Activated Charcoal – what it is and why you should be rubbing it all over your teeth

Our own Megan May answered these questions as part of an interview for the New Zealand Herald, and so we thought if you’d been umming and ahhing over what the big deal was, you might like to have a read too!

1: What benefits are there to taking activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal has been used for decades as an antidote for drugs and poison, as well as water filtration. But in addition to this it is a great remedy for general detoxification, digestion issues, gas and bloating. We encounter toxins in our every day lives from the processed foods we consume to the air we breathe, and so it is important to help our body eliminate then to promote healthy bodily functioning. It’s also a great natural teeth whitener!

 2: How does it work to detox the body?

Activated charcoal is highly absorbent, with just one teaspoon having the surface area of more than 10,000 square feet – giving it unique absorption properties and the ability to bind to poisons, heavy metals and chemicals, trapping them in its highly absorbent pores and flushing them from your body.

3: How effective is it in treating/preventing a hangover?

I personally don’t consume alcohol myself, but have heard that it works well at preventing a hangover. However, if you are taking it as a hangover remedy, make sure you drink plenty of water, I’d say between 2-3 litres. This prevents dehydration and helps your body flush out the toxins more efficiently.

4: How often should it be taken?

Toxicology studies have shown activated charcoal to be completely harmless to human health. So in my opinion, it should be taken any time after exposure to toxins such as alcohol or heavily processed foods (but not taken unnecessarily or constantly). If you’re eating a heavy, greasy meal out or drinking on a Saturday night its great to have some activated charcoal. This will help lessen or eliminate the effects of the toxins on your body, which we all generally experience as a “hangover” or a sluggish, tired, moody feeling after eating junk food. However, it also binds to other ingested materials, as it cannot distinguish between toxins and good nutrients. So if you eat a relatively healthy wholefoods diet and don’t consume alcohol on a daily basis, I would recommend taking it about twice a week to eliminate the common toxins we encounter in our everyday lives such as herbicides, pesticides and carbon dioxide from the pollution in the air. Also, don’t take it within a few hours of taking any perscribed medication or supplements as it can prevent proper absorption.

5: What forms does it come in?

Activated charcoal is not the same kind of charcoal that you find in your BBQ, nor the ashes from burning wood (which is full of nasty toxins and chemicals that should never be consumed!). Therefore it is important to find a high quality form of activated charcoal before consuming it. We sell and use medical grade activated coconut shell charcoal from This comes in a loose powdered form, but you can also buy it as capsules, and from other charcoal sources such as wood.

6: When did you first come across it?

I first came across it a long time ago when I was unwell and was doing one of the many cleansing programmes I did in an effort to get well. Activated charcoal often featured in these programmes so I was intrigued to learn more.

7: What’s your own personal experience with it.

I mostly use it as a cleansing tool as part of a juice cleanse, we have it as one of our dinks in both our cleanse packs at little bird and we also use it for water filtration.  While the body is designed to naturally remove toxins, the amount of daily toxins we are exposed to has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, so a little spring cleaning with the help of some activated charcoal on a regular basis can help lighten the load.  You will also find it as a common component in most water filters, we use activated charcoal water filters to filter all the water we use in our cafes and factory, it removes unwanted chemicals like chlorine from your water. Another favourite way to use it is as a teeth whitener. It seems counter intuitive, and looks disgusting at first, but is actually extremely effective at drawing impurites out of your teeth – and not to mention entirely natural and chemical free unlike traditional bleach whiteners.