Activated charcoal: A magic detox bullet or overrated fad?
Sandra Hermiston and Ross McLaughlin, CTV Vancouver
Published Friday, September 8, 2017 6:00AM PDT
For years, experts have said a healthy meal includes many colours of fruits and vegetables, but a new trend is emerging that a little darker, or black to be precise. Activated charcoal is being touted as a way to detoxify your body, but does it really work and is it safe?
Activiated charcoal, which has been super-heated into an extremely porous substance, has been used in medicine for decades.
“It is sometimes used as an antidote for overdoses of some medicines. The porous charcoal traps certain toxins, preventing the body from absorbing them,” explained Julia Calderone with Consumer Reports.
There are charcoal supplements on the market that claim to remove toxins in a similar way, but some say they’re not necessary.
“The body already has organs such as the kidneys and liver to filter out impurities,” said Calderone.
The amount of charcoal used for drug overdoses is 100 to 200 times the amount you'd get in a typical 250-milligram supplement, so experts say one or two pills won't "detoxify" anything.
For people taking prescription medications, these types of supplements could cause problems, absorbing the drugs and making them less effective.
If you do take charcoal supplements you should wait at least two hours between taking them and other medications.
And while small doses have no known safety risks, supplements are regulated much more loosely than approved drugs which means you may not be getting what's advertised on the label.
What to do instead to help your body detoxify?
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat high fibre foods
- Avoid sugar free gums that contain sorbitol and mannitol – they can cause bloating and gas
Recently other consumer charcoal products have come on the market, like face washes, soaps and masks, but there's little published scientific evidence to suggest that activated charcoal helps these products work any better than products without.