Updated on February 09, 2023
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Anyone who drinks alcohol will tell you that hangovers are never fun. With that being said, there’s an abundance of hangover remedy suggestions out there. One of those is to take activated charcoal pills. The question is, do they actually do anything?
If you’ve been looking for an end-all hangover cure, we have some bad news. There’s no way to actually cure a hangover, unless you avoid alcohol entirely. We’ve also come to the realization that charcoal pills aren’t going to do much for that hangover, either. So, let’s go over whether charcoal pills are good for a hangover or not.
What are Charcoal Pills?
First, charcoal pills are supplements made with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal has been said to have health benefits such as teeth whitening and gut health. Along with those, it’s more recently been touted as a hangover remedy. While similar, activated charcoal is not the same charcoal you throw on the grill for a barbecue.
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen at high temperatures to make it porous. It becomes a fine powder that is sold in capsules to take as supplements. You can also get it in plain powder form, as well.
The porous nature of activated charcoal allows other compounds such as medications to stick to it, so it’s used medically to treat overdoses of specific medications like anti-epileptic drugs. You’ll also see activated charcoal as an ingredient in toothpaste, and in certain foods. It’s commonly advertised as “detoxifying.”
So, while you’ll see activated charcoal advertised as a natural remedy to clean your teeth and reduce bloating, the only scientifically backed claim is that it will treat medication overdoses. This research is also ONLY for specific drugs listed, and it has to be taken within an hour of taking them. Now, the question is, does it work for hangovers?
Are Charcoal Pills Good for a Hangover?
In theory, a detoxifying supplement that can absorb medications could potentially be good for a hangover, right? Well, unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. In fact, research shows that activated charcoal will not reduce hangover symptoms.
There have been several studies done on activated charcoal in regards to hangovers. It’s been given to people before, during and after a night of drinking. No matter when you take it, activated charcoal has zero benefits for a hangover.
Unlike certain medications, alcohol won’t bind to activated charcoal. It also won’t prevent alcohol from absorbing into the bloodstream. Not to mention, there are actually risks when you take activated charcoal alongside alcohol.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Another thing to keep in mind is that taking activated charcoal before throwing back cocktails comes with risk. Activated charcoal can actually be dangerous when taken alongside alcohol.
For instance, if you happen to throw up while out drinking, you could end up inhaling the charcoal. Your body won’t be able to absorb it and it will just sit in your lungs, which is not good. For example, activated charcoal can cause inflammation, or even more serious problems such as difficulty breathing.
Activated charcoal will also irritate your stomach lining, which the alcohol is already doing. So, you could potentially feel even worse the next day.
Will Activated Charcoal Sober You Up?
It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t sober yourself up faster, just like you cannot cure a hangover. You will only start to feel sobered up when your liver has had time to metabolize the alcohol out of your system. The reason you feel drunk is because you’re consuming more alcohol than your liver can keep up with.
You’ll only be fully sober when your BAC hits zero, and charcoal isn’t going to help get you there. Activated charcoal won’t absorb into your bloodstream, and alcohol itself won’t absorb into the charcoal. So, while other ‘sobering up’ myths like drinking a cup of coffee may give you a boost of energy that sort of feels sober, charcoal does nothing.
It’s extremely important to do your research before trying hangover remedies you find online, or hear about from a regular at the bar. Most of the time, these myths are passed around with no research or medical findings behind them.
The only actual way to sober up is to be patient and give your body time to do the work. Get some rest, and hope your body forgives you for having one too many martinis.
Anything Else to Consider?
It’s always important to remember that you cannot avoid a hangover if you plan on drinking alcohol. No matter what you may have heard, activated charcoal has zero benefits and should not be taken as a hangover remedy.
We get that going out for drinks is fun! If you want to avoid terrible symptoms there are steps to take as long as you know a hangover is likely inevitable.
When you go out, set a drink limit and stick to it. You know your body better than anyone else. You’ll know when it’s time to cut yourself off and switch to water.
Staying hydrated before, during and after a night out will also lessen your chance of a seriously bad hangover. While you’re out, sticking to light colored beers and clear liquors such as vodka may also reduce risk of a really bad hangover.
This is due to the amount of congeners, a by-product of the fermentation process that are in alcohol. The lower the amount of congeners, the less likely it is that you’ll have a hangover from hell, but you still won’t feel great the next date.
Final Thoughts on Charcoal Pills for a Hangover
The bottom line is that there is no ultimate hangover cure. While there are natural supplements out there that may reduce hangover symptoms, activated charcoal is not one of them. The only way to not get a hangover is to not drink! Remember to have fun, and drink responsibly. Cheers!