When most people think of charcoal, a backyard BBQ often comes to mind. Yet, another type of charcoal is sweeping the mainstream, and it’s made by activating carbon-rich materials. Activated charcoal has become so widespread that many people turn up an activated charcoal detox when exploring how to pass a drug test.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a finely ground, dark black powder that is often used in medical settings in cases of overdose. It is also an ingredient commonly found in black toothpaste or tooth powders for its ability to whiten teeth and cleanse the mouth. The skincare and supplement industries have taken advantage of its toxin-absorbing capabilities and infused it into many products like face masks, deodorants, capsules, and beverage additives.
Making activated charcoal involves heating up material like coconut shells, wood, peat, or other material high in carbon. The charcoal is “activated” and stripped of any absorbed molecules by heating at high temperatures. By freeing up these bonding sites, activated charcoal becomes very absorbent and can bind to toxins. When ingested, activated charcoal binds to toxins and eliminates them via stool.
Can Activated Charcoal Help You Detox?
Activated charcoal has been used medicinally for centuries to treat cases of overdose from substances like alcohol, acetaminophen, sedatives, antidepressants, and ingestion of household toxins like cleaning supplies. It is often administered in the emergency room and is most effective when taken within 30 to 60 minutes after consuming a toxic substance.
An activated charcoal detox prevents toxins from being absorbed into the bloodstream. It holds onto the toxins until they are passed through the digestive system and excreted via feces. Activated charcoal can latch onto bacteria, drugs, alcohol, and even mold particles. It is a naturally detoxing substance for these reasons and can help support the body’s ability to purge toxins. For this reason, activated charcoal has made its way into the mainstream health and wellness culture as a popular tool to support detoxification and cleansing protocols.
There is little scientific evidence supporting its healthful claims, but anecdotal evidence is widely available.
How to Use Activated Charcoal for Detoxing
The recommended dosage varies depending on the reasons for use. Since activated charcoal is often used for gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea, a doctor may prescribe anywhere from 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day until symptoms subside. For toxin poisoning, a doctor might use a hefty dose of 50 to 100 grams to save someone’s life.
For general detox purposes, alternative health practitioners and some doctors may recommend a smaller dose to be taken daily to support detox. Powder or capsule form is usually up to the user’s discretion, as they both work the same once ingested.
To do an activated charcoal detox, take 5 grams 30 minutes before every meal for a whole week. Do not mix other medications with the charcoal because it will render them useless and carry them through the digestive tract unabsorbed. Be sure to drink at least two liters of water per day because activated charcoal dehydrates the body.
Activated Charcoal for Weed Detoxing
Activated charcoal can help speed up detox time by helping your body rid itself of toxins faster by interfering with enterohepatic circulation. Enterohepatic circulation is when the drug metabolites (and bilirubin, bile acids, etc.) move through the liver and into the gallbladder before entering the intestines. Then, they make their way back into the bloodstream before visiting the liver one more time.
THC enters the bloodstream almost immediately after it fills your lungs when you smoke weed. But when you ingest cannabis in the form of edibles, capsules, or beverages, the THC must be processed by your digestive system. As soon as THC mixes with the bloodstream, it is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver. From there, it is further metabolized to become THC-COOH. Then, the liver keeps on working and adds a glucuronide molecule to form THC-COOH-glucuronide. The purpose of this is so the body can remove this compound via urine.
Okay, so what does this have to do with activated charcoal? A study on the subject of activated charcoal for detoxing from THC proved some promising results. Researchers found that 5 milligrams of activated charcoal can absorb up to 1,000 nanograms per milliliter of THC-COOH. To pass a THC test, your urine must contain less than 50 nanograms per milliliter, meaning that a casual user or someone who does not heavily consume THC may have luck with activated charcoal.
A similar study administered periodic doses totaling 30 grams of activated charcoal to participants who had smoked weed within a 24-hour window of testing. The participant’s THC-COOH levels were lowered by 45%, and the THC-COOH-glucuronide levels were undetectable. This proved that the activated charcoal adhered to the THC metabolites and purged them via urine or feces to produce a passing test.
Even though this experiment has worked in small studies, it is not indicative of passing results for all people. Several factors contribute to one’s ability to detox from THC, including age, weight, hydration, and overall health. Using activated charcoal for detoxing weed from your system might work if you are a casual smoker and have the luxury of time on your side to pursue a detox program. However, if you have only a few day’s notice before a drug test, consider a same-day detox drink for reliable results.
Activated Charcoal Detoxing FAQ
How many times should I take activated charcoal in a day for detoxing?
Follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label when taking activated charcoal. Generally speaking, take once or twice a day before meals and do not combine with other medications. Drink plenty of water.
Is turmeric better than activated charcoal for detoxing?
Turmeric and activated charcoal are both beneficial for helping the body to detoxify. Neither is more effective or efficient than another, and both are used to support full-body detoxification.
Why did my doctor recommend activated charcoal for diarrhea from detoxing?
Activated charcoal is often prescribed to relieve diarrhea because it can prevent the body from absorbing the bacteria that causes it.
Which is the best activated charcoal for detoxing?
There are plenty of high-quality activated charcoal supplements available online and in most health food stores.
What kind of toxins does activated charcoal remove?
Activated charcoal can bind to toxins like alcohol, sedatives, acetaminophen, various pharmaceutical drugs, vitamins, supplements, cocaine, opium, chlorine, heavy metals, and even food particles. When ingested, activated charcoal has the ability to bind to many types of toxins and this list is not comprehensive. There are some substances that activated charcoal cannot bind to.
Is activated charcoal safe for detox?
Activated charcoal may have adverse effects with repeated doses in large quantities. Therefore, it’s best to use activated charcoal for short periods of time, and adhere to the directions prescribed on the manufacturer’s label. Activated charcoal is not regulated by the FDA.
How long does it take for activated charcoal to remove toxins?
When used to prevent overdose or drug poisoning, activated charcoal must be administered within an hour of consuming the toxic substance, and it will begin working immediately. An activated charcoal detox time will depend on the specific goal and intention of use. See above guidelines for using activated charcoal for detoxing from weed.
An activated charcoal detox is a natural way to help the body cleanse itself from toxins. It’s an ancient remedy that has many uses and may be a beneficial ingredient to include in your daily wellness routine. If you are looking to pass a drug test quickly, it’s a risky bet and you are better off investing in a detox kit.
The right amount of activated charcoal depends on the amount of poison that the person has swallowed. The initial dose of charcoal may be 40 times the amount of the poison ingested. Another strategy involves administering a dose of 1 gram of activated charcoal per kilogram of bodyweight .How much activated charcoal should I take for detox? ›
Adults and teenagers—Dose is usually 50 to 100 grams of activated charcoal given one time. Children 1 through 12 years of age—Dose is usually 25 to 50 grams of activated charcoal given one time. Children up to 1 year of age—Use is not recommended.What is the best way to take activated charcoal? ›
The activated charcoal that is used to treat a poisoning is a powder that is mixed with a liquid. Once mixed, it can be given as a drink or through a tube that has been placed through the mouth and into the stomach. Activated charcoal is also available in tablet or capsule forms to treat gas.When should you take activated charcoal? ›
Emergency poison treatment
Studies show that ingesting 50–100 grams of activated charcoal within 5 minutes of taking a drug may reduce an adult's ability to absorb that drug by up to 74% ( 2 , 3 ). Activated charcoal is said to be most beneficial when taken within the first hour after an overdose or poisoning.
Remember that activated charcoal can bind to vitamins, nutrients, and medications, so take it on an empty stomach and allow two to three hours before eating.