Activated Charcoal

29 mins read

It was 1831. In front of his recognized colleagues at the french academy of medicine, teacher touery consumed a deadly dosage of strychnine and lived to inform the tale. He had actually integrated the deadly toxin with activated charcoal.

That’s how powerful activated charcoal is as an emergency situation decontaminant in the gastrointestinal (gi) tract, that includes the stomach and intestines. Activated charcoal is considered to be the most reliable single representative available. It is utilized after an individual swallows or absorbs nearly any hazardous drug or chemical.

Activated charcoal is approximated to reduce absorption of poisonous substances almost to 60%.

It works by binding (adsorbing) chemicals, hence lowering their toxicity (poisonous nature), through the whole length of the stomach and little and large intestines (gi tract).

Activated charcoal itself is a fine, black powder that is odor-free, tasteless, and nontoxic.

Activated charcoal is often offered after the stomach is pumped (gastric lavage). Gastric lavage is just effective right away after swallowing a hazardous compound (within about one-half hour) and does not have effects that reach beyond the stomach as activated charcoal does. [1]


Activated charcoal has pores that can trap chemicals. It is normally taken by mouth as a treatment for some swallowed toxins. There is little proof for other usages.

Charcoal is made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell, or petroleum. Activated charcoal is made by heating charcoal in the presence of a gas. This process causes the charcoal to develop lots of internal spaces or pores. These pores assistance activated charcoal trap chemicals.

Activated charcoal is typically utilized to deal with poisoning. It is likewise used for high cholesterol, hangovers, and indigestion, but there is no strong clinical proof to support most of these usages. [2]


Activated charcoal is utilized in the first aid of particular kinds of poisoning. It helps prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body. Sometimes, several doses of activated charcoal are required to treat serious poisoning. Generally, this medicine is ineffective and must not be used in poisoning if destructive representatives such as alkalis (lye) and strong acids, iron, boric acid, lithium, petroleum items (e.g., cleaning up fluid, coal oil, fuel oil, gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner), or alcohols have been swallowed, given that it will not avoid these poisons from being absorbed into the body.

Some activated charcoal products contain sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sweetener. It likewise works as a laxative, for the removal of the poison from the body.products that contain sorbitol must be provided only under the direct supervision of a doctor since serious diarrhea and vomiting might result.

Activated charcoal might be offered without a medical professional’s prescription; however, prior to using this medication, call a poison control center, your physician, or an emergency clinic for recommendations.

This item is readily available in the following dosage forms:.

  • Suspension
  • Powder for suspension [3]

System of action

In cases of suspected poisoning, medical personnel administer activated carbon on the scene or at a health center’s emergency situation department. In rare circumstances, it may also be used in a hemoperfusion system to get rid of toxic substances from the blood stream of poisoned clients. Activated carbon has actually ended up being the treatment of option for numerous poisonings, and other decontamination techniques such as ipecac-induced emesis or stomach pumping are now utilized hardly ever.

Binding of the poison to prevent stomach and intestinal absorption. Reversible binding using a cathartic, such as sorbitol, might be added.

It disrupts the enterohepatic and enteroenteric blood circulation of some drugs/toxins and their metabolites. [4]

Benefits and uses of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal has numerous prospective health benefits.

However, a few of these advantages depend on research study that is decades old, so their credibility should be taken with a grain of salt.

Furthermore, you must not self-administer activated charcoal as a poison or overdose treatment. If you think poisoning or overdose, it’s finest to look for emergency situation medical support immediately.

Emergency situation poison treatment

Activated charcoal has been used as an emergency situation anti-poison treatment considering that the early 1800s. That’s due to the fact that it can bind to a variety of drugs, lowering their impacts.

This substance might be utilized to treat overdoses from both prescription drugs and non-prescription medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, and sedatives.

Research studies reveal that consuming 50– 100 grams of activated charcoal within 5 minutes of taking a drug might lower an adult’s capability to take in that drug by up to 74%.

Activated charcoal is stated to be most helpful when taken within the first hour after an overdose or poisoning. Older studies recommend that taking it after this initial hour is unlikely to assist.

However, more recent research study reports a number of cases in which it was effective even when taken past this first hour. This might be due to the fact that activated charcoal not only stops a drug from being taken in but likewise assists your body remove already absorbed drugs faster.

Moreover, research study suggests that activated charcoal might be helpful if used up to 4 hours after intake of delayed-release drugs, those which sluggish food digestion, and big drug doses.

In medical settings, the initial dose of 50– 100 grams is often followed by numerous smaller doses of 10– 25 grams, taken every 2– 4 hours for approximately 6 hours.

This multiple-dose activated charcoal (mdac) procedure may assist intoxications from slowly taken in drugs.

Although more research is needed, mdac might be specifically helpful in cases of harmful intake of dapsone, phenobarbital, quinine, carbamazepine, and theophylline.

It is essential to note that activated charcoal is not effective in all cases of poisoning. For instance, it appears to have little result on alcohol, heavy metal, iron, lithium, potassium, acid, or alkali poisonings.

Both old and new studies caution that activated charcoal shouldn’t be regularly administered in all cases of poisoning. Rather, its usage needs to be thought about on a case-by-case basis by certified health care specialists.

May promote kidney function

Activated charcoal may promote kidney function by decreasing the number of waste products that your kidneys have to filter.

This might be particularly helpful for individuals with persistent kidney disease. Healthy kidneys are normally very well geared up to filter your blood, but this condition inhibits your kidneys’ ability to get rid of urea and other toxins.

Activated charcoal may bind to urea and other toxic substances, assisting your body eliminate them.

Urea and other waste items can pass from the bloodstream into your gut through a procedure referred to as diffusion. In your gut, they bind to activated charcoal and get excreted in stool.

Older human research studies suggest that activated charcoal may assist lower blood levels of urea and other waste items, as well as enhance kidney function in people with chronic kidney disease.

One small study discovered comparable outcomes, but more research study is required.

May reduce symptoms of fish smell syndrome.

Activated charcoal may help reduce undesirable odors in individuals struggling with trimethylaminuria (tmau), also referred to as fish smell syndrome.

Tmau is a hereditary condition in which trimethylamine (tma), a compound that smells like rotting fish, collects in your body.

Your body typically converts tma into an odor-free substance before excreting it through urine, but individuals with tmau lack the enzyme required to perform this conversion. This causes tma to build up and enter urine, sweat, and breath, causing a nasty, fishy odor.

Research studies reveal that activated charcoal’s porous surface might bind to little, odorous substances like tma, increasing their excretion.

One small, older research study offered people with tmau 1.5 grams of charcoal for 10 days. This dosage decreased tma concentrations in their urine to typical levels.

A more recent case study suggests that integrating activated charcoal with medications and dietary changes might help in reducing fishy odor in people with tmau.

Larger, newer studies are required to confirm these results.

Might lower cholesterol levels

Activated charcoal may help in reducing cholesterol levels.

Older research recommends that activated charcoal may bind to cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids in your gut, avoiding them from being soaked up.

In one older study, taking 24 grams of activated charcoal each day for 4 weeks reduced total and ldl (bad) cholesterol by 25% each while raising hdl (good) cholesterol by 8%.

In another, taking 4– 32 grams of activated charcoal everyday helped in reducing total and ldl (bad) cholesterol by 29– 41% in those with high cholesterol levels. Bigger doses were most effective.

Other studies have actually observed similar conclusions, though the results are mixed. Plus, all appropriate research study was performed in the 1980s, so newer findings are needed.

Activated charcoal may treat poisoning, drug overdoses, and a condition called tmau. It may also assist lower cholesterol levels, though more research study is required. [5]

Intestinal gas

Activated charcoal powder is believed to have the ability to interfere with intestinal gas, although researchers still do not understand how.

Liquids and gases trapped in the intestinal tract can quickly travel through the millions of small holes in activated charcoal, and this process may neutralize them.

In a 2012 study, a small sample of people with a history of excessive gas in their intestinal tracts took 448 milligrams (mg) of activated charcoal three times a day for 2 days before having intestinal ultrasound evaluations. They also took another 672 mg on the early morning of the test.

The study revealed that the inspectors had the ability to see particular parts of a few of the organs much better with the ultrasound after the activated charcoal treatment. It stated digestive gas would have obscured these organs before the treatment.

Some 34 percent of the participants who were provided the activated charcoal to decrease their gas also had improved signs.

In a 2017 research study, people who took 45 mg of simethicone and 140 mg of activated charcoal 3 times daily for 10 days all reported a substantial reduction in stomach discomfort with no negative effects.

The research is still restricted, but a panel of the european food security authority (efsa) reports that there is enough proof to support the use of activated charcoal to decrease extreme gas build-up.

There is no set way to use activated charcoal for intestinal gas, however the efsa recommends taking at least 1 g 30 minutes prior to and after each meal.

Water purification

Individuals have actually long utilized activated charcoal as a natural water filter. Just as it carries out in the intestinal tracts and stomach, activated charcoal can interact with and take in a series of toxic substances, drugs, viruses, bacteria, fungus, and chemicals found in water.

In commercial settings, such as waste-management centers, operators typically utilize activated carbon granules for one part of the filtering procedure. Lots of water filtration products are also designed for at-home use, using carbon cartridges to cleanse water of toxins and impurities.

A 2015 study discovered that water filtration systems that used carbon eliminated as much as 100 percent of the fluoride in 32 unfiltered water samples after 6 months of setup.

While this shows the efficiency of carbon filtering, it ought to be kept in mind that in the u.s., including fluoride to neighborhood water products of numerous cities has improved the oral health of millions of american people.


Given its use as a gastrointestinal absorbent in overdoses and poisonings, it follows that some people might propose activated charcoal as a treatment for diarrhea.

In a 2017 evaluation of recent research studies on using activated charcoal for diarrhea, researchers concluded that it might be able to prevent germs and drugs that can trigger diarrhea from being absorbed into the body by trapping them on its permeable, textured surface area.

The researchers likewise explained that activated charcoal had couple of adverse effects, especially in contrast with common antidiarrheal medications.

Teeth bleaching and oral health

Dozens of teeth-whitening products consist of activated charcoal.

Lots of oral health items which contain activated charcoal claim to have various advantages, such as being:.

  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Cleansing

Activated charcoal’s toxin-absorbing residential or commercial properties may be essential here, but there is no significant research to support its usage for teeth lightening or oral health.

In a 2017 evaluation, scientists concluded there was not enough lab or scientific data to figure out the security or efficiency of activated charcoal for teeth whitening or oral health.

Skin care

Scientists have reported that activated charcoal can assist draw microparticles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and germs, to the surface area of the skin, which makes removing them easier.


Various activated charcoal antiperspirants are extensively available. Charcoal may absorb smells and harmful gases, making it perfect as an underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant.

Activated charcoal is likewise reported to be able to soak up excess wetness and control humidity levels at a micro level.

Skin infection

All over the world, many different traditional medication specialists utilize activated charcoal powder made from coconut shells to deal with soft tissue conditions, such as skin infections.

Activated charcoal may have an anti-bacterial impact by soaking up harmful microbes from injuries.

Medical uses of activated charcoal.

In the emergency room, medical professionals might often use activated charcoal to deal with overdoses or poisonings.

Activated charcoal can often help clear contaminants and drugs that include:.

  • Nsaids and other otc anti-inflammatories
  • Sedatives
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Dapsone
  • Carbamazepine (tegretol)
  • Malaria medications
  • Methylxanthines (moderate stimulants)

Activated charcoal can not bind to all kinds of contaminants or drugs, especially ones that are corrosive.

Drugs and medications that activated charcoal can not assist clear consist of:.

  • Alcohols
  • Lye
  • Iron
  • Lithium
  • Petroleum items, such as fuel oil, gas, paint thinner, and some cleansing items

If a person is mindful and alert, doctors may provide a beverage made with a powdered form of activated charcoal mixed with water. Medical staff can also administer activated charcoal mixes by means of feeding tubes in the nose or mouth if needed.

A specific should take or be provided activated charcoal within 1 to 4 hours of taking in a toxic substance for it to work. The charcoal can not work if the individual has actually currently digested the toxic substance or drug and it is no longer in the stomach.

Nobody needs to ever attempt to treat an overdose or poisoning at home. [6]

Is activated charcoal safe?

Activated charcoal is generally safe to use. But that does not suggest it’s without any threats. Its security depends on how it’s utilized. Danger levels depend upon if it’s swallowed or if it’s applied to the teeth, skin, or hair. Here are the primary dangers of consuming activated charcoal:.

  1. Seldom, it can go into your lungs instead of your stomach. In the lungs, it can trigger serious inflammation and inflammation (aspiration pneumonitis).
  2. It can prevent your body from absorbing food and soaking up nutrients.
  3. It can make medications and supplements less reliable. [7]

Activated charcoal adverse effects

Get emergency situation medical aid if you have signs of an allergy: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Although not all negative effects are known, activated charcoal is thought to be most likely safe for many people when utilized for a brief period of time, and possibly safe when utilized long term.

Call your medical professional at once if you have:.

  • Extreme irregularity;
  • Severe heartburn or sore throat; or
  • Dehydration– lightheadedness, confusion, feeling very thirsty, less urination or sweating.

Common adverse effects may include:

  • Constipation
  • Black stools [8]

What are warnings and safety measures for activated charcoal?


This medication contains activated charcoal. Do not take actidose-aqua, charcoal (triggered), charcoalaid, insta-char, liqui-char, and superchar if you dislike activated charcoal or any components included in this drug.

Keep out of reach of children. In case of overdose, get medical aid or contact a poison control center instantly.


Do not use if there is intestinal tract blockage, vulnerable airway (goal might happen), or caustic ingestions.

Results of drug abuse

There are no results of substance abuse with the use of activated charcoal.

Short-term effects

There are no short-term results from using activated charcoal.

Long-term impacts

There are no long-lasting impacts from the use of activated charcoal.


Consider the following warns when utilizing activated charcoal:.

  • Vomiting may happen
  • Care in patients with decreased peristalsis
  • Ipecac may reduce the effectiveness of activated charcoal
  • Sorbitol or other cathartics may increase the danger of significant electrolyte problems
  • Capsules or tablets not recommended for treatment of poisoning
  • An item consisting of sorbitol, not for use in clients with fructose intolerance

Note: activated charcoal is not effective with alcohols, caustics (contraindicated), iron, lithium, heavy metals, and mineral acids.

Pregnancy and lactation

Consult with your physician for use in pregnancy or when lactating. [9]

Drug interactions

Activated charcoal can disrupt the absorption of nutrients, vitamins and other supplements. It can also interfere with prescription medicine by reducing just how much medication your body soaks up, which can reduce the efficiency of the medication.

Take activated charcoal 90 minutes to 2 hours prior to meals, supplements and prescription medicine. Potential adverse interactions with the following drugs can happen:.

  • Naltrexone (used for alcohol and opioid reliance)
  • Acrivastine
  • Bupropion
  • Carbinoxamine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Meclizine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Morphine sulfate liposome
  • Mycophenolate mofetil
  • Mycophenolic acid
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Suvorexant
  • Tapentadol
  • Umeclidinium
  • Acetaminophin
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Theophylline


The dosage medicines in this class will be various for various clients. Follow your medical professional’s orders or the directions on the label. The following info consists of only the average dosages of these medications. If your dosage is various, do not change it unless your medical professional informs you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medication. Likewise, the number of doses you take every day, the time permitted between doses, and the length of time you take the medication depend on the medical issue for which you are using the medicine.

For activated charcoal

  • — for oral dose type (powder):
  • For treatment of poisoning:
  • Treatment with one dose:
  • Adults and teens– dosage is normally 25 to 100 grams combined with water.
  • Children 1 through 12 years of age– dosage is generally 25 to 50 grams combined with water, or the dosage might be based on body weight. It might be 0.5 to 1 gram per kg (kg) (0.23 to 0.45 gram per pound) of body weight mixed with water.
  • Kids up to 1 year of age– dose is usually 10 to 25 grams mixed with water, or the dose might be based on body weight. It might be 0.5 to 1 gram per kg (0.23 to 0.45 gram per pound) of body weight combined with water.
  • Treatment with more than one dose:
  • Adults and teens– initially, the dose is 50 to 100 grams. Then the dosage might be 12.5 grams provided every hour, 25 grams given every two hours, or 50 grams offered every four hours. Each dosage must be combined with water.
  • Kids approximately 13 years of age– at first, the dose is 10 to 25 grams. Then the dose is based upon body weight. It is generally 1 to 2 grams per kg (0.45 to 0.91 gram per pound) of body weight offered every 2 to 4 hours. Each dose must be blended with water.
  • — for oral dosage type (oral suspension):
  • For treatment of poisoning:
  • Treatment with one dose:
  • Adults and teens– dose is generally 25 to 100 grams.
  • Kids 1 through 12 years of age– dosage is normally 25 to 50 grams, or the dose might be based upon body weight. It might be 0.5 to 1 gram per kg (0.23 to 0.45 gram per pound) of body weight.
  • Children up to 1 year of age– dose is normally 10 to 25 grams, or the dose may be based on body weight. It may be 0.5 to 1 gram per kg (0.23 to 0.45 gram per pound) of body weight.
  • Treatment with more than one dose:
  • Grownups and teens– initially, the dosage is 50 to 100 grams. Then the dose might be 12.5 grams provided every hour, 25 grams provided every two hours, or 50 grams offered every 4 hours.
  • Children approximately 13 years of age– in the beginning, the dosage is 10 to 25 grams. Then the dose is based on body weight. It is usually 1 to 2 grams per kg (0.45 to 0.91 gram per pound) of body weight provided every two to 4 hours.

For activated charcoal and sorbitol

For oral dosage type (oral suspension):.

  • For treatment of poisoning:
  • Grownups and teenagers– dose is usually 50 to 100 grams of activated charcoal given one time.
  • Children 1 through 12 years of age– dosage is normally 25 to 50 grams of activated charcoal offered one time.
  • Kids as much as 1 year of age– usage is not recommended [10]

The bottom line

Activated charcoal keeps swallowed drugs and toxins from being taken in from the gut into the blood stream. It’s an extremely reliable treatment for lots of poisons. [11]


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