Charcoal tablets are typically used for the removal of chemicals or toxins in the body such as poison, according to WebMD. They are also used for cholestasis and to prevent gas, reduce high cholesterol and help prevent a hangover.
Charcoal used for ingestion is referred to as “activated charcoal.” It is activated when gas is heated to a high temperature or chemical activating agent and is, therefore, expanded for greater surface area, notes WebMD. This “activation” allows drugs and other toxins to bind to the charcoal and be removed from the body.
Charcoal is not sufficient for removal of all toxic agents. For example cyanide, lithium, alcohol and iron tablet poison are not removed by activated charcoal. There is limited research on charcoal's treatment in cholestasis, which is a pregnancy condition, making its effectiveness and safety questionable, explains WebMD. There are also inconsistent conclusions of charcoal's usefulness in dealing with gas and hangovers. As for poisoning, charcoal is administered in the form of liquid either through a tube or a powder form that is mixed with some other liquid and then ingested. There is still testing necessary to determine the size and amount of charcoal doses needed to treat poisonings.