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Activated Charcoal for Travel: Keeping Stomach Bugs at Bay

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Activated charcoal for travel – you won’t want to leave home without it! Activated charcoal should become a regular part of your luggage.

It happens to all of us at one point or another. You travel somewhere exotic, drink only bottled water, pay attention to not having any ice in your drinks, and even resist most of the delicious-smelling street food… And still, the stomach bug appears.

Going to a local pharmacy and visiting a doctor can be difficult sometimes, but fortunately you can be prepared by bringing your best travel buddy with you. Welcome to the new and improved world of travelling with Activated charcoal.

Street food in Asia
Street food is delicious but it can sometimes give you a nasty stomach bug

My Personal Experience with Activated Charcoal

I’ve used activated charcoal when travelling quite a few times. In Morocco, it totally saved me and I was fine again after a couple of days, while not dieting very much. In Iran, the effects were not strong enough and only a combination of Imodium and activated charcoal solved it for me.

I always take the charcoal with me on my travels, especially outside Europe. It’s an easy way to get rid of milder stomach bugs.

Medically speaking, though, “there is no solid evidence to support claims that activated charcoal helps with TD, bloating, stomach cramps, or gas.” (source)

In this guide I will explain what is activated charcoal, as well as cover the activated charcoal benefits for travellers and look at some of the top rated activated charcoal powders and capsules currently available.

Please note that I recommend activated charcoal for an upset stomach, not for any disease or any severe case of food poisoning. I’m not a medical professional and you should exercise caution and not consider activated charcoal as a universal cure for all possible gastro-intestinal problems. You can read more on activated charcoal here.

Also, if it’s your first time taking activated charcoal, start with a smaller dose.

Travelling in Morocco
Posing in Morocco all smiling… activated charcoal aided in that :)

My Pick for the Best Activated Charcoal for Travel: NaturaLife Labs

Don’t have time to read my entire article on activated charcoal for travel and just want to know which one I recommend? Well, I like the activated charcoal capsules from NaturaLife Labs.

While there are many brands of activated charcoal, NaturaLife are perfect for everyone including vegans and people on a gluten-free diet. They also provide the highest amount of activated charcoal per dose, making them great value.

For more information about these activated coal capsules and the others in this guide, keep reading below.


 

Click here to check the current price of NaturaLife Labs Charcoal Capsules

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is made by burning a form of carbon, such as wood, debris or most commonly coconut shells. As it burns, the high temperatures remove all the oxygen and activate the material with gases like steam.

This process increases its adsorption effect by populating its surface with lots of tiny micro pores that can capture, bind and remove poisons, chemicals and intestinal gases.

Finely milled Activated Charcoal Powder
Finely milled Activated Charcoal Powder – not easy to travel with

What does Activated Charcoal do?

So what does activated charcoal do? Well it’s said that activated charcoal can absorb up to 100 times its weight in toxins, which is why it’s most commonly used to treat ingested overdoses or poisonous materials as it helps to absorb the contaminant. The coal’s porous surface attracts gas and toxins and carries them out of the body, helping to make the patient feel better quicker, or in some cases not get sick at all.

The use of activated charcoal in medicine is not new. Activated charcoal has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine as well as western medicine.

However, it has been medically approved only for toxin-binding. Medically speaking, viral or bacterial diarrhoea cannot be cured with it. I had a brief consultation with Mike Huxley of the Bemused Backpacker on the topic (he’s a qualified nurse), and he explained the charcoal’s ability to bind toxins and that it’s also commonly used to treat gas, even though there are more-fitting meds available. 

So what does it taste like? Activated carbon is odorless, non-toxic and tasteless. If there’s any taste, it’ll be a slightly sweet taste that has been added for a nicer flavor.

Stomach ache on a vacation
Hugging a pillow is not a good way to spend a vacation

Comparison Chart of the Top 10 Activated Charcoal for Travellers

 Check out the below handy table to see the various activated charcoal supplements reviewed in this guide side by side so you can quickly compare their features. For more information keep reading my guide.

Brand & Form Picture Size / Doses / mg per dose Made from Our rating More details
NaturaLife Labs (Capsules) 100 capsules / 50 doses / 1200 mg Coconut Shells 4.7 Check prices
Viva Doria (Powder) 34 g Natural Hardwood 4.4 Check prices
Nature’s Way (Capsules)  100 capsules / 50 doses / 560 mg Indian Hardwood 4.5 Check prices
Zen Charcoal (Powder) 227 g USA Hardwood 4.5 Check prices
Bulletproof (Capsules) 90 capsules / 45 doses / 1000 mg Coconut Shells 4.5 Check prices
Schizandu Organics (Capsules) 210 capsules / 105 doses / 520 mg Coconut Shells 4.6 Check prices
Divine Bounty (Capsules) 90 capsules / 90 doses / 600 mg Coconut Shells 4.4 Check prices
Viva Doria (Powder) 283 g Coconut Shells 4.3 Check prices
Purest Vantage (Capsules) 90 capsules / 90 doses / 600 mg Coconut Shells 4.5 Check prices
Sports Research (Capsules) 90 capsules / 45 doses / 600 mg Coconut Shells 4.6 Check prices

 

What are Activated Charcoal Benefits?

There are several benefits of charcoal to help treat a range of common traveller complaints. Some of the common activated charcoal uses are food positioning, diarrhoea, constipation and other stomach problems such as bloating or gas. (Please note these are not medical claims).

As it passes through your system it collects all the toxins and other villains responsible for your discomfort and removes them from your life.

Here are some situations that travellers may consider using activated charcoal:

  • When you eat low quality foods or at restaurants that you may be concerned with;
  • When drinking alcohol;
  • Forgot your toothpaste? No problem, open a capsule on your toothbrush and brush to whiten teeth;
  • You can use active charcoal for gas or bloating;
  • Woke up with diarrhoea, vomiting or a case of food positioning, start a dose straight away;
  • Did your travel buddy wake up with diarrhoea? Give it to your buddy and start taking it yourself to avoid getting whatever they have; and
  • Is your skin feeling dry or broken out with pimples, mix it with your moisturizer for a homemade facial.

[clear h=10]One thing to note is that activated charcoal will only bind with whatever toxins are in your stomach or intestines at the time that you take it. So there is no point taking it to remove the numerous cocktails you had the night before, because they have been absorbed into your blood stream already.

I haven’t tried myself using activated charcoal to brush my teeth or as a skincare remedy, but I’d be interested in hearing your experience, so do let me know in the comments under this post.

Activated Charcoal powder for teeth whitening
People have used activated charcoal powder for teeth whitening

Are there any Activated Charcoal Side Effects? Is Activated Charcoal Safe?

I know you’re wondering is activated charcoal safe? Well like any supplement, there can be some activated charcoal side effects. The main issue being, that given its ability to absorb toxins in the body and remove them, it can also absorb and remove the good stuff in the body that you don’t want it to, like vitamins, minerals and any medication you are taking.

Be especially careful if you’re on ‘serious’ medication such as the antimalarials. 

To avoid activated charcoal interfering with your medication or good quality food, avoid taking it 2 hours before and after eating or taking your medication.

Activated charcoal is also known to slow down your bowel and cause nausea and constipation (and black stools) so it’s also recommended that you drink plenty of water with it.

Other than that, studies have shown that activated charcoal is relatively harmless, even in high doses. Too much activated charcoal should result in constipation at max. However, please note that I am not a health professional and so recommend you talk to your own medical practitioner about this first.

Perfect vacation
For a perfect vacation you need to take a good care of your stomach (on the inside)

What are some of the forms of Activated Charcoal?

 Activated charcoal comes in powder, capsules or pills.

The efficacy of the different forms of activated charcoal is similar, so simply choose based on your personal preference.

Capsules make it often the easiest, since they just need to be swallowed. How much activated charcoal is in a capsule depends on the brand, see it in the table above. If you’re a vegan, you need to watch for vegan charcoal capsules not made of gelatine.

Charcoal pills, or carbon pills, often need to be chewed before you flush them off with water. They will make your mouth especially black. That’s the fun part :) Charcoal pills or tablets are not sold much anymore, since to press and hold the powder together in a tablet form requires the use of anti-caking agents and such.

Charcoal powder, on the other hand, is the most variable of all forms. Apart from just drinking it with water, you may easily use it for brushing teeth or for skincare. In my opinion, though, it’s the least practical charcoal for travelling, since it can get messy if the packaging breaks in your luggage.

Activated Charcoal Capsules
The best travel-friendly form of Activated charcoal: Capsules

How to use Activated Charcoal?

So how to use activated charcoal? Generally speaking, it is recommended that if you feel your stomach is a bit off, that you take 1-2 capsules once daily for 1-2 days. If, however, you have food poisoning with diarrhoea, then the recommended activated charcoal dosage is usually around 4-6 capsules taken 3-5 times throughout the day for several days.

As previously mentioned, activated charcoal should be used at least 2 hours before or after having a meal. It shouldn’t be eaten with vitamins or other oral supplements. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should stay away from it. Same goes with small children.

There are only 2 types of food to be avoided while digesting activated charcoal: ice cream and chocolate. I know, they are great vacation delicacies, but you better refrain from having them or they will reduce the charcoal’s effect.

It is recommended that you follow the instructions on the packaging of the activated charcoal you purchase.

Activated Charcoal Capsule
Activated Charcoal powder enclosed in a capsule

Can you take Activated charcoal on a plane?

Absolutely. That is, if it’s not in some liquid form and over 100 ml. Charcoal capsules, pills and powder can all be taken on a plane. I’d just advise against opening a charcoal powder pack on board of a plane. The change in pressure could send the fine powder in your face, at least. :)

Where to Buy Activated Charcoal?

You can buy activated charcoal capsules or tablets from most pharmacies and health food shops. You can also easily get them online. Online, such as on Amazon, is also where to buy activated charcoal powder most conveniently. For each of the products I review below I have provided links of where you can purchase it straight away. 

Activated Charcoal for Travel: 10 Best Activated Charcoal Brands

1. NaturaLife Labs Organic Activated Charcoal Capsules

These activated charcoal capsules from NaturaLife Labs are made from 100% organic coconut shells and do not include any fillers, preservatives, gluten, soy, sugar, yeast or starch. The capsule itself is made from a plant cellulose, so these capsules are perfect for vegans.

The pack contains 100 slow releasing capsules, with 2 capsules required per serve. Each serve provides 1200 mg of organic activated charcoal.

This charcoal supplement is the highest rated in these reviews with many happy customers saying they personally had relief when taking them from hang overs, bloating and gas.

Click here to check the current price of NaturaLife Labs Charcoal Capsules

 

2. Viva Doria Virgin Activated Charcoal Powder

If you prefer your activated charcoal in a fine powder form, consider the Viva Doria activated charcoal which comes in a 34-gram jar.

This activated charcoal powder is made in the USA from specially selected natural hardwood and is vegan and gluten free. The powder is odorless and tasteless making it easy to take orally or even use for teeth whitening. All that is required is ½ teaspoon of powder mixed with a glass of water.

This is another well recommended product with many customers singing its praises for relieving gas, bloating, food poisoning, constipation, indigestion, for teeth whitening (as well as be used for those with sensitive teeth) and great to remove blackheads on the skin.

 

Click here to check the current price of Viva Doria Charcoal Powder

 

3. Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal Capsules

The Nature’s Way activated charcoal capsules is one of the best selling activated charcoal capsules product currently available.

Made from Indian hardwood, each serving contains 560 mg of activated charcoal. There are no added preservatives, yeast, milk, lactose, wheat, sugar, soy or corn and the capsules themselves are made from gelatine (not suitable for vegans).

Each jar contains 100 capsules, which equates to 50 doses, and is perfect for treating diarrhoea, bloating, ingestion, hangover, flatulence and more.

Click here to check the current price of Nature’s Way Charcoal Capsules

4. Zen Charcoal Powder

This activated charcoal powder by Zen Charcoal comes in a large 227 grams size and includes a little scoop to make it easy to measure out the correct dose.

This activated charcoal powder is made from Eastern American hardwood trees and is milled super finely so it’s perfect for both an activated charcoal drink and for use as a skin mask or to brush your teeth.

Apparently, when mixed with water, it can also ease pain and itching from bug bites! I have to try this myself.

The Zen Charcoal Powder comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can get a full refund for any reason if you’re not happy with this product.

Click here to check the current price of Zen Charcoal Powder

5. Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal Capsules

The Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal capsules are made from 100% coconut shells and are 100% non-GMO, soy, and gluten-free, with no artificial colors or added preservatives.

Each pack contains 90 capsules, which equates to 45 doses. In every dose there’s 1000 mg of activated charcoal enclosed in a vegan-friendly capsule.

The Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal capsules come highly recommended, with many customers reporting that when using the capsules they have received relief from stomach ache, food poisoning and vomiting. The capsules also work well for teeth whitening, but you need to open the capsules to get the charcoal out.

 

Click here to check the current price of Bulletproof Charcoal Capsules

6. Schizandu Organics Organic Activated Charcoal Capsules

These activated charcoal capsules from Schizandu are made from 100% organic coconut shells and are all-natural food grade, vegan and gluten free. The activated charcoal is milled super finely so it’s perfect for both a drink and for use as a skin mask or to brush your teeth.

Another of the notable uses of this product is for hangover prevention.

The pack contains 210 capsules, with 2 capsules required per serve. Each serve provides 520 mg of organic activated charcoal. Also included is a free eBook which contains tips and uses for taking activated charcoal.

The Schizandu capsules come with a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can get a full refund for any reason if you’re not happy with this product. Although with how highly rated this product is, it seems doubtful that you’ll want to return it. It comes with a great customer support too.

Click here to check the current price of Schizandu Charcoal Capsules

7. Divine Bounty Organic Activated Charcoal Capsules

The Divine Bounty Organic Activated Charcoal capsules are made in the US from 100% coconut shells and are 100% non-GMO, soy, dairy free and gluten-free, with no artificial colors or added preservatives. These capsules are vegan friendly.

Each pack contains 90 capsules which equates to 90 doses, i.e. you need only one capsule per dose since the potency of this charcoal is so high. In every dose there is 600 mg of activated charcoal.

Just like all charcoal products in this overview, the Divine Bounty Organic Activated Charcoal capsules also come highly recommended. Customers report relief from stomach bugs of all sorts, diarrhoea, etc.

 

Click here to check the current price of Divine Bounty Charcoal Capsules

8. Viva Doria Virgin Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder

Higher above in this guide we feature the Viva Doria activated charcoal powder which is made from hardwood, but this Viva Doria activated coconut charcoal powder is made from coconut shells.

This activated powder comes in a large 283-gram jar. The powder is odorless and tasteless making it easy to take orally or even use for teeth whitening. All that is required is to mix a small amount of powder with a glass of water.

This is another well-recommended product with many customers singing its praises for relieving gas, bloating, food poisoning, constipation or indigestion.

The powder form makes is easy to use for teeth whitening (incl. for sensitive teeth) and it’s great to remove blackheads.

Choose this product in case you’re looking to get activated charcoal in a powder form and strictly from coconut shells.

 

Click here to check the current price of Viva Doria Charcoal Powder

9. Purest Vantage Organic Activated Charcoal Capsules

These activated charcoal capsules from Purest Vantage are made from 100% coconut shells and do not include any fillers, preservatives, gluten, soy, sugar, yeast or starch. These capsules are perfect for vegans and those who need to stick to a gluten free diet.

The pack contains 90 capsules, with each capsule equating to a single dose and containing 600 mg of activated charcoal.

The Purest Vantage Organic Activated Charcoal capsules come highly recommended not only for relieving stomach issues, but also for attending to the skin and in easing hangovers.

Click here to check the current price of Purest Vantage Charcoal Capsules

10. Sports Research Coconut Activated Charcoal Liquid Softgels

The Sports Research Coconut Activated Charcoal liquid softgels are not only made from organic coconut shells but are also infused with extra virgin coconut oil. The activated charcoal is sealed in a leak proof softgel, which avoids getting black discoloration over your hands.

The pack contains 90 capsules, with 2 capsules required per serve. Each serve provides 600 mg of organic activated charcoal.

These capsules are backed with a 90-day money back guarantee, the longest money back guarantee offered on any product in this guide. So you can purchase this product with peace of mind knowing that you can get a full refund if you aren’t happy in any way.

 

Click here to check the current price of Sports Research Charcoal Softgels

 

I hope activated charcoal will help relieve also your travel stomach bug and that you’ll be able to discover the world with an intact digestive system.

Before taking any of the supplements recommended above, please consult your healthcare professional. The information mentioned in this article is not a medical advice.

This article was originally published in May 2014 but largely updated in January 2019.

Pin this article for later :)

Activated charcoal's magic to treat stomach issues while on the road  Activated charcoal for travel: While there are many activated charcoal uses such as for stomach, the teeth etc., we’ll focus on activated charcoal use for traveler’s diarrhea. The article explains what is activated charcoal, why activated charcoal capsules are best for travelling and where to buy activated charcoal. #activatedcharcoal #travel #diarrhea #travelersdiarrhea #bloating #foodpoisoning

13 thoughts on “Activated Charcoal for Travel: Keeping Stomach Bugs at Bay”

  1. That’s interesting. I always have it with me and totally agree it helps almost every time. I just love it. But i had no idea that you shouldn’t eat ice cream then (well, if I don’t feel well ice creams do not cross my mind ;) ) and that you should take it either before or 1,5h after. Why is so?

    • Ewa, sorry for my late reply!
      Actually chocolate and ice cream create a thin layer in the stomach that then prevents the charcoal from grabbing the toxins.
      Hope you won’t need it too often! :)

  2. I hadn’t heard of this but heading to Myanmar in a few months and definitely planning on buying some now that I’ve read about it. I came across on Lonely Planet on the Myanmar boards and was looking for more info on it when I found your site.

    Do you take before/after EVERY meal…. just in case?

    • Hello Lisa, I wouldn’t take it as a preventive measure, only when stomach issues appear.
      You can also consider eating food rich in fibre or psyllium pills to help with digestion. I’ve heard of using Chlorella tablets too for situations like that, but haven’t tried myself.

  3. Hi :)
    Just confirming you only take the charcoal when actually feeling unwell on a trip or do you take it as a precaution with all meals while overseas? I’m going to Asia in August & want to try it out :)
    Thankyou

    • Hello Kate! Just take it when you feel something’s not right. As a precaution, look into eating either psyllium tablets (for constipation) or e.g. chlorella tabs (for improved digestion). But these are just things I’ve heard, I’m not qualified to give medical advice :)

  4. Great post. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info.This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about activated charcoal. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  5. Activated charcoal can help a traveler a lot. I keep activated charcoal with me to remove all the dirt and dust out of my skin and use it as a face mask.

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