Charcoal for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

Charcoal is a natural substance useful for absorbing gases at the gastric and intestinal level, used to combat aerophagia and meteorism.

What is charcoal

Charcoal, also called activated charcoal or activated charcoal, is a natural substance obtained from the combustion of wood, or its processing waste, at high temperatures and in the absence of fire (calcination),in an oxygen-poor atmosphere(carbonification). Subsequently, the coal is burned a second time in the presence of water vapor, air or gas in order to increase its absorption power (activation).

Where is it

Charcoal is a natural charcoal, result of the carbonification of poplar, willow, birch and pine wood.

In nature, the process that leads to the formation of vegetable carbons takes place over millennia, when plant tissues are subjected to high pressures that cause an increase in temperature and to the fermentative action of anaerobic fungi and bacteria, which causes a progressive elimination of hydrogen and oxygen, with consequent enrichment of carbon.

Where to buy charcoal

Activated charcoal is bought in herbal medicine and in stores specializing in natural products for the well-being and care of the body. In herbalists, charcoal supplements in capsules or tablets containing edible charcoal are easily available.

You can also buy charcoal powder or cosmetic products containing charcoal, for example, toothpastes or skin masks.

What is charcoal used for

Charcoal is mainly used to eliminate excess gas at the level of the digestive system, counteracting aerophagia, flatulence and meteorism. Activated carbon products for the swollen belly are usually in capsules or tablets.

Powder charcoal is used instead to make toothpastes or DIY masks to whiten teeth and clean the skin in depth, eliminating excess sebum that can lead to the formation of blackheads and pimples. On the market there are numerous toothpastes and purifying skin masks that contain this ingredient.

Food grade charcoal powder is eventually used for the preparation of black bread and other baked goods.

Properties and use of charcoal

Charcoal has adsorbent properties given by its negative charge that makes it able to bind molecules with a positive charge and eliminate them from the body.

Because of this property, charcoal is used to eliminate excess gases in the stomach and intestines, but also to remove toxic substances from the body and to reduce the absorption of cholesterol.

Thanks to its adsorbent properties, charcoal is also used in case of excess sebum and, due to its abrasive and whitening properties to eliminate stains from tooth enamel.

Benefits of charcoal

Charcoal has “adsorbent activity, that is, it is able to adhere individual molecules to its surface.

The tiny particles of charcoal, retaining the gases that develop at the gastric and intestinal level, avoid bloating and abdominal tension. Its intake together with carminative plants, that is, which favor the expulsion of intestinal gases, is therefore indicated in the presence of meteorism, aerophagia, colitis, intestinal fermentations, thanks also to the mild disinfectant effect at the intestinal level. Also in the intestine, the presence of charcoal can slow down the absorption of cholesterol.

However, the beneficial effects of charcoal do not only affect the digestive system. The adsorbent properties of charcoal are in fact also exploited in the cosmetic field, especially in the case of excess sebum that can cause the closure of the pores of the skin and the consequent formation of blackheads and pimples.

Among the properties of charcoal we also find the abrasive and whitening ones, used to eliminate stains from the enamel of the teeth making them whiter.

Finally, charcoal hinders the absorption of toxic substances and promotes the elimination of heavy metals that can accumulate in various parts of the body. Thanks to its ability to retain most of the poisons, its administration also represents a classic intervention strategy in case of mushroom poisoning (followed by that of a saline purgative)

This product is also prescribed to prepare for some clinical examinations (ultrasound of the upper abdomen), in order to make it adsorb the intestinal gases that would prevent its correct execution.

Contraindications of charcoal

Charcoal is contraindicated in the presence of intestinal obstructions or appendicitis. Given its high adsorption capacity of gases and liquids, it can prevent the assimilation of drugs (they should never be taken in the interval between 30 minutes before and 2 hours after the intake of charcoal), and nutrients.


Although charcoal is considered a safe remedy, in some cases its intake can lead to side effects, especially when used at high dosages and for prolonged periods. Among the side effects of charcoal we find:

  • Nausea;
  • vomit;
  • dark stools;
  • constipation.

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