What Are the Dangers of Charcoal Tablets?

charcoal image by Vasiliy Koval from Fotolia.com

If you have seen charcoal tablets sold in health food shops or pharmacies, you may have wondered how safe this product is for human consumption. Manufacturers make charcoal tablets from activated carbon. The medical use is to treat food poisoning, mercury poisoning and drug overdoses. When ingested, charcoal spreads throughout the gut, binding to various dangerous chemicals and helping them pass harmlessly out of the body. Before choosing charcoal products, be aware of several dangerous risks involved.

Drug Interactions

Charcoal not only binds to various dangerous chemicals and helping pass them pass through the system, it also binds to various prescription drugs and supplements, reducing their effectiveness. According to Drug Information Online, charcoal interacts with over 200 medications. Take charcoal either two hours before your medication or one hour after to avoid interactions.


Ingesting charcoal tablets can lead to various gastrointestinal side effects. Reported side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation and bowel obstruction. These cases are rare and generally occur when someone has taken very high doses of charcoal. People suffering from constipation, diverticulitis, colitis or bowel obstruction should not take charcoal products without asking their health care professional.


Consumers should take charcoal tablets well away from meals to reduce the risk of charcoal binding to vitamins and minerals, reducing their absorption in the gut. Taking charcoal products long-term may result in malnutrition in a range of essential nutrients needed for overall health and well-being. In addition, some foods, such as milk, ice cream and sherbet, will render charcoal tablets less effective. Take charcoal tablets two hours before or one hour after meals.

Liver and Kidney Disease

If you suffer from liver or kidney disease, speak with your health care provider before taking charcoal tablets. Due to the cleansing actions of charcoal tablets, charcoal may put pressure on detoxification organs such as your kidneys and liver. If these organs are already impaired, it may not be safe for you to take charcoal.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is no evidence whether charcoal has any effect upon an unborn foetus, or if it passes through breast milk. Expecting and breast-feeding mothers should refrain from taking charcoal products. Do not give charcoal to children under one year old.

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