Should You Drink Activated Charcoal to Cleanse? Health Coach Insights

You’ve heard about the benefits of green juice – but gray juice?! Activated charcoal is exactly what it sounds like: Real charcoal that’s been heated to increase its adsorptive (not absorptive!) power. The result is a gritty, black substance that acts like a magnet, binding to toxins in the body and flushing them out.

Though it may sound less than appetizing, it’s the latest cleansing supplement popping up in juice bars around the country. Proponents say it helps the body detoxify, improving digestion, skin health, energy, and more. So should you jump on the activated charcoal trend?

The only way to find out is to try it out yourself in different amounts and see how it affects your body. Always check in with your doctor before taking something new. Proponents of activated charcoal trumpet these benefits:

Relieves indigestion, gas, and bloating: Activated charcoal adheres to digestive byproducts that can cause discomfort, which are then flushed out of your system. It may benefit people suffering from diarrhea.

Potent detoxification: Activated charcoal has long been used as a remedy against poisoning and drug overdose. On a day-to-day basis, it can serve to flush out toxins from processed foods, alcohol, and environmental pollution.

Relieves skin ailments: When applied topically, activated charcoal can relieve inflammation from insect bites, poison ivy, and other skin issues. Many people also enjoy using it as a DIY purifying facemask when mixed with water and clay.

May improve heart health: Some studies show that activated charcoal may lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipids in your blood as well as prevent sclerosis.

Yet many scientists argue that these benefits have not been proven by studies and believe the hype is overstated. In addition, there are a few known cons to consider:

May interact with medications: Since activated charcoal flushes out substances in the stomach and intestines, it can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs.

It is not a cure-all: Even considering its known benefits, activated charcoal cannot serve as a quick fix for overeating or excessive drinking.

At Integrative Nutrition, we think it’s great to keep an open mind to new wellness trends and experiment with different foods, supplements, and products. Does activated charcoal sound interesting to you? Get educated on the facts and try it out to see how it makes you feel. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet, and more than that, the perfect diet for you may change depending on the season, your age, or simply how you feel on a certain day.

Do you take supplements or other detox products? Why or why not? Share in the comments below – we can’t wait to hear from you.

(Carissa Burton)

Looking for the next detox elixir?

Food-grade carbon known as activated charcoal is finding its way into green juices and lemonades with the promise of boosting energy, brightening skin –even curing hangovers. The black, odor-less additive is being combined with hemp seeds, lemon zest or spinach and sold to the health conscious in labels by Juice Served Here, Juice Generation, and LuliTonix.

Let’s be clear. It’s not the stuff found in your outdoor barbecue. Derived from peat, coal, wood and coconut shell, the material is heated to very high temperatures. For years, activated charcoal has been used in the emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning. Its alkaline properties allow it to bind to poisons and prevent them from being absorbed from the stomach into the intestines.

But now, cold-pressed juice companies are rebranding activated charcoal as a health supplement, and it’s a hot new trend getting a boost from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow’s magazine Goop, which named charcoal lemonade one of the “best juice cleanses.”

So I decided to put it to the test myself. I am not a health professional, but I like to stay fit and like to try out different detox methods.

At first, I was a little apprehensive about drinking the stuff. After all it’s black and the look of it is not very appetizing. However, I was pleasantly surprised once I tasted Lulitonix’s Black Magic: Charcoal Elixir and enjoyed the lemonade-tasting beverage.

Lulitonix claims that the juice detox aids in “cleansing and assisting the healing process of the body, preventing/helping hangovers, helping with intestinal issues/food poisoning/gases, and makes you feel sharp and focused.”

Unlike other cleanse routines that require several consecutive days, Lulitonix says you can drink the juice as you feel the need.

So for seven days I cut out alcohol, stuck with my regular diet (about 1,500 and 2,000 calories per day), exercised (3-4 days) –and cracked open the charcoal.

Here’s what happened.

(Please note that my experience may not be typical, and that Lulitonix suggests drinking the beverage in the evening, but that was not always convenient for me.)

Day 1-

My first taste of the elixir was quite shocking since you can see that the beverage is black. I did not expect it to taste good, but I actually didn’t mind the taste. I drank it around 2 PM after lunch, and noticed that I had a slight stomach ache for about an hour. After the stomach ache subsided, I drank the rest of the elixir and exercised. I had more energy than I usually do in an evening workout, especially after my typical work day.

Day 2-

I experienced no weight loss after day 1, but I woke up feeling less tired than usual. I decided to drink the elixir at 9 AM instead of my morning tea and felt like it woke me up and energized me through the afternoon. I realized that my stomach ache from the previous day might have been from drinking it too quickly, or from not shaking the bottle. I made sure to shake the bottle before use, and I took my time drinking it. I experienced no discomfort.

Day 3-

I slept well on day 2 and woke up feeling less bloated than when I started the cleanse. I drank 50 ounces of water on day 3, and drank the elixir at 6 PM before dinner. I felt a bit full, and did not eat a normal sized dinner but snacked instead. I had slight trouble falling asleep, but once I was asleep I did not wake during the night like I typically do.

Day 4-

Now the good stuff. I got on the scale and noticed a 1 lb. loss in weight since day 1. I drank the juice at 4 PM and it held my hunger until dinner at 8 PM. I noticed on day 4 that I started to crave the elixir and not just tolerate it. I began to like the taste and it was tasting like traditional lemonade. I exercised for 45 minutes on day 4 and went to sleep later than usual.

Day 5-

I forgot to shake the bottle before drinking, but realized half way through the bottle and shook the rest before finishing. I had a headache before drinking the elixir and noticed that it had subsided about 15 minutes after. I drank 56 ounces of water on day 5, and drank the juice at 2 PM.

Day 6-

I lost an additional .5 lb. for a total of 1.5 lb. weight loss in 6 days. By this point, I liked drinking the juice and drank it quickly at 8 PM. I also began noticing that my skin started looking clearer and that I had increased energy. I even wound up exercising for an additional 30 minutes, for a total of 2 hours.

Day 7-

I drank the elixir at 2 PM, and experienced no additional weight loss from the previous day. I drank the bottle quickly and noticed a definite boost in energy.

So, in all, the drink wasn’t exactly a magic bullet of health. After the 7 days of cleansing, I lost a total of 1.5 lbs.–(which could be water weight or from my workouts) and noticed an improvement in my energy levels. I also saw a change in the appearance of my skin. I have dry but clear skin normally. After the cleanse, it was softer, and my typical break out around my chin cleared up completely by day 7. Minus the few stomach issues towards the beginning of the week, the drink seemed to have a positive affect on me.

But health experts warn that this may not be for everyone.

If you are considering trying activated charcoal as a part of your health regimen, you should consult a medical professional first.

Experts like Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD warn that the activated charcoal may bind to nutrients from fruit and vegetables and prevent their absorption by your body or even block certain medications from working.

But if you’re looking for something different in your cleanse, black is the new black.

Is It Safe to Do an Activated Charcoal Cleanse?

That post–Super Bowl party feeling can be rough, especially if you indulged in typical game-day snacks like seven-layer dip and hot wings. (Yum!) While we’re all for balance and indulging in your favorite foods, sometimes that comes with bloating and other unpleasant side effects. (Here, find out if cheat days are really worth it.) When Chrissy Teigen tweeted that she was doing a “sober and healthy week” after eating one too many hot dogs, we were like, “We feel you, girl.”

Then she tweeted this photo of herself with an activated charcoal beverage, saying she was told it would “clean her hot dog body from the inside.”

While a sober week (or an entire month if you feel so inclined) with no alcohol is a cool idea if you’re trying to do your own mini cleanse, we’re not so sure about this activated charcoal cleanse. As many of Teigen’s followers pointed out, the human body is pretty excellent at cleansing itself.

Some fans even pointed out that activated charcoal is used in emergency rooms for people who have food poisoning, making this idea of drinking it in large quantities sound a little questionable.

It’s true that drinking too much activated charcoal can cause vomiting, so it’s definitely not advisable to go overboard. And it’s usually made from coconut shells, wood, or peat, which doesn’t exactly sound healthy.

So, if it’s totally unnecessary, why are people drinking it? “The purported benefit of activated charcoal as a detoxifier is a shining example of how knowing just a little bit of information-and not the whole story-can be dangerous,” said Dr. Mike Roussell.

Okay, so here’s why it doesn’t work. One of the reasons it’s used for poison control is because it’s not absorbed into the body when you ingest it. Instead, it binds to whatever you’ve recently eaten or drunk before it makes it to your small intestine, which is where it would be absorbed into your body. “Thus the idea that activated charcoal ingestion will cleanse your body from the toxins inside doesn’t make physiological sense, as it only will bind things in your stomach and small intestine,” he explained further. What’s more, the stuff can actually keep you from absorbing the nutrients in your food since it doesn’t discriminate between the bad stuff and the good stuff.

There you have it. Activated charcoal is pretty much ineffective for any detox-like purposes. Although there doesn’t appear to be any major harm in drinking it every now and then (say in a fun cocktail), it’s probably not the best idea to follow Teigen’s lead and do a full-on cleanse.

Charcoal was one of the stars of skincare since last year when black masks, body bars, cleansers, and scrubs hit the beauty scene. Beauty companies praised it for cleaning and refreshing oily and acne-prone skin, and social media couldn’t get enough of its chic potential.

At this point, we’re used to this black stuff getting rid of our impurities on the outside. But now, activated charcoal pills and powders are claiming to be the new trendy way to clean out (that’s right) our insides.

Not only are people purchasing OTC charcoal pills and taking them like a multivitamin with their morning joe, some hipper-than-thou coffee shops, bars, and even pizzerias are putting the powdered form into everything from chai tea, cocktails, and lemonade, to donuts and pizza. So if you’ve noticed a surge of black food on your IG feed, you have activated charcoal powder to thank.

(Get the latest health, weight loss, fitness, and sex intel delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our “Daily Dose” newsletter.)

But we’re not talking about the stuff used to fire up your BBQ. While all charcoal is, in essence, just burnt organic matter, activated charcoal has been exposed to much higher temperatures, explains registered dietitian Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

That process gives the charcoal a very porous surface that acts as a magnet, binding with everything it can get its claws on, Delbridge explains. And because activated charcoal isn’t absorbed by your digestive tract, it (and all the gook it picks up as it moves through your intestines) passes right through, he explains.

Related: ‘I Drank Lemon Water Every Day for 2 Weeks—Here’s What Happened’

Eating activated charcoal isn’t altogether new. “Activated charcoal powder has been used in an emergency rooms to treat some types of oral poisoning and drug overdoses for years because of its ability to trap toxins and chemicals, which prevents them from being absorbed into the GI tract or bloodstream” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, R.D., C.S.S.D.

But health enthusiasts theorize that if activated charcoal can soak up dangerous substances in ERs across the world, it should also be consumed routinely (albeit in much smaller doses), as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we’re exposed to, like pollution and chemicals in food packaging, explains Sass. “The latest claim that they can cleanse you of ‘so-called toxins’ is why activated charcoal pills and tablets are currently everywhere,” says Delbridge, adding some people also claim them to be the ultimate hangover cure.

Do Charcoal Pills Live Up To The Hype?

“Because activated charcoal is not routinely used preventatively, there has been no real hard scientific research to support the detox claims,” Sass says. And Delbridge is skeptical that any research will ever point in its favor for at-home detoxing use.

That’s because activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body, instead it stays in the digestive track, which means it can only absorb things in your stomach and small intestine, he says. But according to a study published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, air-pollution affects the hearts and lungs, not the digestive track. Similarly, according to a report published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the chemicals that make their way from our food containers into our bodies don’t hang around in our guts either.

Are you eating these “healthy” foods that are actually bad for you?

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What’s more, the idea that your body even needs detoxing doesn’t make sense, says Delbridge. After all, the body has the whole detoxifying process down, Delbridge says. “Our kidneys and liver are your body’s natural filters. Let your kidneys and livers do their job,” he adds.

Even more importantly, it’s important to realize that, because charcoal is adsorptive, it can theoretically bind to the good stuff that does float through out guts, like nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. That means that the charcoal in the black ice cream on your newsfeed could actually keep your body from properly absorbing the calcium, potassium, and other vitamins found in dairy products, and that taking two pills with your morning OJ could prevent your body from absorbing the vitamin C in the juice. “Once or twice or even 10 times, it’s not a major deal, but if you overdo the charcoal pills over a long period of time, that could result in significant vitamin deficiencies,” Delbridge says.

Related: 6 Warning Signs Of Stomach Cancer That Have Nothing To Do With Pain

Should You Go Goth?

The fire for charcoal pills and treats may be burning strong, but Sass cautions against it. There’s also no research about its long-term effectiveness, safety, or the optimal amount to take on a regular basis, she adds. (Though, most charcoal bottles recommend taking 500 to 800 milligrams per serving with an eight-ounce glass of water.)

So, if you do decide to try out charcoal pills, first talk to your doctor, and make sure that you don’t take it with any kind of doctor-prescribed medication (yes, birth control counts!), says Delbridge, because the charcoal can absorb the medicine before your body does, which means the medicine won’t work. (Your doc may recommend not taking your meds until at least two hours after you’ve taken your charcoal.)

“Activated charcoal can also cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation. And even trigger an intestinal blockage,” says Sass. If you start to feel off while taking activated charcoal pills, call your doctor immediately.

Related: This Model Lost A Leg To Toxic Shock Syndrome—And Now She Might Lose The Other

In the end, unless a doctor advises ingesting charcoal, you should keep it out of your system. So what should you do with all of those bottles of charcoal pills you bought online? Move them out of the kitchen and into your beauty routine. Use it to clear up your acne or whiten your teeth.

Gabrielle Kassel Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.

Health Benefits of Organic Activated Charcoal Colon Cleansing

Australia is a country that suffers from daily constipation, colon stagnation, toxic putrefaction, digestive system fermentation, and autointoxication. Autointoxication is an unhealthy state of the body created by toxic substances that are poisonous and produced within the body. When your digestive system stops functioning correctly, that is the time autointoxication develops.

How Does Autointoxication Happen?

The food you ingest passing through your digestive tract and begins to break down but never get fully eliminated. The proteins from the food start to putrefy and then go rotten, the carbohydrates in your food goes into fermentation, and finally the oil and fats in the food turn rancid. This result in you being poisoned from your own body waste that get recycled over and over again.

What Is Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is tasteless, and safe to consume. In today’s modern society one would think that this porous black solid, consisting of an amorphous form of carbon was something that you would never think of putting in your body, well you would be wrong. Activated charcoal used in colon cleansing is made from insoluble carbonised wood that has been oxidised by steam or air at high very high temperatures. Hospitals have been using charcoal to stop poisons from being absorbed into the blood-stream for years.

This process creates charcoal that can adsorb practically 100 times its weight in internal toxins, bacteria, toxic chemicals, the residue of medications and help keep the bowel healthy.

Herbal Colon Cleansing With Activated Charcoal – How It Works

Detoxify Your Colon With Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal moves unhealthy bacteria through your system quickly stopping them spread. Elimination of bacteria helps you feel better faster. Activated Charcoal stimulates the peristaltic muscles and does a great job of absorbing bacteria, toxins and gas. This process is called ‘Absorption’, which means something passes into another. This involves the toxin held within the colon clinging to the activated charcoal. The body does not digest charcoal so the toxins and build up mucus from a rancid colon are expelled thoroughly with the charcoal.

The other great thing about activated charcoal is it flushes out stored toxic heavy metals, for example arsenic, copper, mercury, and lead. The herbal mixture together with the charcoal in this colon cleanse passes through the stomach with no real effect. As more liquid is removed, it forms a ball, which acts just like a scouring pad. When this ball comes into contact with mucous, bacteria and toxins it sticks and this results in one powerful colon cleanse.

Charcoal Herbal Colon Cleanse Side Effects?

There are no known adverse side effects to the use of activated charcoal; Activated charcoal can cause stools to appear black. For those who have a predisposition to constipation, taking activated charcoal can have a binding effect with lack of sufficient fluids, drinking plenty of water is vital. For others, charcoal may work as a laxative. Activated charcoal may interfere with drug medication. If in doubt it is always best to check with your health practitioner or herbalist.

We blend and offer two activated charcoal colon cleansers.

Spearmint and Charcoal Blend
Original Charcoal Blend Colon Cleanse.
See our Full Range of Organic Herbal Colon Cleanses.

Please Note

We are selling loose herbs we are not selling herbs as therapeutic pre-packaged products. All products are made up individually and only blended and encapsulated once you order. We make no therapeutic claims about the blends we sell. Always drink plenty of water and add extra fiber to your diet. If symptoms persist seek medical advice. Self-diagnosis is unadvised.

You don’t just use it to cook your burgers: Charcoal has been everywhere lately—and we don’t just mean in your grill.

Activated charcoal—typically created through heating carbon-rich materials like peat, wood, coal, and even coconut shells at really high temperatures—has made its way into your grooming routine, popping up in skin care products and toothpaste. Now it’s going one step further: into your food. Scroll through your Instagram feed, and you’ll see people eating and drinking the black stuff.

Black ice cream, lattes, lemonades, and even pancakes have become quite the photo-worthy trend, but they’re surging in popularity for reasons beyond their pleasing aesthetic. Various products, celebrities, and media outlets have mentioned activated charcoal’s health benefits, specifically concerning its ability to “cleanse” and “detoxify” your body.

But is the black stuff really a magic health bullet? We were skeptical of the hype surrounding activated charcoal, so we consulted a few experts to decipher the claims.

How Activated Charcoal Affects Your Body

Prescription-grade activated charcoal is actually used in poison control situations, says Robert Weber, R.Ph., Pharm.D., M.S., administrator of pharmaceutical services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

For instance, say you drink too much booze or pop too many pills. Your doctor might use activated charcoal to flush those life-threatening toxins from your body. Since it’s so porous, activated charcoal will work to absorb those active ingredients and pass them through your gastrointestinal system, he says.

But not only does it bind to the bad stuff in your stomach, it binds to the good stuff too, like essential nutrients from a healthy meal or even medications. That means you might not be able to absorb them properly. That can be risky, especially if you rely on something that requires a certain dosage, like blood pressure medication.

Plus, if you consume a significant amount of activated charcoal, there’s a chance you could become very constipated, since the charcoal can form hard substances in your intestines, so your waste will have a hard time passing through and out of your body. “That’s why we give patients potent laxatives when we give them activated charcoal in a poison control situation,” says Dr. Weber.

How to Tell If Your Poop Is Normal:

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Activated charcoal has also been hyped for its potential to lower your cholesterol, minimize gas, and prevent hangovers, but there simply isn’t enough scientific evidence to support those claims, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Should You Eat Activated Charcoal?

The medicinal purpose of activated charcoal is to treat poisoning. But it’s hard to tell whether the black stuff in your food or lattes is actually the same or similar to the prescription-grade compounds used in the doctor’s office. That’s because many companies state that their activate charcoal is food-grade, but since that’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s not really clear what—or how much—is exactly in them, says Dr. Weber.

So the activated charcoal you’re eating in your ice cream is probably pretty different than what’s prescribed to treat poisoning. But if you aren’t being treated for an overdose, there’s really no reason to consume activated charcoal anyway.

“Unless you have a toxin in your stomach, you’re not really detoxifying yourself when using activated charcoal. You’re simply binding the current contents of your stomach up with the activated charcoal,” says Dr. Weber.

It’s no surprise that its powerful binding effect became synonymous with “detoxifying” your body. But there’s really no need to buy special products to detoxify your body in the first place, says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer.

“Your liver and kidneys do it for you by breaking down toxins and flushing them out all day, every day,” she says. (That’s why detox diets really aren’t worth your time.)

If you’re truly concerned about it, load up on cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which are thought to help thwart possible cancer-causing compounds in your body, according to the National Cancer Institute. (Want to create meals with the best foods for your body? Check out the Metashred Diet from Men’s Health, it’s full of recipes that will help you reach your health and fitness goals.)

“The best strategy of all is to focus on the big picture,” she says. “If you eat right everyday, you’ll never have to worry about detoxing.”

Alisa Hrustic Senior Editor, Prevention.com Alisa Hrustic has spent her entire career interviewing top medical experts, interpreting peer-reviewed studies, and reporting on health, nutrition, weight loss, and fitness trends for outlets like Women’s Health and Men’s Health, where she both interned and worked full-time.

Activated charcoal colon cleanse

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