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Activated charcoal (a.k.a. active carbon, adsorbent charcoal, and medicinal charcoal) is a fine black carbon powder made from natural materials such as wood pulp. Due to its large surface area, activated charcoal has high adsorption properties, meaning that it keeps certain substances from being absorbed in the body’s gastro-intestinal tract.
Research has been conducted about the effect activated charcoal has on alleviating digestive complaints such as intestinal gas.1 Activated charcoal is commonly used to prevent overdose of certain toxic substances.2
Dosages vary depending upon the reason for supplementation. For those desiring possible reduction of LDL cholesterol levels, the general recommended dosage is 5-8 grams, 2-3 times daily. For those using activated charcoal as an anti-flatulent, the recommended dosage is 500-1000mg as needed. Activated charcoal is available in the following forms: capsules, enteric coated tablets, granules, liquid, and tablets.
May cause black stools, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting in large doses. Those without an anatomically intact gastro-intestinal tract, or any bowel obstruction should not use activated charcoal. Due to its great adsorption properties, activated charcoal should be taken two hours before or two hours after consumption of food, nutritional supplements or medications.
1. Am J Gastroenterol. 1981 Mar;75(3):192-6.
2. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2007 Apr;19(2):216-22.