Whitening Your Smile . . . And Other Benefits Of Activated Charcoal

activated charcoal

My niece Ava dropped by the other day with her three little ones for a visit and in the course of our conversation the topic of “activated charcoal” came up. I’ve always been impressed with Ava’s knowledge of alternative health solutions (drop by her blog “Treu Colors“) and so my ears perked up when she started talking about how she was using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener!

Of course this piqued my incurable curiosity and I had to look into it further. I was so fascinated by what I learned about activated charcoal that I knew I had to share at least some of it with all of you!





The use of activated charcoal dates back centuries. Egyptian doctors, as well as Hippocrates (the Greek physician), recommended the use of charcoal for medicinal purposes. North American Indians used it for gas pains and skin infections.

Charcoal can do these various things because of its ability to attract other substances to its surface and hold them there. This is called “adsorption” (not absorption). Charcoal can adsorb thousands of times its own weight.


activated charcoal

Activated charcoal granule


The most effective type of charcoal is the activated form. First, the charcoal is ground very fine; and then it is placed in a steam chamber. This opens up the charcoal and exposes more of its surfaces, so it can adsorb much more. In fact, one teaspoon of activated charcoal has a total surface area as big as a football field! (Note: Charred toast and scorched food are NOT charcoal.)

Activated charcoal is harmless when ingested, and there are no ill effects when it comes in contact with the skin. It is rated Category I (safe and effective) by the FDA for acute toxic poisoning. It is actually required by law to be part of the standard equipment on many ambulances, in case poisoning is encountered.


Here are some other uses for activated charcoal:


digestive difficulties

Digestive Difficulties

Activated charcoal can be effective for reducing gas, especially after eating foods, such as beans, that commonly create excess gas. AC helps reduce intestinal gas by attracting and condensing gas molecules into thousands of tiny pores on its surface. These gases are then carried out of the body with the charcoal.

It can also relieve an upset stomach or nausea. However, activated charcoal should only be taken occasionally to relieve these symptoms, and should not be used every day.

Charcoal can also be used as a treatment for diarrhea and vomiting, either from food poisoning, or from infecting agents such as the flu.


bad breath

Bad Breath

Another of the benefits of activated charcoal is that it helps eliminate bad breath, because it cleanses both the mouth and the digestive tract.


activated charcoal

Cuts and Wounds

Wounds of any kind can easily become infected which can then lead to worse complications. Activated charcoal has been shown to neutralize many different kinds of pathogens that directly or indirectly produce or promote infection. Activated medicinal charcoal binds these toxic substances and organisms so that the body can often heal itself.

Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, describes the use of charcoal compresses to speed the healing of wounds and eliminate their odors. Make a poultice by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of charcoal powder with just enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste on a piece of gauze cut to fit the area. Place it over the wound & fix in place. Poultices should be changed every 6-10 hours.


accidental poisoning

Accidental Poisoning

In instances of ingestion of drugs, poison or household chemicals, activated charcoal works well to draw out harmful toxins preventing them from entering the bloodstream. In the event of ingestion of poison, mix 1-2 tablespoons of activated charcoal with a full glass of water and drink quickly. Call a poison control center or go to the emergency room as well to make sure the poison has been fully removed!



Insect and Snake Bites

Spider bites, specifically from a brown recluse spider, may be healed through using activated charcoal. Standard medicine has no remedy to offer for this type of spider bite. However, if a charcoal compress is applied to the area quickly, the effects of the bite may be eased significantly. Activated charcoal may also be used to treat bee stings and ant bites in the same manner.

If an individual has been bitten by a poisonous snake and there isn’t enough time to get to a hospital, activated charcoal may help save his life. An emergency charcoal compress in combination with ingesting activated charcoal internally may be an effective remedy for a snake bite when medical help is far away.


activated charcoal

Teeth Whitening

Sounds strange, I know! But when it comes to whitening teeth, AC has the same effect as it does when ingested: it pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains. It can actually be helpful in changing the pH of the mouth, effectively killing the bad bacteria present in tooth decay and gingivitis.

Charcoal is hard in nature, but it will not scratch your teeth. In fact, it is one of the safest ways to whiten and deodorize your teeth. Just dip a clean, wet toothbrush into the powdered charcoal and brush. Spit carefully and rinse well.


activated charcoal

Reduce Acne and Improve Skin

Because activated charcoal removes toxins, it can help reduce the instances of acne and other skin impurities you might suffer from.

To use activated charcoal on your skin, combine 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal, 1 teaspoon of rosewater, 1 teaspoon of aloe vera gel, & 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. Mix these ingredients together until you have an even consistency. Apply to your skin, let it dry, and then rinse off. Your skin will feel amazing.

There are also many soaps made with activated charcoal, which are also effective at treating your skin. You can find a wide selection of handmade charcoal soaps and face masks on Etsy.


beverage dispenser

Water Filter

Activated carbon is often used in water filters due to its ability to trap impurities, such as chlorine. Click here to learn how to make a simple AC water filter at home using a glass beverage dispenser with a spigot.


activated charcoal

Odor Control

Activated charcoal is an extremely effective odor eliminator as it adsorbs and traps bad odors. You can make an air freshener by placing a few tablespoons of activated charcoal in moist saucers or ashtrays. Place the activated charcoal on tables or other surfaces around the room and let it stand overnight.


activated charcoal

How to use activated charcoal:

Simply place some in water, stir, and swallow. Or apply it to the skin’s surface. It is odorless and tasteless. It can also be placed in empty gelatin capsules and swallowed. But they will act more slowly than swallowing the powder mixed with water. AC powder can also be mixed with a little fruit juice before being swallowed.

The oral dosage is one tablespoon of powder stirred into a small amount of water. Four capsules of activated charcoal represent about one tablespoonful.


activated charcoal

Where to find activated charcoal:

Most natural health stores carry activated charcoal in loose powder or capsule form and it is also available online.


Even if you don’t end up using any of the additional uses ideas above, I highly recommend having some activated charcoal on hand at all times for food poisoning or accidental ingestion of toxins.

Having AC in your home could one day be a life saver!


IMPORTANT: Never use activated charcoal for any treatment in lieu of a qualified medical professional. Activated charcoal can be used in emergency situations where your life or the life of someone else is at stake, but this is only to buy you valuable time to get to an emergency room for qualified care.


Have you used activated charcoal?


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  1. Marguerite says

    Hi Jilliee!
    Yes I do use activated charcoal whenever I have excessive stomach gas associated with pain, and also for food poisoning, it’s one of the best item to take with you whenever you go travelling, you’ll never know when you’ll be hit with foods that turned bad. I was in pain once after consuming seafood from a buffet spread in a reputable restaurant in Japan. I was the only one that had the problem… sensitive stomach perhaps? Thanks for sharing the post!

    • says

      Funny you should mention Japan and charcoal.

      I remember when I visited the hot spring hotels/spas in Japan sold charcoal shampoo, body wash, soap, toothpaste. You name it they put charcoal in it.

      Did not know about activated charcoal so thanks Jillee!

  2. Hannah says

    I’ve been using AC for a while now, for multiple things but I had no idea it was effective for brown recluse bites! This is VERY useful info inb my area, as they are everywhere! Ihave been using tien chi powder and it works really well, but it’s more expensive. Thanks, Jillee!!

  3. Linda says

    I never leave home without it. I have severe food allergies and if I take charcoal as soon as a reaction starts I can normally stop it in it’s tracks. I had a bad reaction at a dentist office to some medications while filling a tooth. I was shaking and my heart was racing but within a few minutes of taking the charcoal it all stopped. It has probably saved my life in several occasions. It is a miracle gift from nature.

    • Tina Brown says

      Please take him to the hospital or doctor. The toxins will build up…I had a friend die from these bites after several days of being bitten. He was a father to two very young girls. Not trying to scare you, but there is medical treatment, as they can cause deep infection.
      I am finding the above article scary by making one think there is no need for a doctor for a Brown Recluse bite! Sorry Jillee, but that is dangerous advise in this case.

    • Wendy says

      Yes, do take him in. The venom will cause skin necrosis and will keep eating away until stopped. They have experimental (at least they were at the time I took them) drugs that should help heal from the inside, but he will be left with a nasty scar. Keep watch over surrounding areas for at least two weeks to catch any other spots that might be taking longer to show. I was bit three times during a field exercise in the Army. One bite showed up right away and was the size of a tennis ball. The second really did not do much, but the third took a week to manifest and when it did, it was just blackened skin. But enough with the gross factor. As soon as it heals enough, start with Mederma or ScarGuard. It will still leave a scar, but it will help smooth it out. Of course he is a guy and the scar might add some “cool” factor. I hope he gets well soon.

  4. says

    I can’t believe how well this works on whitening teeth. Also, I have used it once for stomach pains, and I figure it worked because I took the activated charcoal capsules (I was in a 3rd world country) and my stomach settled down within 15 minutes. It was awesome.

  5. Verna says

    My dog Scooter had terrible “you must wanna be an outside dog” gas! Even after modifying his diet he was still one stinky dog. I gave him activated charcoal for a few days and he’s been fine ever since.

  6. Donna Benedetto says

    This sounds great and quite a savings from buying syringes filled with “whitening stuff” from my dentist. But, please, how EXACTLY do you use it to whiten your teeth? As the photo shows? A little dab on your regular toothpaste? Thanks for all your amazing blogs!

    • says

      Per Jilly above….

      Charcoal is hard in nature, but it will not scratch your teeth. In fact, it is one of the safest ways to whiten and deodorize your teeth. Just dip a clean, wet toothbrush into the powdered charcoal and brush. Spit carefully and rinse well.

    • Amanda says

      I’m a hygienist, and FYI, activated charcoal will NOT whiten your teeth like “whitening stuff” in a syringe. Whitening teeth with bleach will actually lighten the color of your tooth. Brushing with something abrasive, such as charcoal or baking soda, merely removes surface stain if you have any. For example, if you have brown staining on your teeth from smoking, coffee or tea, the grittiness of charcoal or baking soda can make your teeth look whiter by removing some of the stain. However if you don’t have that surface staining, brushing with charcoal or baking soda won’t do a thing for you.

      As far as not scratching your teeth… that may be true for enamel, but brushing with something abrasive can do terrible things to gums and tooth root surfaces. Not to say you couldn’t ever brush with activated charcoal or baking soda. You should just be extremely careful not to scrub it on your gums or any areas where you have gum recession and root exposure. Most dentists (except for the old-school ones…) don’t recommend brushing with baking soda any more for this reason. We were seeing way too many patients come back with worsening gum recession and bone loss. Just from brushing too hard or with abrasive materials.

      • Joyce says

        Hi Amanda

        I am also in the dental industry and while I agree with your information that charcoal or baking soda will only clean the tooth surface and not actually whiten the teeth it is also good advice to warn of the dangers of tooth whitening and the years of sensitive teeth you could well be opening yourself up to and the fact that peroxide which is the main ingredient in any of the whitening systems will dry out your teeth and by the teeth absorbing the peroxide they get whiter what is this chemical doing to your body which is also absorbing it….. Forget the Hollywood smile be happy having healthy gums and teeth and if cleaning with charcoal occasionally helps then its no different that cleaning with pumice pastes which is what hygienist’s and dentist’s use at your 6 monthly clean.

  7. Vicki Timmons says

    Just two months ago, my little dog got into a “tamper resistant” mouse bait container and ate the bait block. After getting her to throw up using hydrogen peroxide, my vet gave her AC and she is absolutely fine. No side effects.

  8. Cara says

    This AC info is fascinating. I am really into holistic health and meditation to help the body cure itself. Thank you for the post! Yes, I did check out your niece’s blog also and it is terrific!

  9. Genny says

    I love reading your blog Jillee! Thank you for this information on activated charcoal. I’ll be buying some today for sure. Also….I voted for you!!! Wishing you the best in winning such an awesome award! God bless you!

  10. Lily says

    Whyyyyy the picture of the spider? I’m going to have the creepy-crawlies all day! At any rate, this was really interesting. I’m of a mind to go to the store right now for some AC. My boyfriend is plagued by acne – maybe I can convince him to try this out. :) Thank you for every single one of your posts! So many great ideas that I am just itching to try when I am out of the dorms and on my own.

    • Christina says

      I DON’T RECOMMEND THE FACE MASK! I love AC for whitening teeth and have no doubt it is amazing in many ways, but I tried the face mask today and it’s not so great. Actually, my face is REALLY soft and clean from the mask, but the AC seeped into my pores and I look like I have blackheads all over my face. It also darkened my eyebrows and hairline even though I tried to keep it away from my hair. Getting it off my face took a lot of work and was incredibly messy. Unless you have a good hour to clean up the mess, including trying to get it off your skin, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was worth a shot, but I wanted to warn others. Thanks!

  11. Christina says

    I’ve used it in brighten my teeth; works wonders. I actually opened a capsule and with my finger rubbed it all over my teeth, let it sit there for 30 seconds or so, then brushed. I don’t think letting it sit for 30 seconds makes any difference though and applying it with a wet toothbrush seems a lot less messy :) I did not know you could use it for a face mask – I’ll be trying it today! Thank you!!! :D

  12. says

    My son had to take it when he was 2 (He’s now 12) because he got into my purse, zipped through the child-proof lid, and ate a few extra-strength tylenols. I called Poison Control and that’s what they recommended. I just got some about 4 months ago and used it when I had a stomach bug. Worked awesomely. :) I’m going to have to try the tooth whitening ASAP.

  13. Rayne says

    This is great! Definitely going on my list to add to household products. I bought my supplies for making detergent yesterday, now I just need a big enough container!
    Do you know if AC is safe for babies/children?

  14. Terri says

    Jillie I love your web site! You have saved me so much money last year.

    I thought you might be interested in a book that I purchased in 1992.

    Book titled “Charcoal Startling new facts about the world’s most powerful Clinical Adsorbent” by Agatha Trash, M.D. & Calvin Thrash, M.D.

  15. CTY says

    I was surprised you didn’t mention its use in aquarium filters.
    Also, we have charcoal carbon water purifiers– one travel size (great for hotel use & traveling abroad) and one for daily use. Both can purify bacteria, virus & disease waterborne pathogens for water consumption. Neither unit requires electricity. Check out Katadyn or Berkey brands–both brands can do thousands of gallons (there are other brands out there too) . I do not get compensated from either company–they are just what we use.

    When our main water line burst– the water department folks & our plumbers we’re impresses/intrigued by the purifiers; one worker used his phone internet and ordered one on the spot. And naturally the day and a half project took nearly 3 weeks. Thank God we had these, so we could at least have clean water (we drained water from our house radiator system) for drinking and washing up. We stayed in a hotel each night but my days were filled with cleaning up the basement flooding–and my husband breaking up concrete & digging trenches. Our fire department pumped the water from the basement for us (something they can do easily–but if an entire community is affected–their resources are used on rescue efforts). It happened at 3 am– the on call water guy took about 50 minutes to get to us–but the fire department responded in under 5 minutes and they carry the tool for turning off the main. Our 25′x12″ basement filled with 19″ of water in under 10 minutes–can’t imagine if we had to wait for the water guy.

  16. Julia says

    Thanks for sharing this info Jillee! I wasn’t aware of ALL the uses. We have used activated charcoal for stomach issues, especially if we have to eat out. It has helped us several times when we suspected we have gotten food poisoning. The most wonderful thing we discovered last summer was using it on wasp stings. We went camping and apparently disturbed a red wasp nest. My kids and I were bombarded and stung many times. Thank goodness I brought a jar of activated charcoal capsules. I opened a few capsules, added water to make a paste, applied liberally to the stings and almost immediately the pain subsided. It seemed to suck the poison out. After that, the kids were not nearly as freaked-out about the lingering wasps, knowing that mommy had a magic antidote. It will definitely be a must on any future camping trip, not just for wasps but any bug bites.

  17. Emily B says

    I have been using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener for months! It works way better than anything I have ever used and it is safe for sensitive teeth. I have a bottle of AC capsules…I open up one capsule and mix with just enough water to form a paste. Then I use a clean small paintbrush (small makeup brush would work too) to paint the paste onto my teeth. I leave it on for 5 minutes, rinse thoroughly, then brush my teeth like normal. I would recommend doing this after rinsing out any food particles but don’t brush first. Most toothpaste creates a seal that will keep the AC from pulling out all of the stain-causing material from the teeth. It’s pretty funny to see a black smile in the mirror, but after rinsing and brushing you will see a noticeable difference!

  18. Tara W. says

    Does AC whiten dental work as well? I have some dental work (fillings/crowns) on my front teeth that have yellowed some over time. Commercial whitening methods don’t whiten dental work. I would love to have a nice, bright white smile again!! Any advise would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  19. Nancy says

    Never heard of using activated charcoal before! The caption says use a clean wet toothbrush but the picture shows dipping the toothpaste covered toothbrush into activated charcoal. Does it matter? Thanks!

  20. Jody says

    I am very happy to know about AC for whitening teeth. My question is – how often do you do this. Everyday seems like over kill to me. I will be putting in a supply for many uses in the future. Thanks Jillee for all your suggestions and recipes.

  21. Sally says

    As missionaries, we carry AC with us everywhere and do use it frequently for stomach problems. However, I had never heard of it being used for whitening teeth. That I will have to try. Thank you for all of your work in coming up with so many tips to help us all. Yours is one of the few non-family/friend emails I actually look forward to getting every day.

  22. Chris says

    diy Organic Mascara http://www.organicauthority.com/delicious-beauty/the-best-diy-mascara.html#
    I’ve used AC for at least 20 yrs now. My cat (very smart) used to lick the end of the fireplace poker to get the charcoal when she had a tummy ache. I was afraid she might get burnt, so I opened a capsule into a dish for her and now she uses that exclusively! She’s white and you always know when she doesn’t feel well because she has the tell tale black beard!

  23. patricia says

    AC saved my life 20 yrs ago. I was given medication that I was allergic to and by the time I got to the hospital my heart rate was off the charts. The ER DR. told my husband that had I not have taken the AC he wouldn’t be taken me home. As a child I had allergies to many things and my mom learned this from an Indian lady we had living down the street from us.

    I started with a cold sore on Friday and it’s gone today. I made the paste, applied it off and on through Saturday, part of Sunday and it’s all gone. I get really nasty looking ones, so glad this works.

  24. Penny says

    I have terrible migraines and the owner of an herb shop told me to take charcoal for them if they were food related (such as MSG). If you eat something you know is a trigger the charcoal absorbs and filters it (or something like that). I took it for awhile but stopped due to what I thought was a negative “side effect”…black stools! I’ve since moved on to magnesium for my migraines but I may revisit charcoal after reading this.

  25. Leah says

    In addition to the teeth whitening, I have also read that AC can lighten the color of yellowing nails. Just make a paste with the AC & distilled water, and apply for several minutes and they should brighten up.

    I have been using AC for some time now and I love that it is a versatile product that is safe to use! I have been whitening my teeth for several weeks and have noticed a change. I use about a 3 capsules with some distilled water and swish in my mouth for about 2 minutes. When I’m finished with that, I’ll spit a little bit out and push the rest to the front of my teeth to wait for 3 minutes. I have to brush with clean water to get it all cleared out of my mouth, but the results are worth it!

    And thanks for the extra uses Jillee!

  26. Susan says

    I have some questions regarding using AC for teeth whitening. Can you add some AC to the toothpaste on your toothbrush (like the picture suggests) or do you have to use it straight? Would toothpaste affect the AC’s whitening ability? Would combining it with toothpaste help to better rinse the AC out after brushing?

  27. Lindie says

    I was in bed with what I can only imagine was food poisoning last week. I took a few capsules of activated charcoal and a few hours later was feeling much better!

    Thanks for posting all of this! I love finding more natural remedies for everyday living.

  28. says

    True. I have been living with a family that has been using activated charcoal so I was exposed to a beauty regimen involving this. I mainly use it for my oral health and for whitening my teeth since drinking too much coffee makes my teeth yellowish. This method is even cheaper than other oral hygiene methods and guaranteed safe. This may sound disgusting when used for the mouth but come on; not all disgusting things are bad for us. I believe this post based on my own experience.

  29. Bonny says

    I already subscribe to your newsletter, but I would really love to subscribe to your niece Ava’s blog. I don’t see a way to subscribe via email. Can you tell her to please set it up, so I can subscribe! Thanks!

  30. Rasa says

    i have spent an enjoyable hour on your newly-found site. (Thanks to my 62 year old cousin, Jim). Sometimes i see poor rural Fijians with the whitest teeth and i just have to ask them: “How do you get your teeth so white?” They NEVER say Colgate. They always say they use the black charcoal from the wood-fires after they cook outside. Very ancient method of tooth care. Thank you, Jillee for your informative, funloving site.

  31. Rhonda says

    I have used AC for years for many of these things, I have one great bit of info to add. Even though it burns the bejeezus out of your eyes, it clears up pink eye overnight! I have used it with my children and they take it pretty well because they know it works. I mix it with some water and use a dropper to put it in. There has only been one time that we required a second dose of misery when my son had a bad eye infection it took two days on that one. Rinse it out right after putting it in…you don’t want to , nor need to indure the misery for long.

  32. elizabeth says

    My midwife had me make a saline mixture out of it when I got a bad sinus infection while pregnant. I just mixed 2 capsules with some water and a little bit of sea salt and syringed it into my nose a few times a day and spit it out if needed. Looked disgusting but worked! Can’t wait to try it on my teeth for an upcoming wedding!! I have also used it for gas problems and it works great, now going to try it with our dogs since I saw another comment about that!!

  33. Antione Cyran says

    The term “soft drink” specifies the absence of alcohol in contrast to “hard drink” and “drink”. The term “drink” is neutral but often denotes alcoholic content. Beverages such as soda pop, sparkling water, iced tea, lemonade, root beer, and fruit punch are the most common soft drinks. Milk, hot chocolate, tea, coffee, milkshakes, and tap water are not considered to be soft drinks.*

    Latest piece of content on our very own blog

  34. says

    Your post made me go & buy AC! I came home with two tubs of a multitasking face/body scrub/leave on mask & two bottles of AC capsules to try for when I brush my teeth. I broke a capsule apart & I noticed how it really stains your fingers & nails! I’m now hesitant to use it on my face & body for the simple reason that it might be a disaster waiting to happen in my bathroom (which is a pristine white) for when I have to rinse everything off. Then there’s that comment about how it stained someone’s face when used as a scrub. My face is also smooth & clear but I do love the DYI pampering one can do in the comfort of their own home & mud masks/any mask! gives me a sense of relaxation & detoxification. I’m afraid AC stains will just end up stressing me out.

    What do you recommend we use to rinse everything off if AC leaves a stain on the skin?

  35. Gweny says

    I just tried it for the fist time. Wow! It’s not 100% like movie star brightness, but finally I see white where there was dingy grey and yellow. I have a filling in between my two upper front teeth that was just as dirty and I was concerned it would not clean up. But it did! I calculated it cost me 14 ¢ for a one-time cleaning. I’m thoroughly impressed!

  36. Subha says

    Hi I was reading few of your DIY projects and like it a lot.. especially the charcoal benefits.. I am from India and we use charcoal powder along with our toothpaste atleast once in a week for a healthy teeth. but now I am in in US and I never thought of using it.. as I dont see charcoal in any of the stores. where do u get charcoal in US? I love using it…and I like all ur homemade projects in health n beauty… Good Luck…


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