Already have an account?
Get back to the

Whether You’ve Been Exposed to Mold or Just Had a Few Too Many, Activated Charcoal Is Your Go-To Clean Up Crew

Amy Myers, MD, shares how this detoxifying powerhouse can help you feel great and lose weight

When it comes to detoxifying the body, there’s one supplement that comes out on top: activated charcoal. The master detoxifier does everything from shuttling disease-causing compounds out of the body to slashing levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol. This healthful powder has been used to help ease digestive upset for ages, but it’s just now making waves in the health and wellness space for good reason. Read on to learn about its myriad benefits and then try one of our delicious recipes for charcoal smoothies.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a powder made by burning food-grade coal, wood or coconut shells at a high temperature — a process that creates pores in the charcoal. These pores are key, since they “bind to toxins and help your body flush them out of your system,” explains Amy Myers MD, CEO & Founder of Amy Myers MD®. It’s widely available in powder form and also as capsules (for more on what to look for, keep scrolling).

What are the benefits of activated charcoal?

Doctors have been using charcoal in the ER to treat poison and drug overdoses for years because the chalky black powder can prevent chemicals from being absorbed by the stomach. But it has a number of additional uses, including the following:

Activated charcoal speeds detox

While your body can naturally detox itself, activated charcoal can help speed the process along and shuttle toxins out of the body quickly. “Activated charcoal can bind to molds, mycotoxins and even heavy metals,” says Dr. Myers. Because of this, activated charcoal can also tame inflammation by keeping damaged cells, or free radicals, out of the bloodstream, where they damage other cells, proteins and your DNA. “This damage over a long period of time can lead to numerous diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer,” adds Dr. Myers. “Prevention is critical, because once you have toxins in your body, you need to get them out.” Activated charcoal to the rescue!

Activated charcoal eases belly bloat

When it comes to bloating and uncomfortable indigestion, having a bit of activated charcoal can clear up symptoms in a flash. “Activated charcoal is a great idea if you’ve consumed food or drink you shouldn’t have,” says Dr. Myers. “Whether you’ve eaten something that expired a little too long ago or had too many alcoholic drinks at happy hour, activated charcoal can help to ‘mop up’ the toxic aftermath.” What’s more, researchers reporting in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that charcoal binds to and flushes out compounds that keep gas trapped in the gut. In other words, it can help offset the bothersome side effects of some of your favorite foods.

Activated charcoal heals the kidneys

Activated charcoal can also keep your kidneys functioning in tip-tip shape. “Due to its binding properties, activated charcoal promotes kidney function by reducing the number of waste products your kidneys have to filter,” explains Dr. Myers. That can lead to more energy, better sleep and even reductions in blood pressure!

Activated charcoal lowers cholesterol

“Charcoal also supports lower cholesterol levels,” says Dr. Myers. How? Charcoal binds with excess cholesterol and fat molecules during digestion, helping to shuttle the unhealthy compounds out of the body before they enter the bloodstream. The effect is so powerful that study participants who had charcoal daily lowered their LDL “bad” cholesterol by as much as 41%.

Activated charcoal wards off weight gain

Activated charcoal contains compounds that prevent fat absorption, keeping you effortlessly slim. In fact, researchers reporting in Frontiers in Nutrition found that mice given a high-fat diet with charcoal gained notably less weight than mice that did not have charcoal.

Activated charcoal prevents hangovers

Getting ready to head out for drinks with friends or celebrate a big event? Taking charcoal beforehand can help prevent a hangover and keep pesky symptoms like fatigue and nausea at bay. “Alcohol is a toxin, and since activated charcoal helps ‘mop up’ toxins in your body, activated charcoal is a good way to help decrease the effects of a hangover,” says Dr. Myers.

When should I take activated charcoal?

You can take charcoal at any time of the day, but “it’s best taken on an empty stomach when using it for detoxing,” says Dr. Myers. Just looking to improve your overall health with activated charcoal? “I usually have my patients start by taking it between breakfast and lunch with a full glass of water, then again between lunch and dinner,” says Dr. Myers. She adds that people can also take charcoal after eating or drinking something suspicious, like expired milk or moldy bread.

Are there any side effects?

Doctors note that people taking medications or supplements should take caution, as charcoal doesn’t discriminate, so it can also bind to these products and reduce their efficacy. Wait at least an hour before and after taking medications to have charcoal. And because it swells in the body, charcoal can also cause constipation for some people. For that reason, it’s a good idea to drink plenty of liquids with charcoal.

What kind of charcoal should I take?

If you’re looking for a quick and easy supplement, Dr. Myers created her own activated charcoal from all-natural coconut shells (Buy from, $24.97). This is ideal for taking after you’ve eaten something that you think may cause GI upset.

Activated charcoal also comes in powdered forms that can be mixed with water or blended into smoothies to help mask the texture. This can be a good way to get more activated charcoal for the more general health benefits. One powder we like: Nova Nutritions Activated Charcoal Powder (Buy from Amazon, $9.99).

3 delicious charcoal smoothie recipes

Blue Banana Blast-Off Charcoal Smoothie

Wooden board with a Charcoal Latte on light table;
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp. blue spirulina
  • 1⁄4 tsp. activated charcoal powder

In blender, puree all ingredients until smooth.

Makes 2 servings

Blueberry Charcoal Reset Charcoal Smoothie

charcoal blueberry smoothie on gingham napkin
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups oat milk
  • 1⁄2 tsp. activated charcoal powder
  • 1 Tbs. honey

In blender, puree all ingredients with 1 cup ice; divide among 2 glasses.

Makes 2 servings

Cheerful Cherry Crisp Charcoal Smoothie

2 cherry smoothies with activated charcoal on a table
  • 2 cups frozen dark sweet cherries
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1⁄4 tsp. activated charcoal powder

In blender, puree all ingredients until smooth.

Makes 2 servings

Looking for more healthy drinks?

Research Reveals Aloe Vera Juice Can Speed a Slow Thyroid and Much More — Here’s Why

Study: This Tea is So Good at Easing Stress, Just Smelling It Works Better Than Meds

Studies Show a Green Smoothie a Day Keeps Menopausal Belly Fat Away — Here’s How

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.