What is Activated Charcoal? Exploring the potential benefits

Why is activated charcoal black?

What is Activated Charcoal? Exploring the potential benefits

What does the science say? We explore the potential benefits of this emerging material and share the information you need before starting to use any new products or supplements.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is simply charcoal that has been treated with oxygen at very high temperatures.1 This process changes the chemical structure of the material – making it more porous and expanding its surface area.

Remember, activated charcoal should not be confused with the charcoal briquettes used on BBQs and home fires. Although this is exposed to high temperatures, this product is often mixed with chemicals to promote burning, which are toxic to humans. These should not be ingested or used on your skin.

Why is activated charcoal black?

As activated charcoal is a result of burning carbon-rich materials such as wood to create charcoal, the result is a black and odourless substance. Exposing this to oxygen and even higher temperatures does not change its colour, so it appears – aside from looking more porous than normal – to be a normal piece of charcoal.

What is activated charcoal good for?

How does activated charcoal work?

Activated charcoal is made by grinding charcoal into a fine powder and “activating” it by exposing it to oxygen and elevated temperatures. This changes its chemical structure, and it becomes permeated with thousands of pores. It’s tiny pores that make this material that is so special – giving it the capability to effectively bind to and absorb chemicals, toxins and other substances.2

Due to this unique effect, activated charcoal has become a popular ingredient in many beauty and wellness products, including everything from toothpastes and water filters to shampoos and face scrubs.

What are the potential benefits of activated charcoal?

The creation of activated charcoal makes it very absorbent. As mentioned previously, this allows it to bind to various compounds and remove them from the substance they are in. As a result, this has led many to believe that activated charcoal could perhaps have several health benefits. Let’s have a look at what the research suggests.

1. Gas reduction

Lots of research has happened over the years to evaluate the effects of activated charcoal on intestinal gas. So much so that the European Food Safety Authority has deemed that there is enough evidence to support the use of activated charcoal to reduce excessive gases3, as an approved health claim including contributing to reducing excessive flatulence after eating. They state that this beneficial effect is obtained with 1g which should be taken at least 30 minutes before and 1g shortly after the meal.

Activated charcoal for gas reduction

2. Cosmetic uses

As its popularity grows, activated charcoal is being used more frequently in a number of cosmetic products claiming to remove toxins and impurities from the skin and body. This includes toothpaste to support whitening and general oral health, as well as scores of skincare creams designed to draw microparticles of dirt and bacteria to the surface for easy removal. However, while the science makes sense, and the perceived results are certainly appealing, there is just not enough laboratory or clinical data to support any of these claims, or linked products, at present.

Activated charcoal for cosmetic uses

Activated charcoal dosage

When it comes to activated charcoal dosage, this will be different depending on its use.4

However, when it comes to supplementing for supporting general health and wellbeing, activated charcoal is often available in both powder and tablet form. Whatever you choose, this makes it easy to measure dosage to ensure you’re only ever having a safe amount. 

When supplementing with these, we recommend from taking our Naturecan product to have 1g at least 30 minutes before a meal, with another 1g taken shortly after the same meal. This is an EFSA approved guidance for receiving a beneficial effect when it comes to reducing excessive flatulence, so this has become the benchmark for safe and effective supplementation of activated charcoal.

Where can I buy activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is available from a number of health and wellness brands around the world, however it’s key you choose a product that is high quality so you are able to supplement safely and effectively.

Sourced from coconut, Naturecan’s activated charcoal capsules offer a quick and easy way to reap the potential benefits we discussed earlier, including being proven to help to reduce flatulence after eating – helping you to manage unwanted discomfort. The beneficial effect is obtained with 1g (3 capsules) which should be taken at least 30 minutes before and 1g (3 capsules) shortly after the meal. All of Naturecan’s products are created using industry-leading technology and undergo rigorous testing practices with third parties in order to ensure product quality, customer safety and supply chain transparency.

Naturecan Activated Charcoal capsules

Activated charcoal: what does the research say?

  • Activated charcoal is simply charcoal that has been treated with oxygen at very high temperatures to make it more porous – these pores are found to be extremely effective at binding and absorbing certain toxins and chemicals.
  • While activated charcoal is scientifically proven to help reduce intestinal gases and widely used in emergency rooms to treat overdoses, there is very little research to support claims related to its benefits when included in cosmetic and other wellness products.


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