Activated charcoal: what is it for and how to take it

Activated charcoal is a medicine in the form of capsules or tablets that acts through the adsorption of toxins and chemicals in the body, thus having several health benefits, contributing to the reduction of intestinal gases and abdominal pain, teeth whitening, treatment of poisoning and prevention of hangover.

However, this remedy also prevents the intestine from absorbing vitamins, minerals and medications, so it should be used sparingly and at different times than other medications.

1. Eliminates gases

Activated charcoal has the ability to adsorb intestinal gases, reducing bloating, pain and intestinal discomfort.

2. Treats intoxication

As activated carbon has a great adsorptive power, it can be used in emergency situations in cases of intoxication with chemicals or in food poisoning, for example.

3. Removes impurities from water

Some impurities in the water can be removed with activated charcoal such as pesticides, traces of industrial waste and some chemicals, which is why it is widely used in water filtration systems.

4. Whitens teeth

Activated charcoal helps to whiten teeth stained by coffee, tea or tobacco smoke for example.

The charcoal can be used 2 to 3 times a week, placing it on the brush and brushing your teeth. In addition, toothpastes are already available for sale in pharmacies, which have activated carbon in their composition.

5. Helps prevent hangover

Activated charcoal prevents the absorption of other chemicals that make up alcoholic beverages, such as artificial sweeteners, sulfites and other toxins, so it helps to reduce hangover symptoms.

In addition, activated charcoal can also be used in cases of enteritis, colitis and enterocolitis, aerophagia and meteorism. However, it is not able to absorb alcohol, petroleum products, potassium, iron, lithium and other metals. 

How to take

The mode of use of activated charcoal consists of ingesting 1 to 2 capsules, 3 to 4 times a day, the maximum daily dose being 6 tablets per day for adults, and 3 tablets for children.

For the prevention of hangovers, the recommended dose is 1 g of activated charcoal before the consumption of alcoholic beverages and 1 g after consumption.

The tablets should not be mixed with saline, but can be taken with water or fruit juice. 

Main side effects 

The main side effects of activated charcoal include darkening of stools, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation when consumed in excess. Prolonged use can reduce the intestinal absorption of medications used at the same time, so if you need to take any medication, it must be taken at least 3 hours before taking activated charcoal. 

When not to take

Activated charcoal is contraindicated for children under 2 years old, in patients with hypersensitivity to the components of the formula, in case of intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal problems or in patients who have ingested caustic corrosive substances or hydrocarbons. It is also not indicated for people who have recently undergone bowel surgery or when there is a marked decrease in intestinal transit.

Ingestion of activated charcoal during pregnancy or while breastfeeding should only be done under medical guidance.

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