Thanks to its toxin-binding properties, activated charcoal has a variety of medical uses.
For instance, activated charcoal is often used in cases of poisoning.
That’s because it can bind a wide variety of drugs, reducing their effects. In humans, activated charcoal has been used as a poison antidote since the early 1800s
It may be used to treat prescription drugs overdoses, as well as overdoses of over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen and sedatives
For instance, studies show that when a single dose of 50–100 grams of activated charcoal is taken within five minutes of drug ingestion, it may reduce drug absorption in adults by up to 74%
This effect decreases to around 50% when the charcoal is taken 30 minutes after drug ingestion and 20% if it’s taken three hours after the drug overdose
The initial dose of 50–100 grams is sometimes followed by two to six doses of 30–50 grams every two to six hours. However, this multiple dosage protocol is used less often and may only be effective in a limited number of poisoning cases
It’s important to note that activated charcoal is not effective in all cases of poisoning. For instance, it appears to have little effect on alcohol, heavy metal, iron, lithium, potassium, acid or alkali poisonings
What’s more, experts warn that activated charcoal shouldn’t be routinely administered in all cases of poisoning. Rather, its use should be considered on a case-by-case basis
Activated charcoal can bind a variety of drugs and toxins, preventing their absorption into the body. It’s often used as an anti-poison treatment or to treat drug overdoses.