In the course of severe pathological conditions, such as acute liver failure and sepsis, toxic metabolites and mediators of inflammation are released into the patient's circulation. One option for the supportive treatment of these conditions is plasmapheresis, in which plasma, after being separated from the cellular components of the blood, is cleansed by adsorption of harmful molecules on polymers or activated carbon. In this work, the adsorption characteristics of activated carbon beads with levels of activation ranging from 0 to 86% were assessed for both hydrophobic compounds accumulating in liver failure (bilirubin, cholic acid, phenol and tryptophan) and cytokines (tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin-6). Progressive activation resulted in significant gradual reduction of both bulk density and mean particle size, in an increase in the specific surface area, and to changes in pore size distribution with progressive broadening of micropores. These structural changes went hand in hand with enhanced adsorption of small adsorbates, such as IL-6 and cholic acid and, to a lesser extent, also of large molecules, such as TNF-α.