Activated Charcoal for Food Poisoning: How and When to Use It?

Updated on April 21st, 2020
activated charcoal for food poisoning

Earlier, getting diagnosed with food poisoning meant rushing to the hospital to get a treatment that usually consisted of a charcoal flush. But now, with activated charcoal easily available in capsule form at a grocery store near you, a run to the hospital can be avoided completely.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 to 21 million Americans are at a risk of getting stomach flu, also known as food poisoning(1). Activated charcoal for food poisoning is considered as one of the apt remedies.

Charcoal is usually associated with backyard grills and barbecued steak. But not many people would know about its stomach-infection curing medicinal properties.

Activated charcoal is a product of a variety of burned materials such as coconut shells, bamboos, wood, and coal. There are records of activated charcoal being used as a treatment hundreds of years ago by Native Americans.

In fact, some records hint at its use for medicinal purposes in Egypt also. The temperature at which activated charcoal(1) is processed is extremely high, which is why ends up in a black powdery substance that has incredible absorption abilities.

Did You Know?

  1. Activated charcoal could be highly effective in promoting kidney health. It could play a crucial role in filtering out the unwanted toxins and drugs from the kidneys.
  2. Activated charcoal is a natural water filter. When mixed in water, activated charcoal interacts with various harmful substances such as viruses, drugs, bacteria, fungus and any type of harmful chemicals and absorbs them and consequently, leaves the water healthy for drinking.

How Does Activated Charcoal for Food Poisoning Work ?

Activated Charcoal
Image: ShutterStock

Activated charcoal contains incredible toxin absorption abilities. Not just that, activated charcoal does not get digested in your system, which means it can simply pass through your body taking all the harmful toxins along with it. Food poisoning can lead to bloating and cause discomfort to your stomach.

Activated charcoal can calm your digestive system and can even help you get rid of the bloating. Therefore, whenever you are stepping out for dinner and do not know what could end up in your stomach, keeping activated charcoal for food poisoning(2) or stomach flu handy is always recommended.

[Read: Natural Ways to Treat Food Poisoning]

How to Use ?

Activated charcoal capsules are easily available online and can also be bought from your nearest grocery store. If the symptoms of stomach flu or food poisoning start kicking in or if you have been actively vomiting, pop in an activated charcoal capsule to get immediate relief.

It is also recommended to keep your body properly nourished so that the risk of activated charcoal absorbing good nutrients from the body can also be covered. If your symptoms start worsening, stop taking the supplement and visit your doctor at the earliest.

Interesting Facts about Activated Charcoal

  1. The adsorption properties of activated charcoal are so incredible that it can even cure and prevent a hangover. It can absorb several components of alcohol including some congeners, which are responsible for making you feel drowsy and nauseated the next morning.
  2. Brushing your teeth with activated charcoal can have unbelievable effects on your teeth. At first, having a mouthful of black teeth might be very off-putting, but once you rinse it off, your teeth will be whiter than ever.


Since activated charcoal s is available in the finely grounded form, a small dose of 50 grams can have the absorption area of up to 10 football fields.

Commonly, a dosage of 500 to 1000 mg is recommended two to three times a day to treat the symptoms of food poisoning. Taking other supplements with activated charcoal is also advisable so that all the good nutrients from the body do not get absorbed and flushed out along with toxins.

[Read: Natural Remedies for Nausea]

Is Activated Charcoal Safe for Children?

Charcoal Safe for Children
Image: ShutterStock

Although it is considered safe for use, consulting a pediatrician is always recommended. If the doctor has given a green single, you can start with ¼ or 200 mg of activated charcoal.

You can mix it with some apple sauce to make it taste better for the child. However, make sure that you are not giving it more than twice a day. If the symptoms of food poisoning such as abdominal pain or fever persist, consult your doctor immediately.

Risks Associated with It

When activated charcoal is used to treat poisoning or drug overdose, it is important that it is only administered at a health care facility.

However, there are several other conditions for which activated charcoal can be taken orally at home. But, there are certain risks associated with taking activated charcoal orally. These can include:

  • Black stools
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Black tongue

Some of the severe side-effects can include gastrointestinal blockages. If you are taking medication for constipation, consumption of activated charcoal should be avoided since it can cause electrolyte imbalance and several other problems. Taking activated charcoal can also interfere with the absorption of several other drugs. These include:

  • Digoxin
  • Theophylline
  • Acetaminophen
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

The use of activated charcoal can also lead to limited absorption of some nutrients.

Bottom Line

Activated charcoal removes toxins from the body by absorbing all the harmful substances and flushing them out from the system.

This makes activated charcoal an extremely useful remedy for treating problems like food poisoning, hangover, teeth whitening, and water contamination. However, if you are on any kind of medication, consulting your doctor before taking activated charcoal is recommended.

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