Is Activated Charcoal Really Healthy? Our Take.

Parsley Health
July 8, 2015

Activated charcoal has become something of a superstar in the wellness community. You can find it as the main ingredient in juices, skin care products, and even as a teeth-whitening go-to.

We have Gwyneth Paltrow and the Goop team to thank for touting activated charcoal lemonade as one of the “best juice cleanses” in 2014, and Bulletproof Executive for making it a detoxification go-to for other trendsetters.

So does activated charcoal really work? Here is the scoop!

Activated charcoal is known for its ability to safely remove harmful toxins from the digestive tract . In fact, hospitals keep it on hand as a routine part of poisoning protocols, and it’s been used by healers in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for over 10,000 to improve intestinal health. Today, even doctors are talking about its benefits.

Note: this is NOT the same as the stuff you use to grill at your summer BBQ. Instead activated charcoal is made by burning a source of carbon (think: wood, debris, or coconut shells). This process removes the oxygen and activates it with gases leaving behind a highly adsorbent material with millions of tiny pores.

What makes activated charcoal unique is this that it’s an agent of adsorption—the process of binding molecules or particulars to a surface. This means charcoal traps toxins and chemicals in its pores and carries them safely out of the body.

What’s our take?

Well, activated charcoal can help with gas and digestive discomfort, and it can be a helpful tool to improving the detoxification of heavy metals. And taken in small doses, activated charcoal is not typically harmful.

However, it’s important to note that everyone reacts differently to supplements , and most of all, overuse of charcoal can result in the following, in part because it binds to everything – the good and the bad, sometimes resulting in:


Reduced efficacy of prescription drugs and supplements

Depletion of vital nutrients

To ensure it’s only grabbing the bad stuff, it’s recommended to take charcoal before eating an unhealthy meal or overindulging in alcohol. The evidence isn’t strong, but some people say it helps ward off belly bloat, diarrhea, and hangovers.

So the answer to our question, Is Activated Charcoal Healthy?, is that in some circumstances it can be helpful in moving harmful toxins from the body and to relieve gas.

But should it be touted as a “super-mineral” for detoxification? Maybe not.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you tried activated charcoal? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Parsley Health

Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.

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