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.
Overview InformationCommon 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.
Side Effects & SafetyActivated 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.
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.
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.
- Anon. Position paper: Ipecac syrup. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2004;42:133-43. View abstract.
- Anon. Position statement and practice guidelines on the use of multi-dose activated charcoal in the treatment of acute poisoning. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology; European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1999;37:731-51. View abstract.
- Bond GR. The role of activated charcoal and gastric emptying in gastrointestinal decontamination: a state-of-the-art review. Ann Emerg Med 2002;39:273-86. View abstract.
- Brahmi N, Kouraichi N, Thabet H, Amamou M. Influence of activated charcoal on the pharmacokinetics and the clinical features of carbamazepine poisoning. Am J Emerg Med 2006;24(4):440-3. View abstract.
- Chiew AL, Gluud C, Brok J, Buckley NA. Interventions for paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018;2:CD003328. View abstract.
- Chyka PA, Seger D, Krenzelok EP, et al. Position paper: single-dose activated charcoal. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2005;43(2):61-87. View abstract.
- Coffin B, Bortolloti C, Bourgeouis O, Denicourt L. Efficacy of a simethicone, activated charcoal and magnesium oxide combination (Carbosymag) in functional dyspepsia: results of a general practice-based randomized trial. Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol 2011;35(6-7):494-9.View abstract.
- Cooper GM, Le Couteur DG, Richardson D, Buckley NA. A randomized clinical trial of activated charcoal for the routine management of oral drug overdose. QJM 2005;98(9):655-60. View abstract.
- Eddleston M, Juszczak E, Buckley NA, et al. Multiple-dose activated charcoal in acute self-poisoning: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2008;371(9612):579-87. View abstract.
- Gude AB, Hoegberg LC, Angelo HR, Christensen HR. Dose-dependent adsorptive capacity of activated charcoal for gastrointestinal decontamination of a simulated paracetamol overdose in human volunteers. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2010;106(5)406-10. View abstract.
- Hall RG Jr, Thompson H, Strother A. Effects of orally administered activated charcoal on intestinal gas. Am J Gastroenterol 1981;75:192-6. View abstract.
- Hoegberg LC, Angelo HR, Christophersen AB, Christensen HR. Effect of ethanol and pH on the adsorption of acetaminophen (paracetamol) to high surface activated charcoal, in vitro studies. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2002;40:59-67. View abstract.
- Hoekstra JB, Erkelens DW. No effect of activated charcoal on hyperlipidaemia. A double-blind prospective trial. Neth J Med 1988;33:209-16.
- Kaaja RJ, Kontula KK, Raiha A, Laatikainen T. Treatment of cholestasis of pregnancy with peroral activated charcoal. A preliminary study. Scand J Gastroenterol 1994;29:178-81. View abstract.
- Kerihuel JC. Charcoal combined with silver for the treatment of chronic wounds. Wounds UK 2009;5(3):87-93.
- Kerihuel JC. Effect of activated charcoal dressings on healing outcomes of chronic wounds. J Wound Care. 2010;19(5):208,210-2,214-5. View abstract.
- Lecuyer M, Cousin T, Monnot MN, Coffin B. Efficacy of an activated charcoal-simethicone combination in dyspeptic syndrome: results of a randomized prospective study in general practice. Gastroenterol Clin Biol 2009;33(6-7):478-84. View abstract.
- Mulligan CM, Bragg AJ, O'Toole OB. A controlled comparative trial of Actisorb activated charcoal cloth dressings in the community. Br J Clin Pract 1986;40(4):145-8. View abstract.
- Mullins M, Froelke BR, Rivera MR. Effect of delayed activated charcoal on acetaminophen concentration after simulated overdose of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2009;47(2):112-5. View abstract.
- Neuvonen PJ, Kuusisto P, Vapaatalo H, Manninen V. Activated charcoal in the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia: dose-response relationships and comparison with cholestyramine. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1989;37:225-30. View abstract.
- Park GD, Spector R, Kitt TM. Superactivated charcoal versus cholestyramine for cholesterol lowering: a randomized cross-over trial. J Clin Pharmacol 1988;28:416-9. View abstract.
- Rehman H, Begum W, Anjum F, Tabasum H, Zahid S. Effect of rhubarb (Rheum emodi) in primary dysmenorrhoea: a single-blind randomized controlled trial. J Complement Integr Med. 2015 Mar;12(1):61-9. View abstract.
- Roberts DM, Southcott E, Potter JM, et al. Pharmacokinetics of digoxin cross-reacting substances in patients with acute yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana) poisoning, including the effect of activated charcoal. Ther Drug Monit 2006;28(6):784-92. View abstract.
- Sergio GC, Felix GM, Luis JV. Activated charcoal to prevent irinotecan-induced diarrhea in children. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2008;51(1):49-52. View abstract.
- Skinner CG, Chang AS, Matthews AS, Reedy SJ, Morgan BW. Randomized controlled study on the use of multiple-dose activated charcoal in patients with supratherapeutic phenytoin levels. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2012;50(8):764-9. View abstract.
- Suarez FL, Furne J, Springfield J, Levitt MD. Failure of activated charcoal to reduce the release of gases produced by the colonic flora. Am J Gastroenterol 1999;94:208-12. View abstract.
- Wananukul W, Klaikleun S, Sriapha C, Tongpoo A. Effect of activated charcoal in reducing paracetamol absorption at supra-therapeutic dose. J Med Assoc Thai 2010;93(10):1145-9. View abstract.
- Wang X, Mondal S, Wang J, et al. Effect of activated charcoal on apixaban pharmacokinetics in healthy subjects. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs 2014;14(2):147-54. View abstract.
- Wang Z, Cui M, Tang L, et al. Oral activated charcoal suppresses hyperphosphataemia in haemodialysis patients. Nephrology (Carlton) 2012;17(7):616-20. View abstract.
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