WTF: Activated Charcoal

If you live in Philly, you may have been #blessed enough to snag some free Pineapple Charcoal Lemon-aid from Sip-N-Glo Juicery for their “free juice day” yesterday. I was lucky enough to grab one, and even though I’ve had their charcoal lemonade before, I couldn’t help but wonder: what is activated charcoal and why am I drinking it? (Other than the obvious reason that drinking black lemonade is ~*trendy*~ and Instagram worthy…)

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a super-fine black powder made from burning a carbon source, like bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust. The material is processed at a very high temperature (hence, “activated”), which results in charcoal that is more porous than regular charcoal. To put into perspective just how fine activated charcoal powder is, just 2 grams of it would cover the surface area of a football field.

Ok, I get it. But why would we want to drink this charcoal?

Why use activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal has been used as a potent natural treatment for centuries. The pores that form during the activation process allow the charcoal to bind onto toxins and poisons in the gut and essentially trap them (a process called “adsorption”), ensuring that they are not absorbed in the body, but rather, that they leave the body with the charcoal (via your… poop). For this reason, activated charcoal is often used to treat certain cases of poisoning. It may also be used to treat prescription or over-the-counter drug overdoses.

But I’m not poisoned or at risk of a drug overdose…

Since having been used to treat the issues mentioned above, many other potentially beneficial uses for activated charcoal have been discovered. Given the adsorption process that activated charcoal undergoes in the body—removing toxins and chemicals—it is also said to aid in general detoxification, digestive health, bloating + gas, cholesterol levels, kidney function, and anti-aging. It’s also been rumored to whiten teeth and improve skin when used topically, and even… prevent hangovers. But the research on those last three is pretty sparse and well, not super legit.

When/how can I take activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal can be found in pill or powder form, which can be taken straight up, mixed with water, or used in cooking. Please do your own research to determine what dosage of activated charcoal might work best for you—just be sure not to take activated charcoal at the same time as any prescription medications or supplements, as it could bind to those substances and prevent them from being absorbed in your body (wait 2-3 hours).


We hope that the next time someone catches you drinking a trendy black lemonade and asks, “what is that!?”, you can give a slightly more educated response (we know we can).

This post is part of our WTF series—where we’ll break down some of the latest food, fitness, and health + wellness trends blowing up your Instagram feed.


One thought on “WTF: Activated Charcoal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s