Four reasons to skip an activated charcoal 'detox'

Activated charcoal is used in emergency medicine; it binds to poison in the gastrointestinal tract.

Story highlights

  • Some claim that activated charcoal can boost energy, brighten skin and reduce gas
  • It can bind to some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as some medications

On her Goop website, Gwyneth Paltrow claimed that charcoal lemonade was one of the "best juice cleansers". That was in 2014. Today, charcoal products -- from croissants to capsules -- are everywhere. Even high street coffee chains have taken to selling charcoal "shots".

Some vendors of these products claim that activated charcoal can boost your energy, brighten your skin and reduce wind and bloating. The main claim, though, is that these products can detoxify your body.
It's easy to see where the claim that activated charcoal can detoxify the body comes from: it is used in emergency medicine to reduce the toxic load when someone has consumed poison or overdosed on medication. Charcoal binds to poison in the gastrointestinal tract and stops it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. The toxins are then passed out of the body in the stool.