Microbiome Modification: Activated Charcoal – A review

A reader sent me a link to a Danish article that talked about the use of charcoal for microbiome disruptions. On first consideration, it means that a variety of chemical produced by bacteria in the gut may be absorbed and thus “jack the chemical signalling” of the evil [jacked] bacteria. This is speculation, so I thought that I would see what PubMed knows about it.

  • “Commonly employed doses of activated charcoal do not appreciably influence the liberation of fecal gases.” [1999]
  • “a herbal treatment with myrrh, dry extract of chamomile flowers, and coffee charcoal for ulcerative colitis…demonstrates a distinctly different pattern during treatment with myrrh, chamomile extract, and coffee charcoal than during treatment with mesalazine.” [2014] Does something – unclear what 🙁
  • “Oral Activated Charcoal Prevents Experimental Cerebral Malaria in Mice …” [2010]
  • “The most effective material in the prevention of endotoxemia provided to be bentonite[Bentonite is an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate, impure clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite} followed by Kaopectate and charcoal particles.” [1983]
    • “Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), also known as lipoglycans and endotoxin, are large molecules consisting of a lipid and a polysaccharide composed of O-antigen, outer core and inner core joined by a covalent bond; they are found in the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, and elicit strong immune responses in animals.” Wikipedia
  • It is cited as being used for Crohn’s Disease [2010] but I could not locate any published studies.

In short, not much published — it has been investigated for removing foul smells from fecal material without success. An old article hints that it may moderate immune responses.

There appear to be a clinical trial attempted in 2006 by Dr. Kenneth Kenigsberg (who appears to have a patent on this approach,  WO 2007/015102 A1: ‘The use of charcoal for the treatment of inflammatory conditions’. Inventors: BMJF, PS, PMK, KJT, Kenneth Kenigsberg and LU.) The patent describes the use of charcoal in association with other drugs/supplements and thus is an adjunct (something that helps but may be ineffectual by itself). There are no results about the clinical trial that I could locate.

Bottom Line

  • It’s cheap, i”Activated charcoal is “generally felt to be a very benign” unless it absorbs medications that a person is taking, she said…. “The dosing recommendations for activated charcoal are not well-established,”” [source]
  • There is discussion about it on Crohn’s Groups
    • It can absorb medications/supplements – so timing is important.
  • There is a “hint” that it may be effective
    • the results of the clinical trial was not published BUT a patent was filed.
    • for a condition with inflammation, it appears to work
  • I am a strong advocate of the “three wise men coming from the east”, i.e. using myrrh and frankincense (aka Boswellia) gums and would suggest using those with the charcoal because they also reduce inflammation.