Activated Charcoal Cleanse

Activated charcoal is often used for “detoxification.” It has a place in the first aid cabinet, to be used if you have ingested certain kinds of poisons or if you have overdosed. It probably is not a good thing to use frequently.

If you do suspect that you have been poisoned, call 911 or a poison control center and report it, asking if it will help to take activated charcoal.  Whether or not it will work depends on several characteristics of the particular poison.

To be effective, activated charcoal must be taken soon after poisoning.  Once the poison has moved through your intestinal tract and into your bloodstream, it is too late.  Thirty minutes after ingestion may be best (see link below) but it may still help up to two hours after poisoning.

AC will absorb:

  • Acetaminophens
  • Antidepressants
  • Atropine
  • Barbiturates
  • Beta blockers
  • Digitalis glycosides (foxglove)
  • Excess digestive gas
  • Nicotine
  • Oral antidiabetics
  • Paracetamol
  • Sedatives
  • Tetracyclines

AC will not absorb–or will absorb insufficiently:

  • Alcohol
  • Cyanide
  • Hydrogen and carbon substances like methane
  • Iron
  • Lithium
  • Opioids (use naloxone)
  • Substances that burn when touched or swallowed (i.e., gasoline, household cleaners)

For a more complete list of what it will or won’t work on:


  • May bind to nutrients that are good for you
  • May bind to medications and supplements
  • Can cause several digestive disorders if used frequently
  • Do not give to someone who is unconscious, has a swallowing disorder, brain seizures, gastrointestinal tract injury/bleeding/perforation.