Using Activated Charcoal To Improve Your Health

Why would you take some black powder into your body that reminds you of the stuff at the bottom of your charcoal grill? Well lots of seemingly sane people are doing it all the time, and with good results! Food grade activated charcoal is one of the most absorbent substances in existence. It soaks up virtually everything it comes in contact with in the G.I. tract. It has the added benefit that it itself doesn’t get absorbed, so whatever it binds exits the body when the activated charcoal is eliminated with a bowel movement.

Activated charcoal is like billions of little tiny dust busters, and sponges, soaking up and cleaning up toxins, everywhere they go. It is filled with a huge amount of tiny absorptive pockets. One gram of it has the absorptive capacity of 500 square meters of absorptive space. Research shows that activated charcoal (A.C.) does the following things:


  • The charcoal can be used to absorb some of the cholesterol being excreted by the liver into the intestine via the bile.
  • It is used by many emergency rooms to treat accidental swallowing of poisons.
  • It absorbs toxic heavy metals, various chemicals, and pharmaceutical drugs that your body is trying to get rid of via the liver/bile pathway. In other words, your liver has processed these toxins and dumped then into your intestines. When taken orally the A.C. passes out of the stomach and begins soaking up these toxins and binds them fast until they are eliminated with the charcoal. The A.C. prevents re-absorption and further harm caused by these toxins which can be a common problem with chronic illness.
  • It absorbs and binds some pathogenic yeast and funguses, parasites, and harmful bacteria and removes them from the intestines. Perhaps even more importantly, it binds the plethora of fungal toxins, and bacterial/parasite biotoxins that these harmful, pathogenic organisms manufacture. This is important if you realize that the production of these intestinal toxins is a key way that bad bugs keep the upper hand on all your good microbes. There is a war of attrition going on in your gut 24/7 as these microbes battle for turf and food. The bad bacteria that naturally live in your gut can win this battle by producing chemicals that are toxic to their competitors, the good bacteria. If the bad bugs in your gut are winning out (dysbiosis) then you will likely feel toxic and ill much of the time. The generally accepted balance is 80/20. You want 80% of the microbes in your gut to be healthful ones. Many chronically sick people are reversed with a 20/80 ratio (or worse). In addition to the toxins generated internally, mycotoxins from external mold in one’s environment can make people ill and charcoal can absorb these as the body attempts to eliminate them via the bowel.
  •  Other uses are: acute stomach viral infections and diarrhea, bacterial food poisoning (salmonella, E Coli), acne, bad breath, gas and bloating, and it is even used effectively as a tooth whitener by brushing with it.

Native Americans were using charcoal as medicine before Europeans ever set foot on the American continents.

It has a pretty long and well established safety record.

Other questions about activated Charcoal are:


Question: Can Charcoal cause constipation?

Answer: Yes. It appears that if taken in the higher doses 4-6 capsules that charcoal can have a binding effect not only on toxins but also on your bowel motility. It’s a trade off. It absorbs many toxic substances in the bowel but it also can bind you up if you take too much. Also, charcoal taken in excess seems to have a negative effect on bowel flora. To prevent these things what you can do is mix 1 or 2 charcoal capsules with 1 teaspoon of the fiber slippery elm. The slippery elm will effect the absorptive capacity of the charcoal slightly but it will speed the transit time of the charcoal through your intestine. If you suffer from constipation exercise caution in your use of higher doses of charcoal.

Question: I know activated charcoal is great for acute poisoning, but what if my toxicity problems are more chronic? (As in chronic biotoxin poisoning from multiple chronic infections or mold.)

Answer: As many individuals who are suffering with Chronic Fatigue, Lyme disease, Fibromyalgia, and general chronic feelings of unwellness and malaise can tell you, many detox therapies that others rave about seem to only bring them short term relief at best. To make gains they must be more patient and consistent in their approaches to finally get the sense of well being that comes with good detoxification therapies. Activated charcoal can fit into this. Daily use of a good quality charcoal can gradually and slowly lower the load of toxins in your body through the mechanisms described above. It is the slow, steady use that counts. This is especially important when many of the toxins are internally generated by your own body and/or chronic infections (biotoxin poisoning). It is important to use a small dose when taking long term as long term use of a large dose could effect bowel regularity and flora. Perhaps one or two capsules per day.

Question: Why is food grade activated charcoal that’s made from natural ingredients like coconut shells, nut shells, bamboo, or hardwood a better choice for you?

Answer: Some activated charcoal is made from coal or petroleum pitch. If you know much about these you are aware that they contain mercury and other toxins. The idea of taking something made from coal would turn off most who are interested in using clean, natural products only. In addition, it is possible to create activated charcoal using caustic chemicals. This is fine for industrial use, but food grade A.C. is created by using heat, not chemicals.

Question: Are there cautions associated with long term use?

Answer: Yes! Anything this absorbent can have the effect of absorbing some of the nutrients in your food if you take too much, and take at inappropriate times.


Question: How can I use it along with other natural therapies to overcome a fairly entrenched toxicity condition without absorbing too many of my nutrients?

Answer: You want the A.C. to soak up the toxins and not the nutrients. To optimize toxin absorption A.C. can be used along with any natural cleansing therapy that promotes bile release. (Again, bile is the substance that the body uses to excrete most of the persistent, fat soluble toxins a chronically ill person is dealing with). This includes coffee enemas, and bitter herb extracts like gentian. It is also used by some holistic practitioners as a biotoxin absorber to be taken an hour or so following a dose of any antimicrobial product. It quickly soaks up the toxins in the gut that are being released by the dying fungi, bacteria, or parasites. As regards the question of preserving your nutrients, a single daily dose is preferable to dosing throughout the day. It is best taken on an empty stomach with water at least an hour before food, or 3-4 hours after food (dependent upon how fast or slow your digestion is). To further protect your long term nutritional status, you should support your digestive secretions, use good quality nutritional supplements, eat foods dense in minerals, vitamins, and other micronutrients, and use juicing and green smoothies. Taking these nutrient rich foods and juices far away from your dose of activated charcoal is also key.

As a traditional naturopath that wants to use every available tool to help people overcome the suffering of chronic microbial toxin poisoning, I have found activated charcoal to be excellent for this and constantly get good feedback. People feel better after a few weeks or months of consistent use. One of the safest ways to accomplish this is to place a couple of capsules and a glass of water beside one’s bed and take the capsules during the middle of the night away from food.


Question: How does activated charcoal compare to other products designed to cleanse the bowel or absorb toxins like clay and fiber?

Answer: There are many good fiber and clay products out there. Fiber supplements don’t have the absorption capacity of A.C. My own preference is to get fiber via food. A diet high in plant foods that are unprocessed adds all the fiber you need. One of the other benefits of certain fiber supplements is that they function as prebiotics, meaning that they serve as food for good bacteria and also pathogens (which is a different subject than we are discussing here). As regards clays, my own view is that due to some of the metals like aluminum and arsenic that they contain, I have some feelings of reservation about long term use. Short term seems fine.


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