Activated charcoal has been a rising star on the health & wellness scene the past couple of years but why are we drinking it again? Activated charcoal lovers will say that it rids your body of toxins, counteracts a weekend of overindulgence and combats hangovers, but the research isn’t quite as strong to support that, so your black drink might be doing you and your wallet more harm than good. Here’s the breakdown:
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated Charcoal is made from a process that involves burning peat, wood, coconut and other substances in a way that creates pore-like structures to increase it’s surface area. In the medical world it’s commonly used to treat poison or drug overdoses. Activated charcoal attracts and binds to certain chemicals and toxins in the stomach, before being absorbed, and carries them out – yes all the way out – of the body. So you can think of activated charcoal kind of like a magnet used to prevent your body from absorbing the toxin or chemicals it’s attracted to. Kinda cool.
So…Should We Use it to Detox?
Besides being used for emergency medical situations, why are we also putting activated charcoal in our lemonade and ice cream? Probably because it’s advertised as a way to ‘detox’ the body and because it sounds fun and interesting. The truth is that using activated charcoal to detox from an overdose and using it to detox from an indulgent weekend aren’t the same thing. While you don’t need a detox in the first place – your body and liver naturally process toxins – charcoal can also bind to things you want in your body, like vitamins and minerals, or even certain medications before they can be absorbed by your body. Patricia Raymond, M.D., explained to Women’s Health, “But if you’re drinking it and you also are on any meds, even birth control pills, the charcoal is likely to absorb the drugs. So you risk having them become ineffective.”
Since the research really doesn’t support making activated charcoal a regular – or any – part of your diet, we’re going to say ‘pass’ on this one.
Brenna O’Malley is the Founder of The Wellful, a new platform that offers easy-to-digest articles, interviews, and round-ups about the latest in nutrition and wellness, directly to your inbox. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from New York University and is a Dietetic Intern at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is passionate about all things wellness and wants to help make health less confusing. She loves trying new workout classes, pretending to train for the NYC marathon, Stumptown coffee, and borrowing dogs to bring to the dog park.