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. Gwyneth says

    It also adsorbs/binds to/neutralizes medications, so folks should definitely check with their healthcare practitioner if they take any medicines.

  3. says

    Activated Charcoal is already on my list to add to my homemade soap today. Besides the benefits you mentioned, which are all great, AC also acts as a natural colorant for soap. I only use natural color, so AC is perfect!!

    Thanks for all the wonderful info. :)

    • CTY says

      Do you know if the charcoal in the soap acts to exfoliate skin? Thinking about using it on my heels.

  4. 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!!

  5. 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.

  6. krystina Bibb says

    Will it work on a three day old brown recluse bite?? My husband got bit on Saturday and all I’ve been doing is Neosporin.

    • 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.

      • krystina Bibb says

        thanks everyone for the concern!! Update on the hubby. So far he is doing fine. He is taking antibiotics for it now. Keeping a close eye on the bite!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    • CTY says

      Our vet had recommended for our dog too (same problem). Also a different time when the vet was not able to pinpoint her troubles, it was used to detoxify the drugs that did not work.
      But–like people don’t just self treat–see a Vet.

    • Terri says

      that’s the funniest way to describe a gassy dog that i’ve ever heard—thanks for the best laugh of the day!

  9. 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.