the short term, but consult with your healthcare professional first. Children may safely take activated charcoal under the supervision of a physician.

Taking activated charcoal can lead to constipation and black stools. Although rare, adverse side effects include obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, dehydration, and regurgitation into the lungs. Individuals with GI problems should avoid consuming activated charcoal, or if you suffer from any condition that obstructs the passage of food through the intestines.

Medication Interactions

Alcohol can lower activated charcoal's absorptive ability. It can reduce the absoprtion of oral drugs such as:

  • Ccetaminophen
  • Carbamazepine
  • Dapsone
  • Digoxin
  • Disopyramide
  • Nadolol phenylbutazone
  • Phenytoin
  • Phenobarbital
  • Piroxicam
  • Quinine
  • Propoxyphene
  • Sotalol
  • Theophylline
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

The syrups of ipecac can be inactivated by activated charcoal.

Supplement and Food Interactions

The absorption of activated charcoal can be reduced when taken with alcohol. Taking activated chracoal may also reduce the absorption of micronutrients.


The recommended dosage for lowering drug levels in overdose or poisoning is fifty to one hundred grams of activated charcoal initially, followed by charcoal every two to four hours at a dose equivalent to twelve and a half grams per hour. For children, lower doses of ten to twenty-five grams are recommended.


Activated charcoal is available as an oral tablet that is used to treat poisoning. It does not occur naturally in foods.

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