Activated charcoal or blackened coal is currently claimed to be the ultimate solution for treating a multitude of ailments and afflictions. Although the science behind the new miracle material hasn’t been thoroughly verified, health fanatics have been advised to gulp down powdered charcoal along with fruit juices.
Technically, activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is incredibly porous and adsorbent. In the health conscious world though, it means the material readily and strongly adheres to a wide range of molecules and chemicals. According to the companies that are marketing activated charcoal as a “health supplement,” these qualities makes it useful in all kinds of contexts, from water purification to gas masks to an application in clinical emergencies like overdoses or poisonings.
Activated charcoal is used for treating humans who have been exposed to certain poisonous materials, explained Dr. Maged Rizk, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, who regularly uses activated charcoal during poisonings to limit the body’s absorption of the toxin.
“The charcoal I administer is black. Dr. Maged Rizk, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, uses activated charcoal during poisonings to limit the body’s absorption of the toxin.”
However, owing to activated charcoal’s rather unappetizing and many-a-times downright nasty use as a hospital drink, the ingredient has recently cropped up in a much more glamorous place: the juice world.
Founder of Juice Generation, a company that makes cold-pressed juices mixed with two teaspoons of activated charcoal, Eric Helms, noticed a whole line of beauty products like face masks and pore strips touting activated charcoal as a “detoxifying” ingredient. He knew well that a large majority of his customers gulped down juices which sometimes do not taste good in the hopes they would cleanse and beautify their skin. Combining the two ideologies, Helms realized he had a brilliant idea.
“If it had charcoal in it, it would be sort of kicking it up a level. It’s now the company’s best-selling line. Just basically drawing toxins out of your body for improved organ function. I think that there are benefits and I think a lot of people feel the benefits.”
Though activated charcoal has been used for centuries and may not be toxic if ingested in small quantities, there is little to no evidence to support the claims these sellers of activated charcoal laced drink makers make.
Worryingly, charcoal’s power of adsorption is pretty powerful.
“It’ll bind to anything it finds absorbable,” said Dr. Kent Olson, medical director of the San Francisco Poison Control System and clinical professor of medicine and pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco.
Moreover, charcoal doesn’t bind well with alcohol, so it may not be an effective cure for hangovers.
Despite the lack of credible evidence to support the fantastical claims about activated charcoal, the newly-discovered “supplement” may soon find many takers.
[Image Credit | Fab Fit Fun, Juice Generation]