Have you seen bottles of murky black liquid next to the rainbow of green, purple and orange cold pressed juices at your local hipster hotspot recently?

If you are thinking it’s a little early for a Halloween special, you would be right. What you are looking at is the next trend in the world of health foods – activated charcoal. The buzz around charcoal as an ingredient in beauty products is in full swing with charcoal face masks and soaps available in every high street chemist, but it now looks as though the trend is extending to food and drinks. Lauded as an aid for detox and digestion, activated charcoal is being added to juices, smoothies and lemonades.

Activated charcoal is created by specially processing charcoal with a type of gas to increase the amount of micro-pores and surface area. These micro-pores allow the ingested activated charcoal to absorb toxins in the body, making activated charcoal the perfect ingredient for a health cleanse. For years activated charcoal has been available in variety of forms including liquid, powder, tablets and biscuits; now you can expect to see activated charcoal added to your favourite cleansing juices.

One of the companies behind this hype is the New York based Juice Generation. They provide three types of charcoal based juices:  Activated Lemonade, Activated Greens (containing spinach, kale, apple, parsley, celery …etc.) and Activated Protein (containing raw almonds, raw hemp seeds, dates and vanilla beans). According to the founder and Chief Executive, Eric Helms, these products can improve the appearance of skin and aid with digestion and organ function as well as improve bad breath – with claims like these it is no wonder the trend is beginning to catch on. According to the results from “GlobalData 2017 Q1 Consumer Survey – Global” 17% of consumers globally (including 15% in UK, 16% in EU and 24% in USA) believe that charcoal has positive health effects.

In fact, activated charcoal has been used in both traditional and modern medicine to provide natural relief from ailments as diverse as digestive disorders to treating poisoning. Activated charcoal even has an approved health claim from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – “activated charcoal contributes to reducing excessive flatulence after eating”. If you can get past the unappealing appearance of murky black juice then who wouldn’t be grateful for a little reduction in ‘excessive flatulence’.

Though it may sound like a miracle worker, activated charcoal is not without side effects. The way in which activated charcoal eliminates toxins by preventing them being absorbed through the intestines may also inhibit the absorption of essential nutrients, not to mention any medication you may take, so if you get the urge to go on a juice cleanse, go easy on the charcoal.