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The Low-Down on Activated Charcoal

October 2018

Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney Mona Vale

Activated charcoal is definitely becoming more mainstream, as it is now available in toothpaste, supplements, powders, soap, shampoo, cleansers and the list goes on. Personally, I believe a lot of misinformation is being shared about its benefit in detoxification. Up until recently, the use of activated charcoal has been mostly within hospitals in the acute management of poisoning, so I can see how this correlation can be made.

Does activated charcoal do anything for detoxification?

Activated charcoal only works on the food within the gut at the time it is taken, and is mostly shown to reduce flatulence by absorbing gases (it may cause constipation for a day or so after ingestion). So if you think dosing up on charcoal will purify your body after partying in Europe for a month, sadly it won’t. *cue shock and awe* Maybe try some of these alcohol free drink ideas for a while instead.

There is some evidence it may help to lower blood cholesterol, as charcoal disrupts the circulation and absorption of bile acids between the liver and small intestine. It is because of this disruption charcoal is able to bind to and detoxifying drugs (prescribed or alternate). Which means, if you’re taking medication for a particular health condition it will also interferes with the absorption and effect of the medication on that day; So best avoided.

What is activated charcoal good for?

Purifying water – yes indeedy! A good quality water filter will often have activated charcoal as part of it’s filtering process.

Whitening teeth – whilst no scientific evidence (instagram doesn’t count), there is anecdotal evidence that it works and is a natural option.

Face mask or make up remover – you know how sometimes you just cant get the last remnants of mascara off? No, just me then. Well combine a little activated charcoal and some coconut oil and you’ve got yourself either an amazing face mask or make up remover.

So can you still consume it?

Yes you can. Personally, I have activated charcoal at home. I use it occasionally. Usually half a teaspoon in a smoothie.  I have also used it to clean my teeth (ever looked in the mirror after brushing your teeth with charcoal!). My advice; activated charcoal is best used sparingly.

I hope that helps to clarify some misconceptions.

Until next time… x



Jess is a registered nutritionist, based on Sydney’s northern beaches. Jess works with women to help them to take control of, and manage their health. She has a special interest in improving digestion, hormonal health and weight loss. Want to get your health back on track? Get in touch let’s get it sorted together.

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