When it comes to cold-pressed juices, black is the new green. Browse the fridge at any of your favorite juiceries and you’ll notice that among the bright green bottles and summery watermelon waters is a darker, moodier new beverage: the activated charcoal juice.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that “activated charcoal” is another name for barbecue coals set on fire for your cookout. The powder that’s blackening bottles at your favorite juicery is most often made by burning coconut husks, nutshells, peat, or wood, at very high temperatures. And while sipping the substance is a relatively new trend, the practice of using activated charcoal is ancient.
“Activated charcoal has been around for centuries, but has become very popular in the past couple of years,” explains nutritionist Jordana Hart. “It is best known for its ‘adsorption’ capabilities, meaning, it is able to remove and ‘lift’ toxins and chemicals from the body, and flush them out from one’s system so they are not absorbed.”
A bit of a renaissance powder, in addition to helping detoxify our bodies, charcoal is known to: whiten teeth, relieve symptoms of indigestion (gas, bloating, heartburn), clear up acne, and, possibly most important for our party animal readers, relieve hangover symptoms.
Which might explain why we’re spotting it everywhere from juices, to ice cream, to soap, face masks, bath salts, and even toothpaste.
But (you knew it couldn’t be a miracle cure, right?) despite its many benefits, there are a few things we should be wary of when it comes to charcoal consumption.
“Charcoal will bind positively charged substances because it carries a negative charge itself,” explains naturopathic doctor, Meghan Walker. “Positively charged minerals such as magnesium and calcium will be caught in the cross-fire. If you are looking for a detox, you are likely better off to up-regulate the body’s natural capacity for elimination, rather than relying on the charcoal. Charcoal will additionally bind water within the gut which can lead to constipation (reduced elimination) for some people.”
Jordana Hart agrees that we should probably exercise caution before chugging charcoal: “Activated charcoal does not discriminate! Although it can lift away harmful toxins from the body, it can also flush out important nutrients and substances from the body as well, like vitamins and minerals. It’s important to take charcoal away from your food and supplements to ensure you get the health benefits. Always connect with a healthcare practitioner before using activated charcoal.”
So what’s a wellness-loving guy or gal to do? Your best bet is to enjoy the trendy drink in moderation, and on its own (maybe don’t wash that superfood salad or macro bowl down with a charcoal lemonade).
To help you track down a charcoal juice near you, we sampled seven juices from some of our favorite spots around town (hey, it’s a rough job but someone’s gotta do it).
ELXR’s After Party
This was the lightest in color of the bunch, but packed one of the biggest taste punches. With just a few simple ingredients (alkaline water, lemon, maple syrup, activated charcoal), After Party was tart with just a hint of sweetness from the maple syrup. The bottle also offers helpful hints for those who might not be in the know about charcoal juice: “Whole body detoxification. Liver support. Hangover remedy.”
Impact Kitchen’s Black Out Lemonade
True to its name, this charcoal juice was the darkest of the bunch. Sweetened with raw honey, this one was lightly sweet and deliciously tart. Other than the honey, this one is made up of just a few simple ingredients: filtered water, lemon, activated charcoal, and glutamine. “L-glutamine is an amino acid that is really great for repairing the gut,” explains in-house nutritionist Liz Maloney. “The mucosal cells that line the small intestine use l-glutamine to help avoid atrophy and help increase gut bacteria function.”
Revitasize’s Charcoal Lemonade
If you rush to Revitasize after reading this and find the Charcoal Lemonade is all sold out, there’s a good (and kind of awesome) reason: the raw sugar cane used to sweeten this one is ground by hand, making it more labor-intensive and more difficult to mass-produce. If you can get your hands on this charcoal juice (Revitasize tells us people often seek it out as a hangover cure), you’ll also find added benefits from echinacea, an “antioxidant booster,” trace minerals, lemon, and alkaline water. While they don’t explicitly call it a hangover remedy, the bottle does label the drink as a “kidney/liver detox, digestive cleanser, nutrient enhancer, and blood booster.”
Village Juicery’s Detox Tonic
The only one to branch out from the lemonade bunch, Village Juicery adds lime, grapefruit, and orange into the mix (along with lemon of course). Sweetened with honey, they also add milk thistle (an “ancient herb that contains silymarin, used as a prescribed meditation in modern europe to support those recovering from liver damage,” according to the bottle), and stinging nettle leaf (“ this wild perennial, naturally covered by stinging hairs, is processed into an extract often used by naturalists for purification and pain relief”). Their bottle is also the only one to explain how their charcoal is made: “Virgin coconut shells are burned at high temperatures to create a highly absorbent carbon with millions of tiny pores that bind to and help eliminate substances in your system.”
Belmonte Raw’s Hydrate
Only the second of the bunch to explicitly call their beverage a “hangover cure,” Belmonte Raw also notes that their drink “soothes digestion” and acts as a “liver aid.” One of the simplest of the bunch when it comes to ingredients, this dark black beverage was a mix of sweet and tart thanks to the addition of coconut sugar, alkaline water, and lemon.
Fresh’s Charcoal Green Lemonade
The charcoal juice you’re most likely to find on a block near you, this beverage boasts the superpowers of “purifying, detoxifying, alkalizing, energizing.” Sweetened with maple syrup, this one tastes like a green juice lemonade, and with good reason: it’s the only juice we tested that adds greens to the mix (parsley, spinach, green apple) along with maple syrup to sweeten and lemon for tartness.
Daily Press’s Maleficent
The sweetest of the pack, Daily Press’s charcoal juice is sweetened with agave nectar but keeps the rest of the ingredients simple (alkaline water, lemon, activated charcoal). This bottle also educates buyers on the beauty benefits of activated charcoal: “detoxifying, clears skin, whitens teeth.”