The Master Cleanse has gone the way of the cabbage soup diet, and the green juice cleanse is so 2014. This year, trendsetters (and one curious MarketWatch staffer) looking to “detox” are sipping pricey drinks chock full of something we traditionally think belongs only on the grill: charcoal.
In the past year or so, a number of juice companies have introduced “detoxifying” juices laden with activated charcoal, which is similar to regular charcoal but is processed to make it more porous and absorbent, so that it can (at least traditionally) be used in humans to treat overdoses and poisonings and relieve gas, along with other uses like air purification.
In December, New York-based Juice Generation launched three juices containing activated charcoal — a lemonade, a greens mix (spinach, kale, apple, parsley, romaine and more) and a protein blend (almonds, hemp seeds, dates and more). In November, Austin-based Juice Society launched their Activated Lemonade, which contains charcoal, lemon, agave and water. And a little over a year ago, Los Angeles-based Juice Served Here launched a Charcoal Lemonade drink with ingredients like water, lemon, sugar cane juice, clay and charcoal. These juices cost between $8 and $10 per roughly 16 oz bottle.
The companies claim that charcoal has plenty of health, detox and other benefits. Juice Generation Chief Executive Eric Helms says that activated charcoal juice can improve your skin, digestion, and organ function, in addition to improving bad breath. The owner of Juice Society says that the activated charcoal in her drink detoxes, clears anything upsetting from your digestive system and can help cure a queasy stomach. And a spokesperson for Juice Served Here claims its juice is an “amazing cleansing substance that can be used in a number of different ways,” including removing toxins from the intestines naturally and curing hangovers quickly.
But some experts say that there’s almost no reason you should drink charcoal in your juice (and there isn’t much in the way of scientific research on the benefits and downsides of drinking charcoal juice for detoxing and beautification). “This one is stupid even for stupid juice cleanse people,” says Charlie Seltzer, an internist and Philadelphia-based weight loss expert. “This is ridiculous on steroids.”
His point is that charcoal’s job is to bind to things in the GI tract (hence why it’s good at removing poisons from the body), but that, in turn, means it binds to some of the vitamins and minerals in your juice so that many of them don’t get absorbed into the body. So while drinking charcoal might rid you of some toxins, it may strip vitamins and minerals you need too, he says.
Board-certified weight loss physician Caroline Cederquist points out that while “activated charcoal is used in the medical community to treat poisoning as it can decrease the absorption of some substances … it is not useful for all noxious substances and it may cause other substances to spend a longer time in the GI tract as it can slow the GI tract down.” Plus, she adds that activated charcoal can impair the absorption of medicines and supplements and may cause constipation.
So what does this all mean? While it’s probably not dangerous to drink charcoal in your juice, “it’s definitely better not to,” says Seltzer. Cederquist explains that “it is far better to eat clean, minimally processed foods.”
Still, the companies stand by their claims — and many customers are game to try charcoal juices (and say they like them), even taking to social media and their blogs to share their thoughts. Taryn Cox, who writes The Wife blog, wrote that she was “loving” Juice Served Here’s Charcoal Lemonade on Facebook and a blogger at Bite Size Wellness notes that the results of her Juice Generation charcoal cleanse (which she combined with some charcoal-infused beauty products) were “incredible.” The companies themselves also say these drinks are well-liked: Juice Generation says that it had a waiting list of 800 people for its juices before it even launched the line last month, while Juice Served Here says its charcoal lemonade is “insanely popular.”
So what’s it really like to consume these black juices? We taste-tested Juice Generation’s activated charcoal drinks to find out. First, before you even get to tasting them, you have to get past the color — and that’s not an easy feat as the lemonade is black, the greens mix is a very dark green (not the vibrant green that many greens juices are usually) and, perhaps most unsettling of all, the protein drink is a milky grey. Once you get over that mental hurdle, they’re actually not that bad (though, let’s be clear, I won’t be sipping these things for fun and enjoyment anytime soon). While the texture isn’t all that appetizing (gritty and chalky come to mind), the drinks don’t taste that much different from other popular juice cleanse drinks that don’t contain the charcoal additive. For example, though the activated charcoal green juice seems a bit weak and watered-down, the leafy greens dominate the flavor, as does a hint of sweetness (likely from the apple).
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/would-you-drink-a-10-bottle-of-charcoal-juice-we-did-2015-01-07