When you think of drinking charcoal, you might think of your friend in high school who had one too many drinks and found herself sipping a different type of cocktail after landing herself in the ER. And that's exactly what activated charcoal is used for, according to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. In addition to treating poisonings and overdoses, activated charcoal is also often given in capsule form to help treat gas.
But in the past few years, Palinski-Wade says health enthusiasts became interested in using activated charcoal to see if it could help to enhance overall wellness by removing additional toxins and chemicals from the body. Add that to celebs like Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz touting activated charcoal's sister ingredient, drinkable clay, as a holistic approach to taking care of their body, and Juice Generation launching its new Beauty Bombs line (complete with two 1 fl. oz. clay shots and three 16 fl. oz. juices with activated charcoal listed as one of the star ingredients) and—bam!—a new trend was born.
Does it actually work?
Don't go abandoning your kale juice just yet. "There hasn't been any evidence that using activated charcoal to remove impurities from processed foods really works," says Palinski-Wade. "The perceived benefits may be mostly due to a placebo effect." But you could see a decrease in gas and bloat, says Palinski-Wade.
Are there downsides?
While your favorite health bar may start rolling out juices with activated charcoal as a listed ingredient, sip with caution. "Although side effects are minimal, there is the risk of constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea," says Palinski-Wade. "Plus, activated charcoal may impact the body's ability to absorb certain medications and nutrients." Meaning regular consumption could lead to nutrient imbalances.
If you're taking any medications or supplements, have any health conditions (including pregnancy), or are breastfeeding, Palinski-Wade recommends talking to your doctor before trying this trend. For otherwise healthy juice lovers who want to give activated charcoal a shot, Palinski-Wade suggests sticking to no more than one activated charcoal product every few weeks to prevent nutrient imbalances and side effects.