Charcoal Poultice

girl having arm wrapped

A charcoal poultice has a number of natural health uses. It is easily made and can help with a number of minor health conditions and skin irritations.

What Is a Charcoal Poultice?

A charcoal poultice - also known as a charcoal compress - uses activated charcoal to help lessen pain and pull toxins out of your body.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is carbon that has been treated with oxygen. This makes the charcoal more porous. Porous charcoal has more bonding sites, causing things to be chemically attracted to the charcoal. In turn, this allows the charcoal to trap the chemical impurities that cause infection, inflammation and other toxic reactions in the body.

Activated charcoal is used for a number of applications other than poultices, including in air purifying filters and water filters. It is used in fabrics and soaps, as well. It is also used as an odor absorber, such as in kitty litter and air neutralizers.

How Does a Poultice Work?

Poultices are believed to draw out substances from the body. In the case of a poultice made from activated charcoal, the porous properties of the charcoal attract toxins and then bond to them so that they leave the body and enter the charcoal.

Uses of a Charcoal Poultice

There are a number of uses for a charcoal poultice including:

  • Pain reduction
  • Pulling heavy metal toxicity from your body
  • Reduce swelling
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Draw out infections
  • Treat abscesses
  • Treat bee stings
  • Treat infection
  • Minimize the pain and discoloration of bruising
  • Heal burns
  • Treat boils
  • Minimize the pain and inflammation of bursitis
  • Lessen the pain of ear aches
  • Treat inflammatory eye conditions
  • Treat gangrene
  • Draw out toxicity that causes liver disorders
  • Provide pain relief
  • Lessen muscle soreness
  • Lessen the pain of sore throats
  • Relieve itching from spider and bug bites
  • Lower pain levels and treat swelling from strains
  • Treat pain from tendinitis
  • These poultices can also be used to treat animals with similar conditions. Check with your vet before using a poultice made of activated charcoal on your pet.

How to Make and Apply a Charcoal Poultice

To make a charcoal poultice, you will need the following items:

  • Activated charcoal powder
  • Water
  • Some type of soft cloth such as gauze
  • Plastic wrap
  • Ace bandage or other strips of cloth
  • Safety pins


  1. Mix two to three tablespoons of activated charcoal powder with a small amount of water. Add just enough water to make a spreadable paste.
  2. Spread the paste over a layer of gauze.
  3. Cover the paste with another layer of gauze so that the charcoal and water mixture is between the two pieces of gauze. If you don't have gauze, you may also use a paper towel.
  4. Place the poultice over the injured body part, taking care to make sure that gauze covers the entire affected area.
  5. Place plastic wrap over the top of the poultice.
  6. Wrap the entire thing with an Ace bandage or cloth strip and then secure it in place with safety pins.
  7. Leave the poultice in place for up to ten hours, replacing as necessary when the poultice dries out.
  8. Adding a few tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to the charcoal/water paste can help the poultice to retain moisture.
  9. For small areas such as bug bites, sprinkle a small amount of water and activated charcoal onto the gauze portion of a bandage and place it over the bug bite.

Caveats and Cautions

  • If you are treating an area with mucous membranes, such as your eye, use a less porous cloth than gauze, such as a towel.
  • Never reuse a poultice - always make a fresh one.
  • Change out the poultice if the charcoal paste becomes dry.
  • Serious injuries, illness, inflammations and sprains need medical attention. Before you self-treat serious illness or injury, visit your personal health care provider for appropriate treatment.
  • Do not apply charcoal poultices to open wounds. If charcoal gets into an open wound, it will leave a permanent mark on your skin.

Where to Find Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal comes in a variety of forms. The type you will want to use to make a poultice is charcoal powder. Activated charcoal powder can be purchased at your local health food store or herbalist for about $20 per pound.

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Charcoal Poultice