Please Don’t Drink Activated Charcoal

Is activated charcoal trending again? We’re going to try and head off this photogenic beverage trend with a simple warning: do not drink activated charcoal. It has zero health benefits and presents a health risk if you’re taking medications or on hormonal birth control.

Activated charcoal has attracted attention on Instagram before; the glossy black charcoal creates a striking ‘Gram especially when mixed in a latte or used as a food additive in ice cream or baked goods. The black or grey froth and white foam look like a very fancy Oreo. Yes, the “charcoal latte” looks pretty cool, but whatever you do don’t drink it!

Charcoal’s proponents claim that activated charcoal is a ‘digestive cleanser,’ whatever that means. Seriously, again, it’s not. Activated charcoal is just a fancy term for porous carbon. It’s used in water filtration, gas masks, and sewage treatment because it can absorb chemicals. So what happens when you drink refined charcoal? Charcoal doesn’t discriminate between “good” and “bad” chemicals in your body. It bonds with everything and flushes it right out—including your medications and birth control. That’s a pricey latte.

Activated charcoal is used as an antidote for poison and induces explosive vomiting and diarrhea in sufficient quantities. Seriously, don’t drink this stuff for fun. It has zero health benefits unless you’ve been poisoned and, in that case, don’t take it except on the advice of a poison control center or 9-1-1.

Next time, stick with food coloring or black coffee. Don’t drink activated charcoal.