Activated Charcoal
December 2001. copyright of respective sources and contributors.

Activated Charcoal is one of the finest absorptive and adsorptive agents known (it is even mentioned in Webster’s Dictionary under the definition of the words absorb and adsorb). Orally administered, these odorless and tasteless fine black granules have an amazing ability to extract and neutralize thousands of times their own weight in gases, heavy metals, toxins, poisons and other chemicals. Activated Charcoal is known as an agent for cleansing and assisting the healing process of the body, and orally administered activated charcoal has proven to be very effective in preventing many intestinal infections.

Used as an emergency antidote for treatment of poisonings by most drugs and chemicals; also used to relieve diarrhea or excess gas. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body.

Activated charcoal prevents the absorption of certain kinds of drugs and chemicals by the body.

Dosage Guidelines

For poisoning - oral suspension and powder:
Adults and teenagers: 25 to 100 grams (g).
Children: 1 g per 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of body weight, or 25 to 50 g.
Mix powder with water. Take 1 time only.
Take with 8 oz of water.

For diarrhea - capsules:
Adults and children age 3 and older: 520 mg every 30 to 60 minutes, as needed.
Do not take more than 4.16 g per day.

For excess gas - tablets and capsules:
Adults and teenagers: 975 mg to 3.9 g, 3 times a day.

Warnings and Precautions

Activated charcoal may decrease the absorption of any medicine taken within 2 hours of administration. Acetylcysteine and ipecac syrup can decrease the effectiveness of activated charcoal.

Do not eat chocolate syrup, ice cream, or sherbet with activated charcoal. They will decrease the amount of poison the charcoal can absorb.

Parents should keep activated charcoal on hand in case of emergencies. Do not give charcoal together with syrup of ipecac. The charcoal will adsorb the ipecac. Charcoal should be taken 30 minutes after ipecac or after the vomiting from ipecac stops.

Some activated charcoal products contain sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sweetener as well as a laxative, therefore, it may cause severe diarrhea and vomiting. These products should not be used in infants.

Charcoal may interfere with the absorption of medications and nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. For uses other than for treatment of poisoning, charcoal should be taken two hours after other medications.

Charcoal should not be used to treat poisoning caused by corrosive products such as lye or other strong acids or petroleum products such as gasoline, kerosene, or cleaning fluids. Charcoal may make the condition worse and delay diagnosis and treatment. In addition, charcoal is also not effective if the poison is lithium, cyanide, iron, ethanol, or methanol.

Parents should not mix charcoal with chocolate syrup, sherbet, or ice cream, even though it may make charcoal taste better. These foods may prevent charcoal from working properly.

Activated charcoal may cause swelling or pain in the stomach. A doctor should be notified immediately. It has been known to cause problems in people with intestinal bleeding, blockage or those people who have had recent surgery. These patients should talk to their doctor before using this product.

Charcoal may be less effective in people with slow digestion.

Charcoal should not be given for more than three or four days for treatment of diarrhea. Continuing for longer periods may interfere with normal nutrition.

Charcoal should not be used in children under three years of age to treat diarrhea or gas.

Activated charcoal should be kept out of reach of children.
Side effects Charcoal may cause constipation when taken for overdose or accidental poisoning. A laxative should be taken after the crisis is over.
Activated charcoal may cause the stool to turn black. This is to be expected.
Pain or swelling of the stomach may occur. Doctor should be consulted.


Activated charcoal should not be mixed together with chocolate syrup, ice cream or sherbet. These foods prevent charcoal from working properly.





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