Activated charcoal is a highly reactive carbon compound that absorbs toxins and gases in the digestive tract. It is composed of microscopic chambers and cavities that result in a significant surface area which easily captures and traps most toxin substances with larger molecules. It is for this reason that charcoal is often used in air and water purifiers. Veterinarians also use activated charcoal to treat food and chemical poisonings in dogs, particularly when they have ingested too much chocolate.

This carbon compound works through adsorption. Foreign molecules are attracted and become lodged in the surface of the compound, like a lint brush. This process differs from absorption, where material passes through the surface and is assimilated, like water into a paper towel.


Ailments / Situations Where Used

Activated charcoal has been used as a poison remedy since 1830. It is often highly effective when used to treat people that have consumed toxic levels of chemicals, household cleaners, sedatives, narcotics, and painkillers. Take within one hour of poisoning for optimal effectiveness.

Food poisoning is often relieved with activated charcoal. The compound adsorbs particles and gases in the lower intestine, relieving flatulence and gas pains. It also helps relieve diarrhea. As the charcoal travels through the stomach and intestines, it binds with toxins, wastes, and other substances that together are excreted by the body. Activated charcoal also coats the intestinal walls and prevents toxins from being absorbed by the bloodstream. Take within one hour of poisoning for optimal effectiveness.

Activated charcoal has anti-fungal, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties. It will not directly injure or kill these organisms, but will attract them in the same manner as other toxins and facilitate their elimination. The compound can also reduce uric acid levels and may help in treating gout.

For insect bites and stings, mix the powder with water to form a paste and apply.



Activated charcoal is not found in food. It is produced in the lab by processing pure carbon and is available in tablet, caplet, and capsule form. The taste is quite unpalatable and capsules are the preferred vehicle for delivery.

Activated charcoal may also be found in digestion and detoxification formulas.


Optimal Absorption

For acute conditions, take 500 to 800mg. Repeat after two hours if discomfort persists.


Contraindications / Precautions / Warnings

When taken in high doses, activated charcoal effectively binds with vitamins, hormones, drugs, and other nutrients, resulting in their elimination. For acute situations, take activated charcoal for only a brief period of time under the supervision of your naturopath or other health practitioner. Ensure you restore lost nutrients once the acute situation has passed.

Regarding poisonings, activated charcoal will not adsorb cyanide and is not recommended for corrosive acids or alkalids. Consult with your poison control centre, naturopath, or other health practitioner to determine the most suitable course of action under these situations.

Activated charcoal effectively neutralizes fluoxetine (Prozac). It is typically administered during fluoxetine overdose but can interfere with this drug under normal use. Consult with your naturopath or other health practitioner to determine the appropriateness of this compound for your needs or explore an alternative. See the section on Depression for more information.


Ailment / Situation Listing


Bee Stings

Chemical Poisoning (Some)

Drug Overdose (Some)


Food Poisoning


Insect Bites

Insect Stings