Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a hardworking ingredient you might have seen in skincare and supplements. Its main purpose is to support your health by helping remove harmful substances from your body.

But can activated charcoal help with a hangover? Can you count on it as a detoxifying skincare ingredient? The thing is, not all harmful substances bind to activated charcoal, so it’s not a one-size-fits all solution.

Read on to understand more about activated charcoal and its benefits. You’ll also discover our favorite recipes and what science says about activated charcoal. Let’s dive in.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal comes from organic materials like wood, coconut shells, peat or sawdust. These materials undergo carbonization. High temperatures and lack of oxygen make them break down into carbon-rich char. The char activates with the help of oxidizing agents or high-temperature steam.1

The resulting activated charcoal is then milled into a fine powder. This powder is manufactured as charcoal supplements. These supplements are an easy and convenient way to support detoxification of your body. You can also find activated charcoal in products like cosmetics and toothpastes.

Activated charcoal is a porous form of carbon that traps and absorbs toxins and chemicals. It works through a process called adsorption (which means to bind, rather than absorb). During this process, molecules and ions stick to activated charcoal’s surface. Because it has a big surface area and is a porous structure, it can trap a wide range of substances.

Activated charcoal pills move through your digestive system. As they do, they attract and bind to harmful compounds like toxins, gases and chemicals.2 Once they stick to the activated charcoal, your body can’t absorb these substances. Your body gets rid of them through bowel movements.

This makes activated charcoal beneficial for removing a range of harmful substances from your body.

Activated Charcoal Benefits

Here are some of the ways that activated charcoal can support your wellness journey:

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Activated charcoal can help your body get rid of certain toxins. For example, if you accidentally take too much of a certain drug. You usually need to take activated charcoal within an hour of ingesting the toxin. Otherwise, the treatment won’t work.3 Activated charcoal may help remove drugs like acetaminophen, aspirin and sedatives.

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Digestive Support

Activated charcoal improves gut health by absorbing excess gas and toxins in the digestive tract. Both can contribute to symptoms like uncomfortable bloating.4 By trapping these substances, activated charcoal may reduce the pressure and discomfort in your belly.

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Kidney Support

Limited research in animals shows that activated charcoal could support kidney function. It does this by supporting the filtration of certain drugs and toxins. In one study, administering activated charcoal to rats helped improve their kidney function. It also supported an antioxidant effect.5

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Water Purification

Activated carbon is often used in water filtration products to remove impurities and toxins. It is effective in getting rid of many harmful agents like viruses, bacteria, fungus, toxins, drugs and chemicals in water.6

The Science-Backed Benefits of Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal shows promising benefits, especially when it comes to kidney health.

Activated charcoal could target and reduce certain toxins for patients with severe kidney issues.7 A clinical trial conducted at a dialysis center in Iraq examined the effects of activated charcoal supplementation. The study enrolled 82 patients with severe kidney disease undergoing regular treatment. Of those, 15 received activated charcoal alongside their usual care. After 8 weeks, patients who took activated charcoal had big drops in their blood urea and phosphorus levels. This was compared to those who received only standard care.

Another study points to activated charcoal’s usefulness in patients with kidney problems. In this case, participants included 97 patients with moderate to severe kidney problems. Researchers looked at how taking activated charcoal by mouth affected two issues. The first was high phosphate levels in the blood (hyperphosphatemia). The second was hardening of blood vessels (vascular calcification).8 The study found that taking activated charcoal helped delay high phosphate levels. It also slowed the hardening of blood vessels in a significant number of patients.

Finally, activated charcoal could help with itching as a side effect for people undergoing dialysis.9 Researchers compared two methods to reducing itching in 60 patients. The first was taking activated charcoal by mouth. The second was making the blood flow faster during dialysis. Both treatments helped with itching. Using activated charcoal and speeding up blood flow together worked best.

These studies show interesting results. More research will help us understand the full range of benefits and potential risks of activated charcoal.

The Bulletproof Approach to Activated Charcoal

At Bulletproof, we take a holistic approach to health and wellness. That’s why we combine traditional knowledge and science when making our products. Doing so helps us ensure that our supplements are not only rooted in time-tested practices but also supported by the latest science.

Spotlight on Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has a rich history in traditional medicine for its detoxifying properties. That’s part of the reason we offer this supplement. We also looked to science for evidence that activated charcoal can help rid the body of toxins and promote gut health.

We want you to have the tools you need to get the most out of your day. Our activated charcoal pills offer a convenient way to help you get gastrointestinal relief when you need it. They’re especially great for travel when it becomes harder to follow your usual routine.

But optimizing health is not only about supplements. It’s also about cultivating healthy eating habits. There’s no way around finding the right balance between supplements and eating a nutrient-rich diet to feel your best.

Our Supplement Testing Standards

At Bulletproof, we focus on the quality and safety of our supplements. We follow rigorous testing standards to ensure the highest level of product integrity. We conduct comprehensive testing throughout the manufacturing process. This starts with sourcing raw materials and ends with the final product.

Our supplements undergo thorough quality control measures. This includes third-party testing. We work with independent laboratories to verify potency, purity and absence of contaminants. We also use advanced science to assess how well our formulations work. We study their bioavailability and effectiveness. We uphold stringent testing standards. We do this so we can guarantee our supplements meet the highest quality and safety criteria. We provide you with products you can trust to support your health and wellness journey.

Recipes for Activated Charcoal

Discover our top picks for activated charcoal recipes for added detoxification support. Choose from main dishes, beverages, snacks and breakfast.


Is activated charcoal good for a hangover?

Alcohol does not bind well to activated charcoal. This means you can’t rely on it to prevent or minimize hangover effects. Taking activated charcoal before, during or after drinking alcohol has zero effect on blood alcohol levels.10 When you drink alcohol, it gets absorbed into your bloodstream. This affects your body and causes hangover symptoms. Even if you take activated charcoal after drinking alcohol, it won’t remove the alcohol from your bloodstream or help you feel better.

How long does activated charcoal stay in your system?

Activated charcoal stays in your system for a short time because it is passing through. After you ingest it, it moves through your digestive system and picks up toxins, gases and chemicals. After that, you pass it through bowel movements. The exact duration depends on factors like how much you take and your metabolism, but it should be out of your system in 1 to 2 days.

What are the side effects of activated charcoal?

Side effects of activated charcoal are generally mild and infrequent. However, it can interfere with the absorption of certain medications if you take them at the same time. Activated charcoal may also cause delayed bowel movements.11 And when you do go to the bathroom, you may notice that your stool is black. This is normal and nothing to worry about. If you’re new to activated charcoal, consult a healthcare professional before use. This is especially important if you take other medications.

What is coconut charcoal?

Coconut charcoal is also known as coconut shell charcoal. It’s a type of activated charcoal made from coconut shells. To make the activated charcoal, coconut shells go through carbonization. This means they are heated without oxygen. After that, the charcoal activates with more processing. This processing increases its surface area and enhances its adsorption properties. Coconut charcoal has a porous structure and absorbs toxins and impurities. This makes it useful for water purification, air filtration and as a dietary supplement for detoxification.

Is activated charcoal a good teeth whitener?

You may have seen toothpastes and whitening treatments touting the ability of activated charcoal to absorb stains on teeth. There is limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness and safety for this purpose. Some people report seeing temporary improvements in tooth color after using activated charcoal. However, it can potentially damage tooth enamel and gums due to its abrasive nature.12 Plus, long-term use of activated charcoal for teeth whitening may lead to unwanted side effects. These could include tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.

What gut health supplements help with bloating?

Several Bulletproof supplements can ease bloating by supporting gut health and reducing gas buildup. We love gut health supplements. Our favorites include Coconut Charcoal, Express 3-in-One Probiotic and Gut Health Collagen Protein. Coconut charcoal helps absorb excess gas and toxins in the digestive tract for more comfortable digestion. Express 3-in-1 Probiotic can support your quest for a healthy gut microbiome balance. Gut Health Collagen Protein includes nutrients for a healthy gut and good digestion. These include grass-fed hydrolyzed collagen, prebiotics and probiotics.

Is activated charcoal a scientifically proven ingredient in skincare?

No, it is not proven. Activated charcoal is used in many skincare products due to its claims to draw out impurities and toxins from the skin. However, there is limited scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness.13 Research on activated charcoal’s skincare benefits is lacking. Existing studies often have small sample sizes or are inconclusive. Plus, there are no standardized methods for evaluating its skincare effects. This makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.