Activated Carbon, Animal Charcoal, Carbo Vegetabilis, Carbon, Carbón Activado, Charbon Actif, Charbon Activé, Charbon Animal, Charbon Médicinal, Charbon Végétal, Charbon Végétal Activé, Charcoal, Gas Black, Lamp Black, Medicinal Charcoal, Noir de Gaz, Noir de Lampe, Vegetable Carbon, Vegetable Charcoal.<br/><br/>


Overview Information

Common charcoal is made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell, or petroleum. "Activated charcoal" is similar to common charcoal. Manufacturers make activated charcoal by heating common charcoal in the presence of a gas. This process causes the charcoal to develop lots of internal spaces or "pores." These pores help activated charcoal "trap" chemicals.

Activated charcoal is commonly taken by mouth to treat poisonings. It is also used for intestinal gas (flatulence), high cholesterol, hangovers, upset stomach, and bile flow problems (cholestasis) during pregnancy.

Activated charcoal is applied to the skin as part of bandages for helping heal wounds.

How does it work?

Activated charcoal works by "trapping" chemicals and preventing their absorption.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Poisoning. Activated charcoal is useful for trapping chemicals to stop some types of poisoning when used as part of standard treatment. Activated charcoal should be given within 1 hour after a poison has been ingested. It does not seem to be beneficial if given for 2 or more hours after some types of poisoning. And activated charcoal doesn't seem to help stop all types of poisoning.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Lowering cholesterol levels. So far, research studies don't agree about the effectiveness of taking activated charcoal by mouth to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Diarrhea caused by the cancer drug irinotecan. Irinotecan is a cancer drug known to cause diarrhea. Early research shows that taking activated charcoal during treatment with irinotecan decreases diarrhea, including severe diarrhea, in children taking this drug.
  • Decreasing gas (flatulence). Some studies show that activated charcoal is effective in reducing intestinal gas, but other studies don't agree. It's too early to come to a conclusion on this.
  • Indigestion. Some early research shows that taking certain combination products containing activated charcoal and simethicone, with or without magnesium oxide, can reduce pain, bloating, and feelings of fullness in people with indigestion. It's unclear if taking activated charcoal by itself will help.
  • Treating reduced bile flow (cholestasis) during pregnancy. Taking activated charcoal by mouth seems to help treat cholestasis in pregnancy, according to some early research reports.
  • Lowering phophate levels in people on dialysis. Early research shows that taking activated charcoal daily for 24 weeks might reduce phosphate levels in people on hemodialysis who have high phosphate levels.
  • Preventing hangover. Activated charcoal is included in some hangover remedies, but some experts are skeptical about how well it might work. Activated charcoal doesn't seem to trap alcohol well.
  • Toxic effects from the antiseizure drug phenytoin. Some early research shows that activated charcoal can help remove phenytoin from the body, bringing the phenytoin levels back to a normal range.
  • Wound healing. Studies on the use of activated charcoal for wound healing are mixed. Some early research shows that using bandages with activated charcoal helps wound healing in people with venous leg ulcers. But other research shows that activated charcoal does not help treat bed sores or venous leg ulcers.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of activated charcoal for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

Activated charcoal is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth, short-term, or when applied to wounds. Side effects taking activated charcoal by mouth 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.



Major Interaction

Do not take this combination

  • Syrup of ipecac interacts with ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

    Activated charcoal can bind up syrup of ipecac in the stomach. This decreases the effectiveness of syrup of ipecac.

Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

  • Alcohol interacts with ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

    Activated charcoal is sometimes used to prevent poisons from being absorbed into the body. Taking alcohol with activated charcoal might decrease how well activated charcoal works to prevent poison absorption.

  • Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs) interacts with ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

    Activated charcoal absorbs substances in the stomach and intestines. Taking activated charcoal along with medications taken by mouth can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs, and decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To prevent this interaction, take activated charcoal at least one hour after medications you take by mouth.



The following doses have been studied in scientific research:



  • For drug overdose or poisoning: 50-100 grams of activated charcoal is given at first, followed by charcoal every 2-4 hours at a dose equal to 12.5 grams per hour. Sometimes a single-dose of 25-100 grams of activated charcoal may be used.

  • For drug overdose or poisoning: Activated charcoal 10-25 grams is recommended for children up to one year of age, while activated charcoal 25-50 grams is recommended for children 1-12 years of age. Activated charcoal 10-25 grams is recommended if multiple-doses of activated charcoal are needed.

View References


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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

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