Article updated: 2024 Feb 13. doi: 10.102841/ Author Leslie Griver, Robert Henry

How to use activated charcoal for THC detox

Activated charcoal helps to detox THC by preventing its reabsorption from the intestines.

You can use pills or powder – any form of activated charcoal works.

We’ll explain how exactly activated charcoal helps to detox THC and back our statements with scientific evidence.


Let’s explain how activated charcoal works.

What is enterohepatic circulation, and why is it not good for THC detox?

In short – enterohepatic circulation is the reabsorption of THC metabolites from the intestines back into the blood.

THC enterohepatic circulation

The liver converts THC to the THC-COOH metabolite and then to the THC-COO-glucuronide and THC-O-glucuronide metabolites.

Added glucuronide makes these metabolites water-soluble.

The metabolites dissolve in the bile and go to the intestines.

In the intestines, bacterial enzymes ‘remove’ glucuronide from most of the THC metabolites.

These metabolites are then reabsorbed into the blood, where they can start the entire cycle over again.


Marijuana metabolism scheme

Marijuana metabolism

The bad thing is that about 65% of THC metabolites are excreted with feces.

It means that most of these metabolites will enter the enterohepatic recirculation and stay in your body for a long time.

This significantly slows THC detoxification.

The good thing is that we can interfere with it.

How activated charcoal affects enterohepatic circulation

Activated charcoal is a fine, odorless, black powder often used in emergency rooms to treat overdoses. In addition, its toxin-absorbing properties have a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic uses.

When we consume charcoal, it gets into the intestines. There it absorbs bile with the dissolved THC metabolites. This prevents the reabsorption of metabolites back into the blood.

Is there any scientific evidence to prove that?

This study showed that 1000 ng/mL of THC-COOH was entirely absorbed by as little as 5 mg of charcoal.

There was another study with eight people. They received the THC dose and were required to take 5g of activated charcoal at six different time points: 15 min before the THC-COOH dose and 5 min, 2, 4, 7, and 10 h after the dose (for a total of 30 g charcoal).

After 24 hours after the dose, the THC concentrations in the blood were 45% lower when subjects were treated with activated charcoal.

The number of THC metabolites excreted into the urine was reduced by 21% with the activated charcoal treatment.

So these two studies confirm that activated charcoal is effective for removing THC from the system.

How to use activated charcoal

First of all, you need to decide do you want to flush THC or detox?

Flushing is when you temporarily flush THC metabolites out of the bladder. This gives you several hours to pee clean.

Detoxification means that you remove THC from your body permanently.

How to use activated charcoal for flushing THC

How to use activated charcoal to detox THC

Side effects of activated charcoal include constipation and black stools. More serious but rare side effects are a slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract, regurgitation into the lungs, and dehydration.