NameActivated charcoal
Accession NumberDB09278  (DB05269)
TypeSmall Molecule

Activated charcoal, or activated carbon, is an amorphous form of carbon prepared from incomplete combustion of carbonaceous organic matter. It is activated by an oxidizing gas flow at high temperature passed over its surface to make a fine network of pores, producing a material with large surface area and high affinity for various substances. It is used as a gastric decontaminant and emergency medication to treat poisonings following excessive oral ingestion of certain medications or poisons by absorbing most drugs and toxins. However its effects is rendered poor on some compounds including strong acids or bases, methanol and substances with limited absorptive capacity (including iron, lithium, arsenic). It works by binding to the poison in the gastric contents in a reversible fashion thus may be adminstered together with a cathartic to reduce the small intestine transit time. The clinical applications of activated charcoal occured in the early 1800's. While this management for acute poisoning is considered fairly invasive, it is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines that includes the most important medications needed in a basic health system.

Activated carbon
Carbo activates
Carbo activatus
Carbo vegetabilis
Carbon, Activated
Carbon, decolorizing
Charcoal activated
Charcoal, Activated
Medicinal carbon
Medicinal charcoal
External IDs AST 120 / AST-120 / GC BM-3
Product Ingredients Not Available
Approved Prescription Products
NameDosageStrengthRouteLabellerMarketing StartMarketing End
Char-flo Aqueous Base - Sus Orl 208mg/mlSuspension208 mgOralBallard Medical Products1997-08-202004-08-04Canada
Charcodote-aqueous Sus 200mg/mlSuspension200 mgOralPharmascience Inc1997-03-17Not applicableCanada
Approved Generic Prescription ProductsNot Available
Approved Over the Counter Products
NameDosageStrengthRouteLabellerMarketing StartMarketing End
Activated CharcoalCapsule225 mgOralJamp Pharma CorporationNot applicableNot applicableCanada
Activated CharcoalCapsule225 mgOralLeo Desilets Maitre Herboriste Inc1998-10-07Not applicableCanada
Activated Charcoal 260mgCapsule260 mgOralValeant Canada Lp Valeant Canada S.E.C.1998-12-07Not applicableCanada
Activated Charcoal Cap 280mgCapsule280 mgOralNature's Way Of Canada Ltd.1984-12-312010-07-27Canada
Activated Charcoal Cap 280mgCapsule280 mgOralNutrition Professionals Inc.1988-12-311997-02-27Canada
Activated Charcoal PowderPowder, for solution1 gOralLeo Desilets Maitre Herboriste Inc1999-04-082013-06-18Canada
Activated Charcoal USPPowder100 %OralLifeforce Nutri Blends Canada Inc.2002-06-172012-07-05Canada
Adrien Gagnon Charbon Activé/activated Charcoal CapsulesCapsule170 mgOralSantÉ Naturelle (Ag) LtÉe2009-12-212014-06-09Canada
Biochala Charbon Activé/activated CharcoalCapsule225 mgOralImportations Biochala Inc.Not applicableNot applicableCanada
Charac-25Suspension222 mgOralOmega Laboratories Ltd1985-12-31Not applicableCanada
Charac-50Suspension50 gOralOmega Laboratories Ltd1985-12-31Not applicableCanada
Charactol-25Suspension200 mgOralOmega Laboratories Ltd1985-12-31Not applicableCanada
Charactol-50Suspension50 gOralOmega Laboratories Ltd1985-12-31Not applicableCanada
Charbon ActifTablet230 mgOralNatural World Distribution IncNot applicableNot applicableCanada
Charbon Active 260mgCapsule260 mgOralGamme Nature2002-08-012008-07-31Canada
Charco CapsCapsule260 mgOralDse Healthcare Solutions, Llc.2016-01-15Not applicableCanada
CharcoalCapsule162 mgOralLaboratoires ArkopharmaNot applicableNot applicableCanada
Charcodote Susp 200mg/mlSuspension200 mgOralPharmascience Inc1985-12-31Not applicableCanada
Charcodote Tfs Sus 200mg/mlSuspension200 mgOralPharmascience Inc1997-08-06Not applicableCanada
Ez CharPellet25 g/25gOralPaddock Laboratories, Inc.2002-01-14Not applicableUs
Insta Char Adult 50gm/250mlLiquid50 gOralFrank W. Kerr Chemical Company1983-12-311996-09-09Canada
Insta Char Pediatric 15gm/120mlLiquid15 gOralFrank W. Kerr Chemical Company1983-12-311996-09-09Canada
Insta-char AqueousSuspension50 g/240mLOralVista Pharm, Inc.2006-10-03Not applicableUs
Insta-char Aqueous CherrySuspension50 g/240mLOralVista Pharm, Inc.2007-12-11Not applicableUs
Insta-char SorbitolSuspension50 g/240mLOralVista Pharm, Inc.2008-03-28Not applicableUs
Jamp-activated CharcoalSuspension200 mgOralJamp Pharma CorporationNot applicableNot applicableCanada
Jamp-activated Charcoal PlusSuspension200 mgOralJamp Pharma CorporationNot applicableNot applicableCanada
NoricolCapsule280 mgOralViva Pharmaceutical Inc.Not applicableNot applicableCanada
Premium Activated Charcoal USPCapsule260 mgOralSource of Life Products, Division of Chemimex Ent2008-02-04Not applicableCanada
Wampole Activated CharcoalCapsule225 mgOralJamp Pharma Corporation2013-03-19Not applicableCanada
Unapproved/Other Products
NameDosageStrengthRouteLabellerMarketing StartMarketing End
ActidoseSuspension208 mg/mLOralPaddock Laboratories, Inc.1983-10-01Not applicableUs
Actidose AquaSuspension208 mg/mLOralPaddock Laboratories, Inc.1984-01-01Not applicableUs
Humco Charcoal ActivatedPowder1000 mg/gOralHumco Holding Group. Inc.2008-01-01Not applicableUs
W Lab Sebum Out Peel Off PackGel2 g/100mLTopicalWow Ventures2016-08-01Not applicableUs
International BrandsNot Available
Brand mixtures
CarbosylaneLaboratoires Grimberg
Char-flo With Sorbitol - SusBallard Medical Products
Flat-eezeSeaford Pharmaceuticals Inc
Trousse Antipoison Pour Enfants LiqProdemdis Enr.
CAS number64365-11-3
WeightAverage: 12.011
Monoisotopic: 12.0
Chemical FormulaC

Used as a antidote to treat poisonings following excessive oral ingestion of certain medications or poisons.

Structured Indications Not Available

Activated charcoal is used as a gastric decontamination agent in emergency clinical settings in case of poison or medication overdose. Studies show that early administration of one dose of activated charcoal can adsorb poison in the stomach and reduce absorption while it also works long after ingestion, by interruption of enterohepatic and enterovascular cycling of poison.

Mechanism of action

Active charcoal acts by binding to the pharmaceutical drugs or poisons such as organophosphates and decreasing the systemic absorption of toxic agents. Molecules with large volume of distribution, thus likely having higher lipid solubility, tends to bind have better absorptive binding to activated charcoal. Following the administration of activated charcoal, cathartics are indicated to evacuate the charcoal-poison bonded complex from the gastrointestinal tract. Activated charcoal may also have an effect on systemic drug levels by lowering the serum levels of already absorbed drugs or toxins. Many absorbed drugs that undergo significant hepatic metabolism and conjugation are eliminated via bile into the small intestines. When they reach the small intestines, drug conjugates can undergo hydrolysis and return to the enterohepatic circulation. Activated charcoal interferes with this process and binds to the conjugated drug before hydrolysis or the free deconjugated drug before reabsorption.

Related Articles

No evidence of systemic absorption of activated charcoal

Volume of distributionNot Available
Protein bindingNot Available
MetabolismNot Available
Route of elimination

Fecal excretion.

Half lifeNot Available
ClearanceNot Available

Adverse effects from the treatment include aspiration into the lungs and possibly pneumonitis, black stools, vomiting, and constipation or diarrhea. The oral LD50 value in rats is 15400mg/kg.

Affected organisms
  • Humans and other mammals
PathwaysNot Available
Pharmacogenomic Effects/ADRs Not Available
Drug Interactions
DrugInteractionDrug group
LeflunomideThe serum concentration of the active metabolites of Leflunomide can be reduced when Leflunomide is used in combination with Activated charcoal resulting in a loss in efficacy.Approved, Investigational
TeriflunomideThe serum concentration of Teriflunomide can be decreased when it is combined with Activated charcoal.Approved
Food InteractionsNot Available
Synthesis ReferenceNot Available
General References
  1. Shimoishi K, Anraku M, Kitamura K, Tasaki Y, Taguchi K, Hashimoto M, Fukunaga E, Maruyama T, Otagiri M: An oral adsorbent, AST-120 protects against the progression of oxidative stress by reducing the accumulation of indoxyl sulfate in the systemic circulation in renal failure. Pharm Res. 2007 Jul;24(7):1283-9. Epub 2007 Mar 27. [PubMed:17387602 ]
  2. Eddleston M, Juszczak E, Buckley NA, Senarathna L, Mohamed F, Dissanayake W, Hittarage A, Azher S, Jeganathan K, Jayamanne S, Sheriff MR, Warrell DA: Multiple-dose activated charcoal in acute self-poisoning: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2008 Feb 16;371(9612):579-87. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60270-6. [PubMed:18280328 ]
  3. Zawahir S, Gawarammana I, Dargan PI, Abdulghni M, Dawson AH: Activated charcoal significantly reduces the amount of colchicine released from Gloriosa superba in simulated gastric and intestinal media. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2017 May 23:1-5. doi: 10.1080/15563650.2017.1325897. [PubMed:28535126 ]
  4. Ronowicz J, Kupcewicz B, Palkowski L, Krysinski J: Development and optimization of the activated charcoal suspension composition based on a mixture design approach. Acta Pharm. 2015 Mar;65(1):83-90. doi: 10.1515/acph-2015-0005. [PubMed:25781707 ]
  5. Moon J, Chun B, Song K: An exploratory study; the therapeutic effects of premixed activated charcoal-sorbitol administration in patients poisoned with organophosphate pesticide. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2015 Feb;53(2):119-26. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2014.1001516. Epub 2015 Jan 22. [PubMed:25608917 ]
  6. Yousefi G, Bizhani M, Jamshidzadeh A, Gholamzadeh S: Comparison of activated charcoal and sodium polystyrene sulfonate resin efficiency on reduction of amitriptyline oral absorption in rat as treatments for overdose and toxicities. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2017 Jan;20(1):46-52. doi: 10.22038/ijbms.2017.8092. [PubMed:28133524 ]
  7. Derlet RW, Albertson TE: Activated charcoal--past, present and future. West J Med. 1986 Oct;145(4):493-6. [PubMed:3538661 ]
  8. Spector R, Park GD: New roles for activated charcoal. West J Med. 1986 Oct;145(4):511-2. [PubMed:3788134 ]
  9. Guss DA: Emergency medicine: activated charcoal-the first-line agent in cases of overdose. West J Med. 1989 Jul;151(1):63. [PubMed:18750603 ]
  10. Neuvonen PJ: Clinical pharmacokinetics of oral activated charcoal in acute intoxications. Clin Pharmacokinet. 1982 Nov-Dec;7(6):465-89. [PubMed:6761032 ]
  11. World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines (19th List) [Link]
  12. World Health Organization Model Formulary2008 [Link]
External Links
ATC CodesA07BA51 — Medicinal charcoal, combinationsA07BA01 — Medicinal charcoal
AHFS CodesNot Available
PDB EntriesNot Available
FDA labelNot Available
MSDSDownload (52.3 KB)
Clinical Trials
Clinical Trials
1CompletedNot AvailableAsthma Bronchial2
1CompletedNot AvailableHealthy Volunteers3
1CompletedTreatmentAsthma Bronchial2
1CompletedTreatmentHealthy Volunteers1
1CompletedTreatmentMajor Depressive Disorder (MDD)1
1CompletedTreatmentPulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive1
2CompletedTreatmentHepatic Encephalopathy1
2CompletedTreatmentIrritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)1
2CompletedTreatmentMild Hepatic Encephalopathy1
2CompletedTreatmentPlasmodium Infections / Severe Malaria1
2TerminatedTreatmentGastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)1
3CompletedTreatmentAnal Incontinence1
3CompletedTreatmentChronic Kidney Disease (CKD)2
3CompletedTreatmentDisseminated Sclerosis1
3CompletedTreatmentInflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) / Intestinal Fistula1
4CompletedTreatmentAST-120 / Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)1
4CompletedTreatmentChronic Kidney Disease (CKD)1
4CompletedTreatmentLoss of Solute Clearance1
4Not Yet RecruitingTreatmentAnticoagulants; Circulating, Hemorrhagic Disorder1
Not AvailableCompletedTreatmentPhenytoin Toxicity1
ManufacturersNot Available
PackagersNot Available
Dosage forms
SuspensionOral208 mg/mL
CapsuleOral225 mg
CapsuleOral260 mg
CapsuleOral280 mg
Powder, for solutionOral1 g
PowderOral100 %
CapsuleOral170 mg
SuspensionOral208 mg
SuspensionOral222 mg
SuspensionOral50 g
SuspensionOral200 mg
TabletOral230 mg
CapsuleOral162 mg
PelletOral25 g/25g
PowderOral1000 mg/g
LiquidOral50 g
LiquidOral15 g
SuspensionOral50 g/240mL
GelTopical2 g/100mL
PricesNot Available
PatentsNot Available
Experimental Properties
water solubilityInsolubleMSDS
Predicted Properties
Water Solubility0.0 mg/mLALOGPS
Physiological Charge0ChemAxon
Hydrogen Acceptor Count0ChemAxon
Hydrogen Donor Count0ChemAxon
Polar Surface Area0 Å2ChemAxon
Rotatable Bond Count0ChemAxon
Refractivity13.11 m3·mol-1ChemAxon
Polarizability1.51 Å3ChemAxon
Number of Rings0ChemAxon
Rule of FiveYesChemAxon
Ghose FilterNoChemAxon
Veber's RuleYesChemAxon
MDDR-like RuleNoChemAxon
Predicted ADMET featuresNot Available
Mass Spec (NIST)Not Available
SpectraNot Available
DescriptionThis compound belongs to the class of organic compounds known as organic compounds. These are compounds that contain at least one carbon atom, excluding isocyanide/cyanide and their non-hydrocarbyl derivatives, thiophosgene, carbon diselenide, carbon monosulfide, carbon disulfide, carbon subsulfide, carbon monoxide, carbon trioxide, carbon suboxide, and dicarbon monoxide.
KingdomOrganic compounds
Super ClassNot Available
ClassNot Available
Sub ClassNot Available
Direct ParentOrganic compounds
Alternative ParentsNot Available
SubstituentsOrganic compound / Aliphatic acyclic compound
Molecular FrameworkAliphatic acyclic compounds
External Descriptorsnonmetal atom, carbon group element atom (CHEBI:27594 )
Drug created on October 29, 2015 08:53 / Updated on June 27, 2017 20:09