Despite dating back to the ancient Egyptians, activated charcoal is the latest health craze on the block. It promises to flush out toxins from the body and like a detox leave your insides squeaky clean. But is it worth the hype? We asked accredited nutritional medicine practitioner and skincare expert Fiona Tuck to hit us with the truth.
According to Fiona consuming charcoal regularly in juices and foods as a detox aid sees it heading into fad territory and could very well be dangerous. "Charcoal will absorb not only toxins but also nutrients, so the latest trend of adding it to food is completely pointless, and if not dangerous," says Fiona. She goes on to explain that activated charcoal also binds to medications, decreasing their effectiveness and lowers the absorptions of nutrients. "This is a particular risk for those with anaemia, underactive thyroid conditions and people suffering with malabsorption gut issues such as IBS and Crohn's disease."
While activated charcoal can help to eliminate toxins and bugs (especially the ones you get from travelling, like Bali Belly) Fiona admits this is the time we should consume it, when it's actually need it for medicinal purposes. "Whilst activated charcoal certainly has a beneficial role in professional medicine, taking it regularly to detoxify the body can cause side effects such as diarrhoea and vomiting," says Fiona. Which, we're guessing, isn't the health detox you're looking for.
But it's not all doom and gloom for activated charcoal fans. Because it binds to environmental toxins, when you use it on your skin, it can work to rid your skin of dirt that contributes to acne and blackheads. It's also been known make your teeth whiter thanks to the charcoal adsorbing plaque and microscopic gunk that stains our teeth. Fiona recommends trying activated charcoal externally for two weeks and see how your skin reacts. That way you'll know if it's something that will work for you or not. "Definitely one to try for the beauty cabinet, but maybe not so much for the gut," says Fiona.