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Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Common charcoal is made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell, or petroleum. “Activated charcoal” is similar to common charcoal, but is made especially for use as a medicine. To make activated charcoal, manufacturers heat common charcoal in the presence of a gas that causes the charcoal to develop lots of internal spaces or “pores.” These pores help activated charcoal “trap” chemicals.

Activated charcoal is used to treat poisonings, reduce intestinal gas (flatulence), lower cholesterol levels, prevent hangover, and treat bile flow problems (cholestasis) during pregnancy.

How does it work?

Activated charcoal is good at trapping chemicals and prevents their absorption.

Traditionally used for

Trapping chemicals to stop some types of poisoning when used as a part of standard treatment.
Lowering cholesterol levels.
Decreasing gas (flatulence).
Treating reduced bile flow (cholestasis) during pregnancy.
Preventing hangover.


For drug overdose or poisoning: 50 to 100 grams of activated charcoal is given at first, followed by charcoal every 2 to 4 hours at a dose equal to 12.5 grams per hour. For children, lower doses (10 to 25 grams) are used.

Possible Side Effects

Activated charcoal is SAFE for most adults when used short-term.

Side effects of long term activated charcoal use may include constipation and black stools. More serious, but rare, side effects are a slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract, regurgitation into the lungs, and dehydration.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Activated charcoal might be safe when used short-term if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, but consult with your healthcare professional before using if you are pregnant.

Gastrointestinal (GI) blockage or slow movement of food through the intestine: Don’t use activated charcoal if you have any kind of intestinal obstruction. Also, if you have a condition that slows the passage of food through your intestine (reduced peristalsis), don’t use activated charcoal, unless you are being monitored by your healthcare provider.

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