Activated Charcoal Detox: Everything You Need to Know

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We have all come across the dirty-looking black charcoal powder and have always discarded it as something which is useless. Did you know that ingesting activated charcoal detox is actually considered to be one of the best ways to detox your body?

Before you start jumping to any conclusions, do keep in mind that we are discussing charcoal that has been activated especially to suit your body and not the kind of charcoal that is used in barbeques! While both contain carbon as their source, they are treated using separate means which makes all the difference.

Consumption of activated charcoal has been effective in the reduction of bloating and gas along with other health benefits like lowering of cholesterol levels, an improvement in digestion, clear skin and white teeth! More importantly, it has proved to be quite useful in cases of poisoning due to its ability to absorb dangerous substances and eliminate them from the body.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated carbon is the result of combusting substances like coconut, wood, peal, bamboo and others. These substances are heated to a high temperature which subsequently leads to their activation due to the elimination of oxygen which changes their chemical structure. The resultant output is a material that is highly adsorbent and has the capability to bind and eliminate toxins from the body.

Charcoal is activated by using two techniques — physical activation and chemical activation.

  • Physical Activation: In this method, carbon is activated by exposing it to extremely high temperatures in the range of 600 to 900 degrees Celsius. A gas such as argon or nitrogen is introduced in this hot and inert arrangement. The carbonized output is again exposed to an oxidized environment at a high temperature to get activated charcoal.
  • Chemical Activation: Activated carbon is produced by introducing an acid, a base or a salt to the carbon source before it is heated. Using this method can help produce activated carbon at a lower temperature when compared with the method of physical activation.

Both of these methods successfully produce a highly porous activated charcoal that is effective in trapping and eliminating toxins from the body. The surface of this extremely fine black powder has a negative electric charge that attracts toxins and other dangerous elements.

The Oldest Detox Method in Existence

Activated charcoal is possibly the oldest method that has been used as a detox measure since ancient times. The first documented use of activated carbon has been recorded in ancient Egypt in 3750 BC. Though at that time activated charcoal was used for smelting ores, the Egyptians started using it to treat intestinal disorders.

The trend of using activated charcoal for detox seemed to have reached the Asian continents by 400 BC where it is believed that Hindus discovered the healing properties of activated charcoal and started using it to purify their drinking water. By the year 50 AD, activated charcoal had found a place in Greek medicine for the treatment of ailments such as epilepsy, vertigo and chlorosis.

The benefits of activated charcoal were rediscovered in the late 1700s as people began to focus on its capabilities of disinfection and high absorption of gases and fluids. It was positively received by people who began to discover its healing properties and started using it to their advantage.

Today, activated charcoal is available in the form of loose powder and supplements. Additionally, it has also become popular in bottled beverages that are available in forms like lemonades, cold-pressed juices and charcoal water. It is widely available and you can buy it either from retail stores or shop for them online.

How Activated Charcoal Works

Activated charcoal is manufactured by using physical and chemical processes, both of which expose carbon to a high temperature. This high temperature eliminates the oxygen from the material leaving it with adsorption properties.

Adsorption is not the same as absorption. While absorption refers to using up or consuming something, adsorption refers to the adhesion of other particles such as gases, liquids and solutes (present externally) to a source. Activated charcoal works using the property of adsorption which makes it highly porous and enables it to collect all the toxins in the digestive tract before they are absorbed by the body leading to harm.

The harmful materials are eliminated through healthy bowel movement without giving it a chance to fix itself elsewhere in the body. The effectiveness of activated charcoal diminishes over time. A research was conducted in which participants were given a 50 mg dose of activated charcoal at varying time intervals. It was found that the utility of activated charcoal diminished over time which pressed the need for regular dosage.

There is also a flip-side of consuming activated charcoal regularly. Since it displays a high capacity of adsorption, even beneficial substances like essential nutrients, vitamin B, vitamin C and other supplements can get eliminated from the body. This means that consuming it in the form of pressed juices and lemonades may actually take away the benefit that may be derived from the lemon or fruit pulp present in the juice.

Different Types of Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal possesses the highest volume of adsorption when compared to other materials in the same category. Activated charcoal can have a surface area greater than 1000 m2/g which means that 3 g of activated charcoal can have the surface area of a football field!

Activated charcoal is popularly derived by using a number of substances like coal, wood, peat, bamboo and coconut husks. It owes its popularity to the high rate of adsorption that it displays, thereby making it extremely effective as a method of detox.

  • Wood or Peat: Peat is a collection of partially decayed vegetables and organic matter which can be used to make activated charcoal. The carbon content found in wood and peat is of a macroporous nature which makes it ideal for the elimination of large molecules and compounds.
  • Coconut: The carbon found in coconut shells and husks is of a microporous nature. Therefore, the activated charcoal derived from it has a higher rate of adsorption and makes it an ideal choice for removing the toxins that have a lower molecular weight.
  • Coal: The pore structure of activated carbon derived from coal varies on the type and quality of coal used. However, it usually falls between the porosity range of wood and coconut which makes it a good choice for regular use as it does not require any fixed pore structure.
  • Raw Materials: Any organic material can be used to create activated charcoal. The porosity of the resultant charcoal would vary depending on the type of material being used to produce it.
  • Bamboo: Innumerable tiny pores in bamboo activated charcoal have the capacity of adsorbing toxins. It also has a high surface area to mass ratio which makes it an effective tool to help you detox.

Apart from the ability to be sourced from various materials, activated charcoal also comes in various forms which are suited for different applications. The shape, size and pore structure of activated carbon dictates its uses for several purposes related to detox and others. Activated charcoal can also be prepared using specific chemical inclusions to make it effective in targeting and removing a specific type of molecular compound.

  • Powdered Activated Charcoal: It comprises of pulverized carbon and has a size less than 0.18 mm or a US 80 mesh size. This form of activated carbon is generally used in the gas treatment and liquid phase applications.
  • Granular Activated Charcoal: A granular nature suggests that the particles of activated charcoal are irregular in shape and size. Their size ranges from 0.2 to 5 mm and can be used in both liquid and gas phase applications.
  • Extruded Activated Charcoal: The activated charcoal is extruded and cylindrical in shape with a size ranging from 0.8-5 mm in diameter. These are generally effective in gas applications because of the low content of dust and pressure present in it.

Coconut and Bamboo: The Best Kind

The use of activated charcoal is not limited to treating cases of poisoning. Modern medicine offers a lot of uses for this element which has been the oldest method of detox in the history of mankind. The high adsorption properties of activated charcoal have made it quite popular. It is also a general solution for treating digestive problems, excessive gas and bloating and also has anti-aging properties.

We have already gone through the various materials that can be used to produce activated charcoal. The porosity and size of activated charcoal obtained from various materials and techniques is different and has different uses. Activated charcoal is also used by veterinarians to remove toxins from the bodies of cattle. Unfortunately, many cattle and herd owners mix activated charcoal in low-quality fodder to reduce their costs and improve profits.

While hunting for the perfect source of activated charcoal that is best suited for detox, the answer clearly deviates towards two substances — bamboo and coconut. Both are naturally available in the environment which makes the activated charcoal derived from them 100% natural and eco-friendly.

Bamboo activated charcoal has a large number of pores which make it easier to adsorb a lot of toxins on its surface by using a miniscule amount. The greater number of pores will attract a large number of toxins to its surface which makes bamboo a great choice to detoxify your body. Bamboo charcoal has a 600:1 surface area to weight ratio even before it is activated. The ratio doubles up once it is activated and we can only imagine the amount of adsorption capacity that the bamboo activated charcoal will possess!

Coconut-activated charcoal is produced using coconut shells where the resultant charcoal is fine in texture and offers a greater volume and surface area to capture a larger number of toxins. It is again a natural product that has no added chemicals which might interfere with the detox process. Since coconut activated charcoal is super fine, it has the ability to capture toxins that have a low molecular weight and size and might go unnoticed.

Where to Buy Activated Charcoal

Toxins enter our bodies externally or are created internally when we consume low-quality food or food that has been processed excessively. When the body is exposed to such food habits for a long period, it may lead to chronic diseases and toxins that can lower our immunity levels, cause allergies and damage at a cellular level along with firing up aging. Therefore it is essential that such toxins are eliminated from our bodies on a regular basis to promote our overall fitness and well-being.

Activated charcoal is available quite easily today and comes in the form of powder, tablets and capsules which can be consumed in the appropriate dosage. It is one of the world’s oldest methods used for detoxification using a modern twist. The frequency and manner of using it will depend on personal choice.

Buying activated charcoal in a powdered form will definitely save you some money but it will also make the whole process of consumption a bit messy. At the same time, capsules and tablets are more user friendly and it will be easier to carry them around when you travel. While there are numerous brands in the market that supply activated charcoal for the purpose of detox, we have recommended a few below:

  • Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal Capsules: Bulletproof offers you a larger dosage per capsule compared to its competitors. This makes it a great choice to buy.
  • Zen Charcoal Hardwood Activated Charcoal Powder: The company offers two types of activated charcoal – hardwood and coconut. While it recommends the use of coconut activated charcoal for consumption, it suggests the use of hardwood for external applications like teeth whitening.
  • Charcoal House Chewable Activated Charcoal Tablets: A unique feature about these activated charcoal tablets is that they are chewable and are great for the treatment of nausea, indigestion and gas along with the treatment of dental problems.


While there are many ways to detox your body, using activated charcoal works wonders. What’s more? It is the oldest remedy used for internal detox and external factors like skin, teeth and hair. It is up to you to decide whether you wish to include it in your wellness regime or tap into it occasionally. Either way, you will see a noticeable difference in your personal health and well-being.

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