Activated Charcoal: A Strange Way to Detox

By: Dave Asprey
September 5, 2013

Activated Charcoal: A Strange Way to Detox

Activated charcoal has been used for more than 10,000 years from Chinese Medicine healers to Ayurvedic practitioners to Western medicine doctors. Activated charcoal is known for its ability to bind to certain poisons, heavy metals, and other toxins and flush them from your body, making it a wonder substance for acute and general detoxification.

One of the main tenants of a Bulletproof lifestyle is avoiding the things that make you weak. This includes things like energy-sapping processed snacks and sugar and overexposure to nasty chemicals. But sometimes avoiding crappy food and environmental toxins is easier said than done. Whether you’re forced to eat at a less-than-ideal restaurant or you want to try a deeper detox, activated charcoal is your ally.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is the byproduct of burning a carbon source like wood or (better yet) coconut shells. The substance is “activated” by high temperatures, removing all the oxygen and changing its chemical structure to create much smaller particles with more surface area.[1] The result is a highly adsorbent material with millions of tiny pores that capture, bind, and remove poisons, heavy metals, chemicals, and intestinal gases.

Just two grams of activated charcoal powder (4 capsules of Upgraded Coconut Charcoal) has about the same surface area as a football field. The porous surface has a negative electric charge that attracts positively charged unwanted toxins and gas.

Why use activated charcoal?

Western medicine primarily uses activated charcoal to soak up poisons or other toxins in a hospital setting. It works through a process called “adsorption” which means “to bind to” rather than “to absorb.”

But activated charcoal is so much more than an antidote for drugs and poisons. It’s a global remedy for general detoxification, digestive health, gas, bloating, heart health, and anti-aging. It is a part of my mold toxin detox protocols. In fact, unscrupulous industrial cattle mills intentionally alter spoiled feed with activated charcoal, knowing it will allow them to increase profits without killing the animals.[2]

How activated charcoal works

Ancient physicians used inactivated charcoal for a variety of medical purposes, including treating epilepsy and anthrax. In the early 20th century, the charcoal activation process sparked many medical journals to publish research revealing activated charcoal as an antidote for poisons and a way to improve intestinal disorders. Current research not only legitimizes these earlier practices of activated charcoal but also adds beneficial new ways of using it. Here are just a few ways that activated charcoal works.

General detoxification

Toxins from low quality, processed food, and environmental pollution can sap your energy and contribute to everything from brain fog to digestive issues. Chronic exposure to toxins produces cellular damage, allergic reactions, compromised immunity, and rapid aging. Regular use of activated charcoal can remove unwanted toxins from your body, leaving you feeling renewed and more vibrant, often in minutes!

Relieves digestive issues, gas, and bloating

After digesting foods like beans, the decomposition process from bacteria in your body creates byproducts like gas or diarrhea. Activated charcoal enters the digestive tract and counteracts this process by binding to byproducts and alleviating these digestive issues.[3]

Binds drugs, chemicals, and poisons

Activated charcoal adsorbs most organic chemicals, many inorganic chemicals, drugs, pesticides, mercury, and even lead before they harm your body.[4] If you’re poisoned, go to the emergency room! But, there’s no reason you shouldn’t start binding a poison right away. A Bulletproof reader recently inadvertently took a huge dose of Tylenol (the capsules were in the wrong bottle), which is highly toxic to the liver. He realized his mistake, took a handful of activated charcoal capsules, and went to the emergency room. His liver was undamaged, and he credits biohacking.

Rid bad breath, body odor, and skin ailments

You can use activated charcoal topically to help relieve insect stings, mushroom poisoning, poison ivy, cholera, bites, and inflammation. Body odor and bad breath are usually a result of toxins leaving the body, which is why taking activated charcoal and using it in topical products like deodorant are really helpful.


Studies show activated charcoal prevents many cellular changes associated with aging, adrenal gland, and kidney function. Famous Gerontologists discovered its powerful anti-aging properties in a study showing activated charcoal to increase the average lifespan of older test animals by approximately 34 percent.[5] Activated charcoal slows the rate at which the brain becomes increasingly sensitive to toxins as you age, which makes for better cognitive functioning. It also builds a better defense mechanism by improving the adaptive functioning of essential organs like the liver, kidneys, and adrenals.

Better heart health

In a recent study, patients with high cholesterol who took activated charcoal three times a day showed a 25% reduction in total cholesterol. They also doubled their HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio. Studies examining microscopic tissues show a daily dose of activated charcoal may prevent abnormal hardening (sclerosis) in heart and coronary blood vessels.[6]

When to take activated charcoal

As a biohacker and general health nerd, I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter how clean I eat – our environment is saturated with high levels of toxicity. This is even more of a problem when you have to eat out or are traveling. One commercial flight exposes you to high levels of toxic jet fuel and other airborne contaminants.[7] And that’s not even counting the additives from the crappy airplane food!

Activated charcoal can help clear your body of unwanted toxins, which can make you tired, weak, and trigger everything from food cravings to headaches.

Activated charcoal always saves the day when I overindulge on food or I’m on long trips. And it does wonders when my kids suddenly drop into uncharacteristic fits of whining or tantrums, especially after snacks at a friends house. Activated charcoal always brings them back to normal within about 10 minutes. It is amazing to watch.

Take activated charcoal when:

  • You eat out at restaurants or eat low-quality foods like processed junk foods
  • You drink bad quality coffee
  • When you’re drinking any alcohol
  • When you feel moody or tired
  • You’re traveling, especially air travel (activated charcoal is part of my no-jetlag protocol)

Activated charcaol isn’t just for acute situations. Taking activated coconut charcoal on a daily basis is a great way to help you thrive in an overly toxin-filled environment. It is best to take it between meals and a few hours after using any vitamin or mineral supplements, as it may interfere with the absorption of these into your body. Be sure to take it away from prescription, which won’t enter your body when they bind to charcoal.

How to take activated charcoal

Everyone responds differently to different doses, so always consult a doctor before using any supplement or binding agent like charcoal.

Dosing: Take two or more capsules when consuming food of unknown quality or alcohol.

When to avoid taking charcoal: Never take activated charcoal with prescription medications or with other supplements. Charcoal binds a lot of substances – even the good stuff like prescription medications, vitamins, and minerals. Wait 2-3 hours after taking charcoal to take other supplements or meds and talk to your doctor about the details.

Drink plenty of water: Excessive charcoal consumption, especially without magnesium, can result in constipation. Take 300-400 mg magnesium glycate about 3 hours after taking charcoal and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.

And speaking of poop…

If you use activated charcoal, it will turn your poop black. This is great because it tells you how long food takes to go through your bowel (called transit time), but it can be surprising. Our kid’s preschool called once, concerned over dark stools. I had to explain the difference between bloody stools (which are black) and charcoal.

Where to find activated coconut charcoal

Because common charcoal tablets come in ineffectively small doses or inconvenient, messy powders, and are typically made from cheap, low quality (often unidentified) materials, it was essential to upgrade the options and create a Bulletproof Activated Charcoal.

The brand new and carefully produced Upgraded Coconut Charcoal is ultra fine and highly purified. We use acid washing to remove toxic heavy metals that are a problem in preparations of most charcoal. The ultra-fine charcoal grains make it absorb more and work better. It is so fine that it required a new process to pack its ultra-fine grains into capsules without damaging the manufacturing machines. This added step results in charcoal increased surface area to create maximum adsorption.

Activated charcoal is the world’s oldest detoxifying remedy and now it’s available as a powerful and convenient supplement to help eliminate the toxins in your food and environment that make you fat, weak, and foggy headed.

Try it even once and you’ll feel a difference!


Want more info on how to detox your body so you can perform your best? Check out these 8 detox methods that really work.

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