The Underrated Value of Activated Charcoal

When it comes to all-purpose medicine that every household should keep handy in their cupboard, activated charcoal is near the top of the list. The medicinal benefits may help protect the body in a number of ways. In the last 20 years, activated charcoal has been experiencing a resurgence as a unique detox aid for neutralizing many harmful compounds that saturate our world. Activated charcoal is so powerful that many emergency rooms sometimes use it for the ingestion of certain types of poisons and toxins. Many researchers argue that we currently live in the most toxic times in human history. With over 80,000 chemicals within food, air, water, cosmetics, household cleaners, toys, containers, and much more, the value of activated charcoal increases dramatically. (1)

Activated charcoal’s unique structure forms as a result of extreme heat being applied to carbon rich substances such as bamboo, coconut shells, wood, peat, bone char, olive pits, coal, and lignite. The heating of carbon rich material creates micro-pockets and an increased surface area. The charcoal that’s been “activated” acts as a powerful magnet for many different types of toxins, poisons, drugs, and metals. The negative electrical charge is ideal since many toxic substances are positively charged and are attracted to this charge. For ingestion, it is ideal to use coconut shell activated charcoal. 

Some of the many medical benefits of activated charcoal include: 

Decreasing the body’s toxic burden

Studies have shown that activated charcoal may help to bind up to 25-50% of the toxins and chemicals that accumulate within the body on a daily basis. Using a teaspoon of coconut shell charcoal 2-3 days per week may help to give the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and other organs a much needed break from working so hard processing toxins. It may also help to lower the amount of damage that these toxins can cause in our cells. Make sure to stay hydrated and take activated charcoal supplements away from other vitamins, nutrients, herbs, or medications.

Improving gut health and intestinal gas

Our gut microbiome hosts an incredible range of life within it. Some are critical to good health, while others can proliferate and cause a slew of health problems. Activated charcoal may help to trap a variety of toxins, heavy metals, plastic residues, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and pesticides, allergens, and much more before they cause damage. A study with rats showed a decrease in stomach inflammation after using activated charcoal. It may also help to decrease gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps according to one double-blind study. Some people have even reported decreased hangover symptoms and traveler’s sickness, although this has yet to be proven in clinical studies. (3)

Kidney health

By trapping and binding to different toxins in the gut, activated charcoal helps to lighten the burden that the kidneys have to filter. The binding power of charcoal helps to filter out byproducts of digestion that can cause damage. A study done on rats with kidney disease showed reduced damage and an improvement in functioning after taking activated charcoal. (4,5)

May help lower cholesterol

While more studies are needed, research has shown that taking a fairly high dose of activated charcoal for 4 weeks lowered LDL cholesterol by 25% and increased “good” HDL cholesterol by 8%! Impressive changes within such a short time frame. It is not recommended to use activated charcoal on a long-term basis, but if your numbers aren’t in an ideal range, it may be worth a try. (6)

Stomach bugs and diarrhea

Activated charcoal is ideal because of its ability to bind to different organisms that can cause diarrhea. While activated charcoal won’t bind to all types of bacteria, a 2017 study concluded that activated charcoal is a safe, effective way to treat diarrhea. Although activated charcoal may not work in all cases, the safety profile and range of toxins it can bind make it an ideal choice. (7)


Activated charcoal hasn’t been studied in depth for gout, but it may help to improve the symptoms and severity over time. The reason for this is because of its ability to bind to uric acid and escort it out of the body. As uric acid is less able to bind to certain minerals and be lodged within joints, symptoms may improve. Tart cherry extract and celery seed are two other remedies that would pair well with activated charcoal for gout.