With all the toxins in our environment, it’s a good idea to cleanse your innards every now and then. Sipping on charcoal lemonade can do just that!
Some toxins aren’t readily eliminated from your body and need a little help to push them along. There’s no such thing as a completely toxin-free human but there sure are toxin-laden humans, and lots of them.
There are many foods that will help to clear your body of unwanted microbes and gunk. Something you may have heard about or use for whitening your teeth or settling an upset stomach is supremely good at cleaning out the bad stuff; it’s not food but burnt wood. Yes, we’re talking about activated charcoal.
What is Charcoal?
Activated charcoal (or Activated Carbon) isn’t the little squares you put in your barbecue or the bits that are left in your fireplace—those are not fit for human consumption. Activated charcoal (AC) is specially formulated from non-toxic ingredients (coconut shells, peat, olive pits, and/or biochar) and slowly burned at high heat so any contaminants are released in steam and smoke.
What’s left are only carbon and other nutrients. “Activated” refers to the oxidation of the carbon with steam or hot air; oxygen molecules fill up the spaces between carbon molecules. Once burned through, the AC is pulverized into a powder.
Detoxifying your body is simple and easy.
The way AC works to detoxify is by adsorption: by virtue of its electrical charge, carbon attracts other atoms that then bind to it. Many toxic substances and chemicals (like heavy metals and chlorine) will adhere to the AC and be thereby escorted out of the body. AC is odorless and tasteless, although a little gritty.
Similar in action to diatomaceous earth, AC has been used for many hundreds of years to ease stomach upset and cleanse the body. A study published in the Western Journal of Medicine states, “recent studies…suggest that activated charcoal may be the single most effective treatment in many types of poisoning.”
Historically, AC has been used to filter water and as an antidote to poison ingestion; in 1813 and again in 1831, two different French chemists drank 5 grams of arsenic and strychnine, respectively, mixed with activated charcoal. They both lived (what was it with 19th-century French chemists?).
This is why it’s widely used in emergency rooms as the first resort to treating poison ingestion.
Activated Charcoal Really Works
AC is a powerful cleanser, inside and out.
AC can be used to wash and exfoliate the skin and is used in cosmetics. When taken internally, care must be taken.
The dirt on activated charcoal:
- There have been few clinical trials with activated charcoal. The majority of published works experimented with AC as an antidote for drug overdoses and found it effective if taken within 2 hours of poison ingestion. The body of studies is inconclusive on its use as an overall detoxifier.
- A study published in the Lancet journal found AC to significantly reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol) while increasing HDL (“good” cholesterol).
- AC has been found to reduce the incidence of diarrhea.
- One study found that AC didn’t reduce the formation of gastrointestinal gas or reduce flatulence. Results of another found that it did.
- AC is effective in blood dialysis, as it filters out uric acid and other potential toxins.
- AC is effective in filtering water, removing chemicals, metals, and other impurities.
- AC can support the liver and adrenal glands by helping to remove potential toxins.
- As a skin cleanser, there is a huge body of anecdotal evidence of AC’s cleansing and softening properties. The same goes for brushing with AC to whiten teeth. The theory is that pore-blocking microbes in skin and staining foods on teeth stick to the AC and are washed away with it. There are plenty of beauty and skin care sites that promote the use of AC for these purposes.
More on Charcoal
- AC is effective in significantly reducing foul bodily odors.
- AC has been used in pads for topical toxic chemical testing. The significance is to show how AC is used to absorb toxins from the skin.
- AC readily adsorbs peanut proteins, with implications for quick treatment for peanut (and other?) allergy.
- In 1997, two professors, one from the University of Wyoming and one from Duke University, studied monkeys in Zanzibar and found them eating charcoal. This particular species of monkey in this particular area had a higher birth rate and population density than in a forest right next to it, presumably because: “the monkeys eat charcoal to reduce the harmful compounds, which have the potential to be toxic or interfere with digestion.”
- AC should not be used if taking ANY medication without first consulting your healthcare practitioner. AC is unquestionably effective in adsorbing medications and can affect their potency and how they react in your body.
The bottom line is that clinical research is very limited. That doesn’t mean that AC doesn’t work as a potent detox agent.
Regular routine use of AC isn’t recommended, as it can cause constipation and too much of a good thing is sometimes not so good. As an occasional body cleanse, however, many people swear by it—including naturopathic doctors.
How to Make Charcoal Lemonade
Following is an easy-to-make nutritious drink that includes activated charcoal to detoxify your digestive system. It can be prepared in a 1-quart/liter jar so you can pour out a day’s serving and refrigerate the rest. The recipe makes 4 servings.
It’s recommended you don’t use it for more than 14 consecutive days, but you should feel better after the first day or two.
Symptoms of detoxification include flu-like symptoms, called a Herxheimer reaction. Don’t worry if you feel crummy for several days after starting the AC cleanse. The symptoms occur because your body is working to eliminate pollutants and re-adjusting.
In addition to the cleansing action of AC, a summary of what else is in this charcoal lemonade elixir:
- Lemon juice – hydrator, great source of vitamin C, alkalinizes the body, and this wouldn’t be lemonade without it
- Maple syrup – for its wealth of minerals, antibiotic properties, and flavor (a healthy sweetener)
- Pink Himalayan salt – provides sodium and other electrolytes in this mineral-rich form.
Charcoal Lemonade Recipe
- 4 cups filtered water (preferably by reverse osmosis)
- 1/3-1/2 cup freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
- 1/4 cup pure dark maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon (or 3-4 capsules) activated charcoal
- Pinch of Himalayan salt
- Juice fresh lemons using a citrus juicer, if possible, to get the most juice out of your lemons. Another option is to scrub 3 whole organic lemons, roll them firmly on the kitchen counter to release the juice, cut in chunks or slices, and throw the entire fruits in a blender or food processor to puree. (There are lots of nutrition, fiber, and flavor in the rind.)
- Pour the juice or puree into a pitcher or large glass jar.
- If your activated charcoal comes in a capsule, gently squeeze and twist the capsule to open it over the jar or pitcher, then carefully pour the contents into the lemon juice.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pitcher or jar, then whisk well to combine.
- Store in the refrigerator.
- Stir or shake the charcoal lemonade before pouring (the charcoal tends to settle).
- Drink 1 cup on an empty stomach 1 hour before a meal or before bed.Black lemonade will keep 5 days in the refrigerator.
What to Keep in Mind
If you plan on making the charcoal lemonade, here’s what you need to know:
- Activated charcoal can be messy, so be careful!
- AC is available in powder or capsules; whichever you choose, make sure it’s petroleum-free.
- You can drink a cup daily for several days as a cleanse or occasionally, as desired.
- Do not drink AC if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Drink charcoal lemonade on an empty stomach so the AC doesn’t go to work at the same time as your digestive system.
- You will most likely notice darker stools. AC isn’t digested per se, so it will affect the appearance (and possibly the texture) of your stools.
It is true that there are few clinical studies into the efficacy of activated charcoal to cleanse the digestive system. What studies there are explore its other effects in other contexts; they do, however, provide strong implications for validation of AC’s use as a digestive cleanser. Knowing the chemical properties and how adsorbent carbon is lends credence to the testimony of active users that AC works.
As there are few scientific trials, there is no confirmation of AC’s safety for long-term use. Conversely, there is no evidence of harm in short-term use and many stories of apparent health benefits. The proof is in the charcoal lemonade…try it and see what it does for you.
While you drink charcoal lemonade, you can get the most out of your detox by drinking lemon water in the morning, eating organic food, staying clear of inflammatory foods, trying dry brushing, taking Epsom salt baths, and limiting alcohol and caffeine.