I may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. I am not a doctor; please consult your practitioner before changing your supplement or healthcare regimen.
You’ve probably heard of using activated charcoal when you’re sick with food poisoning or have had too much alcohol? You’ve also heard about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar? This supplement combination can be used daily for unparalleled detoxification. Results include: cleansing of the liver and gall bladder, help clearing up stubborn acne, improvement in digestion and adsorption of gastrointestinal toxins.
We’ll look at both apple cider vinegar and activated charcoal, and then look at how these inexpensive supplements work together.
How apple cider vinegar helps with detox
- Apple cider vinegar aids weight loss. Because fat stores toxins and excess fat disrupts normal metabolic processes, obesity is more strongly correlated with lifestyle-related diseases. (source) Detoxification naturally occurs with weight loss, especially if toxins can be ushered safely from the body.
- The acetic acid in vinegar reduces inflammation and improves gut microbe composition. Both of these outcomes allow the body to detoxify. (source)
- Vinegar intake improves blood glucose in humans. Glucose levels are directly correlated with one’s toxic load. (source, source)
- ACV stimulates the liver to produce bile (which holds toxins) and the gall bladder to excrete bile into the GI tract.
What remains then is to usher those toxins safely out of the body. This is where activated charcoal comes into play. (To some smaller extent, apple cider vinegar also ushers toxins out.)
How activated charcoal helps with detox
While I have used activated charcoal (find it here) for years, I used it for rare cases of food poisoning or other emergency cases, such as recommending it to an elderly relative who had diarrhea that wouldn’t stop.
But my naturopathic doctor was the first person to share with me how to use activated charcoal more often to adsorb internal toxins.
Our bodies have various methods of naturally detoxing: urination, bowel movements, sweat. But internally, we need a porous supplement that binds with and ushers out GI toxins.
Activated charcoal is effective in this role, affordable and incredibly convenient.
Activated charcoal is a special form of carbon that can bind other substances on its surface (adsorption).
Adsorption works by chemically binding the body’s impurities to the carbon (charcoal). The active sites in the charcoal eventually become filled. Activated charcoal is a special form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. Due to its high degree of microporosity, one gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 32,000 sq ft, or larger than a football field! (source, source)
(In contrast, when something is absorbed, it gets soaked up and assimilated into the blood stream.)
Modern health benefits of activated charcoal
- Today, many doctors use activated charcoal to remove a range of toxins, drugs, viruses, bacteria, fungus, mycotoxins and chemicals from the body. (It is not true that charcoal binds to heavy metals, though.)
- Activated charcoal may be able to assist kidney function by filtering out undigested toxins and drugs from urea (the main by-product of protein digestion).
- AC is the most commonly used method of gastrointestinal decontamination in emergency rooms today.
- Activated charcoal has also been shown to protect gut flora during the use of antibiotics.
- Estrogenic compounds are of increasing concern in today’s food supply and environment. They mimic natural estrogens in the body and wreak havoc on hormone levels and can be cancer causing. AC adsorbs xeno- and phyoestrogens and ushers them from the body.
- Several studies have shown that activated charcoal may help reduce cholesterol levels. Again, AC binds with cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids in the gut, preventing the body from absorbing them.
- And while many people use activated charcoal for acne or other skin conditions topically … acne is the body’s way of pushing out internal toxins and can be used more effectively internally.
My doctor reminded me of this: Cystic acne is the body’s attempt to detoxify! That is why activated charcoal works so well to reduce and improve acne symptoms.
How to use apple cider vinegar with activated charcoal to detox
Used with apple cider vinegar, which helps the body to excrete toxins through bile, activated charcoal adsorbs these toxins, both in the stomach and in the intestines, and ushers the toxins safely from the body.
In regard to acne: Detoxified thus, the body does not need to push the toxins out of the skin; they have already been removed!
The same is true of lesser-known toxins, such as the possibility of excess vitamin A. A myriad of toxins are removed from the body — cleansing the liver, reducing the body’s toxic load and reducing symptoms.
This benefit I’ve personally experienced. Great improvement to skin and overall health from my morning dose of water, ACV or gentian and activated charcoal.
My teenage son has also seen a huge improvement in his skin from this daily detox dose. Out of consideration for him, I have not included before and after photographs (not that he would have let me LOL), but it’s made a significant difference in his complexion.
Alternatives to charcoal or apple cider vinegar for detox
For a fruit-free variation, I use gentian tincture. Gentian is a bitter herb that performs a similar role as ACV. Gentian stimulates and cleanses the liver and gall bladder, as well as aids in digestion.
However, ACV is better for liver function and health; so if you can use it, do.
Lemon juice may also be used, mixed with a small amount of water, in place of ACV.
Alternatives to activated charcoal may include: bentonite clay, zeolite and citrus pectin. Each of these binders has its own properties and varies from charcoal in its qualities and benefits. I won’t go into the differences here, but feel free to ask any specific questions in the Comments section below.
Find activated charcoal here.
How to do a Daily Detox with Activated Charcoal + Apple Cider Vinegar
I am not a practitioner, so ask your doctor about dosage. I always take my dose in the morning on an empty stomach. Here’s a recipe for daily use that I use for our family:
- Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 12 or more ounces filtered water.
- Swallow activated charcoal pill with ACV water. (I take just one capsule activated charcoal daily.)
- Drink plenty of water daily.
- Wait to eat for about 1 hour.
To use gentian in place of ACV, I use 1/3 of a dropper in a small amount of water + more plain water. (You can buy gentian tincture here, or make your own here.)
More than one capsule may be unnecessary for a daily maintenance dose and cause constipation in some.
History of activated charcoal for detox
As the National Poison Control Center tells us, “Activated charcoal has historically been used to clean water and as a treatment for many ailments. An early demonstration of the adsorptive properties of activated charcoal occurred in 1813 when the French chemist Bertrand drank 5 grams of arsenic trioxide (a very poisonous substance) mixed with activated charcoal and survived.” (source)
Ayurvedic and Eastern medicine practitioners have used activated charcoal for millennia — to cleanse toxic mold spores from the body and even to whiten teeth (by adsorbing the oily substances that build up on teeth as well as removing common food stains — although this may be too abrasive for tooth enamel). Internally, activated charcoal binds itself to mold’s mycotoxins — the very cause of symptoms. When mycotoxins are removed, the body’s natural healing responses are more effective.
During the Bronze Age, as first recorded in 3750 B.C., the Egyptians discovered that charcoal did not rot. They and many other primitive civilizations discovered that the use of charcoal helped to create sea-worthy crafts as well as protect residential buildings.
Because charcoal can be produced from a variety of raw materials, diverse cultures discovered its many uses: purification of drinking water, toxin remover, blood purifier, gas and bloating remedy, insect bite relief and anti-aging. In the first World War, charcoal was used to create gas masks.
Today, clothing for hunters is made with activated charcoal, as it adsorbs the body’s odors, preventing hunters from being smelled by their prey.
Nancy in Alberta says
I don’t have a gall bladder, so stimulation of my liver first thing in the morning to make and secrete bile feels really good to me. I usually use ACV for this, but I don’t do it every day. That’s not for any reason other than I forget to do it!
Our use of activated charcoal is much like yours was, ie. we use it occasionally with stomach bugs, and topically for acne. This is a great help!
My question is: does it work fast enough, if taken first thing in the a.m. on an empty stomach, that I can still take my digestive enzymes, iodine, etc. without worrying about it binding with those supplements? Another way to put this is: how much time is needed between the charcoal and other supplements?
Thanks so much!
Hi Nancy! Thanks for your comment and question! Many sources recommend waiting about 1 hour after taking activated charcoal, before taking supplements or nutrient-dense foods. I have echoed that in my article to be on the safe side, but the aforementioned sources do not source to studies. In contrast, a British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Elaine Allerton, says, “Through absorption of toxins, activated charcoal is a natural gut cleanser. Nutrients, vitamins and minerals are either too large or don’t bond with charcoal.” The 1980 book, Activated Charcoal, by David O. Cooney, says: “Charcoal added to the diet of sheep for six months did not cause a loss of nutrients, as compared with sheep not receiving charcoal. … A level of 5 % of the total diet was given as charcoal. It did not affect the blood or urinary levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, inorganic phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, creatinine, uric acid, urea nitrogen, alkaline phosphatase, total protein or urine pH.” These sources seem more accurate than websites that do not source at all. It seems from the evidence that it is safe to take charcoal with nutrient dense foods or supplements, but best for each individual to decide for themselves. 🙂
If I were to replace charcoal with bentonite clay, how much bentonite clay should I use, and will it have the same effect.
Hi Lisa, thanks for your question. There are some similar and some different benefits with bentonite clay. Bentonite clay is negatively charged, so one of the main benefits is the energy it yields inside the body as it adsorbs toxins. (I can actually feel it inside me!) It does not, however, improve acne, like charcoal does. You can read more details about and benefits of bentonite clay here, as well as how to take it: https://eatbeautiful.net/how-why-drink-bentonite-clay-radiation-detox/ Dosage-wise, I like to take 1/2 teaspoon daily. Many people work up to 1 teaspoon daily. But for anyone looking for acne relief, I have found charcoal to address this issue, not clay. Also, for anyone detoxing excess vitamin A, I do believe charcoal does a better job. Bentonite clay seems to churn up too much activity and can exacerbate this particular issue. So it depends on your specific goals.
Hi Megan! What a great article! I’m just wondering if this is something that I can do while pregnant, since the AC would take the toxins out? I’m so good at detoxing when I’m not pregnant, but when I am pregnant, I feel less healthy because I’m trying to do the safe thing for the baby, in addition to being more tired and less motivated! I’ve been taking a plant-based progesterone orally based on both my natural doctor’s recommendations, but I read that taking it orally versus topically can cause liver toxicity, and I can tell because I am breaking out everywhere and having other symptoms of a loaded liver. But I want to keep my baby safe after two miscarriages this summer. So long story short, I want to detox without harming the baby. Would this be safe? Thanks!
Hi Emily, thanks! It’s great that you have two natural doctors because you can ask them! 🙂 I can’t comment on safety issues, especially with pregnancy, but I think it’s worth asking them! It does indeed seem like this supplement combination will be helpful in your situation, gentle while reducing your body’s toxic load and creating a better environment for baby! But best to ask them before proceeding. Best wishes and congratulations!
Amanda Yarde says
Good morning Megan! I have been using this method for a couple of days now and I was surprised at the almost instant results I saw! I do have a question though. I struggled to drink the water and ACV, even heavily diluted, so I added some flavored water drops. I know that they aren’t the healthiest choice, but I don’t use them otherwise, and it really helped me get the water/acv down. Am I minimizing the health effects of this combo by doing so? Thank you!
Hi Amanda, I’m sorry I saw your question late! In regard to flavored drops, you might try a flavored drop that’s natural, like a stevia-based one. I hope that helps!
Emily K says
Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge. After reading your response to Nancy’s question I was wondering amid you could point me to a good resource about daily AC use and it’s effect on the absorption or effectiveness of medicines. Thanks in advance.
Hi Megan. I have recently stumbled across your website and love it. Have baked some of your desserts, muffins etc and they are delicious. I look forward to exploring more 🙂
I want to start with the ACV and AC. My question: can I drink coffee after having the apple cider vinegar and activated charcoal, or is it like food. Best to wait an hour?
Hi Terri-Lyn, thank you for your kind comments, and I am so happy you’re enjoying the website and recipes. 🙂 I would wait 20 to 25 minutes after having the ACV and AC before having coffee. The main reason is that coffee actually creates a different pH in your stomach than the ACV, so it will counteract the action we want to produce. But once bile is released from the gall bladder, it’s not going to hurt to have coffee there too.
Great. Thanks for the response Megan! I do enjoy coffee in the mornings 🙂
Hello, I was wondering about using this daily, as the bottles mention not to use more than a few weeks at a time. Thank you!
Hi Lisa, my doctor (Dr. Smith who is an ND who works with patients on truly detoxing their livers) has his patients take it for years. But, you will need to decide what’s best for you, as you know. The wording on the bottle may just be a generic warning, or perhaps they are misinformed, in my opinion.
Usually mix my ACV with Baking soda….will this adversely affect the efficacy of Charcoal?
Hi Renay, if you mix ACV and baking soda, both are nullified. One makes your stomach more acidic to digest foods (ACV), and one makes your stomach more alkaline (not ideal for digestion). It’s not recommended to take baking soda. Baking soda will definitely not stimulate the liver to produce bile, nor the gall bladder to release it, so it will not compliment taking charcoal.
Wonderful article. Can we take Activated charcoal daily for long periods?
Hi Jerry, thank you, I’m so glad it’s helpful. There aren’t any studies that I know of that track the long term and regular use of activated charcoal. I personally do take it everyday and have now for a couple of years. This is not uncommon for those wishing to reduce toxicity with activated charcoal, but each person must decide for himself whether this is right for his body. And obviously, the dose one chooses needs to be right, not causing any constipation.
If your using it for your kidneys it says “do not take for more than a week”.. what it didn’t tell me is when can I take it again.
Sounds like it would be best to ask your kidney doctor. Perhaps they’ll have a better understanding on that reasoning.
Amber Ellis says
Hello! I am taking DIM at night before bed for the hormonal and sleep benefits but i am waking up with headaches and think I need to use charcoal to help bring out those extra toxins. My question is this: I take my thyroid meds as soon as I wake up and would take the ACV/Charcoal about 30-45 mins later (my schedule to get to the gym) and wondered if the charcoal would absorb my meds? Thanks!
Hi Amber, Another commenter asked this as well. Response: Many sources recommend waiting about 1 hour after taking activated charcoal, before taking supplements or nutrient-dense foods. I have echoed that in my article to be on the safe side, but the aforementioned sources do not source to studies. In contrast, a British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Elaine Allerton, says, “Through absorption of toxins, activated charcoal is a natural gut cleanser. Nutrients, vitamins and minerals are either too large or don’t bond with charcoal.” The 1980 book, Activated Charcoal, by David O. Cooney, says: “Charcoal added to the diet of sheep for six months did not cause a loss of nutrients, as compared with sheep not receiving charcoal. … A level of 5 % of the total diet was given as charcoal. It did not affect the blood or urinary levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, inorganic phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, creatinine, uric acid, urea nitrogen, alkaline phosphatase, total protein or urine pH.” These sources seem more accurate than websites that do not source at all. It seems from the evidence that it is safe to take charcoal with nutrient dense foods or supplements, but best for each individual to decide for themselves.
So taking charcoal after your thyroid Rx by one hour is the most discussed, but 45 minutes may be fine. I hope that helps and that your headaches resolve soon!
Nadia Webber says
Hi there, incredibly helpful comments and article. I’ve recently started taking one capsule of AC first thing in morning, David avocado Wolfe recommends a bit of sea salt in the water. Is a couple grains of sea salt in water OK with ACV water when I take the one AC? And… I was also doing the 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide 3 drops in a glass in morning, maintenance dosage, for oxygenation purposes. I know lemon juice is OK with hydrogen peroxide. Do you know if I could still take the 3 drops of hp in water, after having my AC in water… Or should I wait…? Would they react…? Thank you
Victoria Ann says
I was getting ready to pop 1 capsule of activated coconut charcoal and down it with some apple cider vinegar in water, but thought I would check to see if anyone else had done this first… And your article popped up! So awesome. Can you please tell me, what is the recommended dosage/milligrams to be used for the charcoal? Mine is 1000 mg. I emptied some of the capsule and only took half. Would love your input. I am new to this, taking for binding toxins. Thanks so much! 🙂
Hi Victoria, yes, that is something I should have specified and will clarify in the article. My capsules are 560 mg. each, and I take one each morning. I’m so sorry, by the way, that I got your comment late. For some reason, it went to a different area than my other comments, so hopefully you’ll get my response, even though it’s late. 🙂 You might also find this dosage chart helpful: https://www.drugs.com/dosage/charcoal.html
How many mg for activated charcoal should you take daily?
Hi Jill, here’s a dosage chart that may be helpful to you: https://www.drugs.com/dosage/charcoal.html Personally, I take one capsule daily, which is 560 mg.
Megan, I’m trying this detox, but ACV makes me nauseous. Is this a detox reaction? Is there something other than ACV I could use?
Hi there, I’d try gentian tincture, which I link to above; it can be purchased or made homemade.
I have recently started using activated charcoal. I also drink ACV with some lemon juice and a micro greens blend for detoxing. I do the micro greens drink in the morning. I take the activated charcoal a couple hours after I have finished my final meal, which is usually only 1 or 2 meals, due to IF, then I take a probiotic before bed. I don’t know if it would be smart for me to take the activated charcoal at the same time as I drink the ACV drink mixture, due to the AC binding to most everything also. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
It is typically understood that AC does not bind to vitamins and minerals, so I freely take mine with nutrient dense foods. I hope that helps.
Hi um I was just wondering if there’s a way to take activated charcoal outside of a capsule cuz I have problems swalling capsules and pills and other stuff. Also is it best taken with or without food?
Hi Luke, it’s okay to take activated charcoal with food. And yes, you can empty it into any amount of water, stir it in, and drink it.
Are there any initial side effects to doing this daily detox, such as you might experience with other short term detox regimens? And would they subside after your body is regularly detoxed each morning? Thanks!
Hi Jan, I can’t say for your unique body. Definitely consult a doctor if you’re concerned. Personally, I felt only benefits as the charcoal binds toxins and the ACV or gentian improves digestion. I hope that helps! 🙂
Hello, i was wondering if u could take ACV with AC then head to the gym with plenty of water with me. Would doing that have any positive/negative benefits. Then when I come home would it be okay to take my protein shake then? Thank you so much!
Hi Cristian, personally, I would do this. I can’t tell you it’s fine for your body. But theoretically it wouldn’t be a problem IMO. Many doctors recommend starting the day with ACV water, so the only thing you’re doing differently is adding the charcoal to grab any toxins. 🙂 Best wishes!
Linda Miller says
Hi Megan, I love your site. I suffer from chronic/recurrent UTIs (currently battling another klebsiella p. UTI) and have Interstitial Cystitis. I have learned so much from you.
I am trying to treat my current UTI naturally and to avoid antibiotics. I have tried the high-dose colloidal silver route (using Mesosilver) with some, but not complete, success. Currently trying a protocol involving activated charcoal cleanse and taking natural antimicrobials (including olive leaf, oregano oil, cayenne shots, lemon, ginger).
Prior to my latest UTI I have added fermented foods to my diet, making and consuming raw kefir and sauerkraut in an effort to diversify my microbiome (that has likely been destroyed by antibiotics).
My burning question to you right now is whether it is ok to consume kefir and sauerkraut while doing this charcoal cleanse, taking the natural meds, and battling this kleb p UTI. I’ve seen conflicting information…eat fermented foods, don’t eat them. Or maybe I wait until the UTI is cured?
I would so appreciate your input! Thank you for what you do. I (and I’m certain many others) so appreciate your breadth of knowledge and insights.
Hi Linda, happy to help, and I’m sorry for your struggles! So a few thoughts: Have you already read my article on IC and getting the food intolerance eval from Dr. Zeff? If so, have you eliminated all fruit, including olive oil, avocado oil etc? (https://eatbeautiful.net/how-i-healed-my-interstitial-cystitis/) Also, have you used these herbs and this method for UTIs? (just in case you need an additional method; hopefully your current method will work): https://eatbeautiful.net/5-herbs-that-heal-utis-within-hours/ To answer your question, I would remove the fermented foods as they are a source of aldehydes and yes, may aggravate your symptoms. Instead, I’d choose a probiotic to use and alternate it with your antimicrobials, and then continue to use it afterwards, if you choose. Lastly, big picture-wise, in addition to the food intol. eval from Dr. Zeff, I’d point you to the low A diet, which is where I ended up getting the deepest, fullest healing for my UT, including kidneys: https://eatbeautiful.net/vitamin-a-detox-diet-free-printable-food-lists-avoid-eat-toxicity/ Best wishes!
Linda Miller says
Thank you so much for your quick response, Megan! I have read some of the articles you linked in your response, but I will be sure to go back through all of them to study and perhaps implement the principles you outline.
Just to clarify, you suggest eliminating fermented foods, not just while I treat/heal this current UTI but moving forward as well? Finally, do you favor a specific probiotic to use?
Thanks again! Your information is invaluable to me.
Linda Miller says
Hi again, Megan, I have another follow up question if you don’t mind. The first article you linked discussed eliminating all fruit, but the A detox diet has several fruits included on the grocery list. Can you please elaborate a little? Do I eliminate all fruits or some fruits? Thank you!
Hi Linda, sure. If you read my article about recovering from IC, I discuss there that 50% of all IC sufferers are intolerant to fruit. That means that half of all people who have IC could recover by giving up all fruit, (oftentimes they need to make other lifestyle or dietary changes as well, but it’s often VERY helpful and key to getting well). So in my opinion, based on working with Dr. Zeff and my own recovery and what he does with his patients, it seems wise for anyone who has IC to start by giving up all fruit, just to see if it helps. If someone does this but makes no other changes, it may not be enough, but if other changes are made as well, it can be almost immediately life changing. For me, it was. Of course, 50% of patients are not intolerant to fruit, but instead intolerant to another food or food group, so those people would need their results from Dr. Zeff’s food intolerance eval. to know how to proceed. So, it’s an experiment of sorts that can help in the short term while a patient waits for their eval. results. Therefore, even though the low A diet allows certain fruits, the goal is to see if your body can genetically digest fruit well or if it’s part of what’s causing your symptoms.
Very helpful, and thank you! Given the high number of ICers who are intolerant to all fruit, it makes a lot of sense to begin by experimenting with eliminating all fruit. Makes so much sense!
I hope it helps you, Linda!!
Hi Linda, happy to help! If I get cut off here, I’ll come back to continue; I have a new 4 year old that may wake up. 🙂 Personally, I would favor not doing fermented foods for now (ongoing, waiting) and choosing a single strain of probiotic to see how you do. This topic has become more complicated but also simpler since I’ve started working with Dr. Smith, so I’m not sure if I can share all of the info in this setting, but I’ll try to be brief. One option is to go with Sacc Boul as it’s a helpful soil bacteria that’s non-colonizing but its clustering method works for longer in the body than many probiotics. It doesn’t cause gas or bloating but oftentimes improves multiple aspects of gut health. I like the Klaire Labs product: https://amzn.to/3Jjiqr0 The longer more complicated answer is multifold. Firstly, it could include ordering Lactoferrin from Dr. Smith, as lactoferrin encourages the growth of probiotics in the body while also addressing liver and bile duct health in a very significant way. This supplement has to be started really slowly. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15222478/) https://nutritiondetective.com/collections/shop Re specific single strain probiotics, there are two Dr. Smith recommends trying to see which one your body benefits from: https://amzn.to/3ZJrehd or https://amzn.to/3Fmi1TR. So, not a quick and easy answer, but hopefully that gives you some options. Dosage-wise, he recommends starting by opening the capsule, and dumping out just a little that you lick off your finger or hand. Then watch for feeling better or worse in a variety of ways for 2 weeks, with just that tiny dose maintained daily. If worse, change probiotics. If better, only increase dosage slowly when it’s helpful.
Linda Miller says
Very helpful, Megan. I so appreciate your response and this information!
Happy to help! 🙂