Watch CBS News

Seen At 11: Detox Craze Hits New Level With 'Charcoal Cleanse'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – You cook with charcoal, but would you eat it?

A growing trend is taking the detox craze to a whole new level where people are actually eating and drinking the chalky black stuff.

"It's a zesty lemonade with coconut-derived, activated charcoal in it," Lianna Sugarman said, "chief blending officer" at LuliTonix.

It's charcoal, but not exactly the type you use to fire up the grill.

"What we use is a charcoal derived from coconut husks, and it's activated," Sugarman said.

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been heated under very high temperatures so it becomes incredibly porous, CBS2 reported.

"The best analogy is to just think of it as a sponge," nutritionist Lauren Slayton said.

The activated charcoal binds to toxins like a magnet, drawing them out and trapping them. For this reason, it is used in a number of products like water filters and air purifiers.

"We use activated charcoal for patients who come in after accidental ingestions or intentional ingestions -- overdoses," emergency room doctor Ben Stein said.

Stein said activated charcoal has been used in emergency rooms to treat overdose and poison cases for decades.

"It is relatively effective," he said.

Many people even use it as toothpaste or in facial masks.

Slayton said it's increasingly being used as an ingredient in cleanses.

"Basically when you ingest charcoal, which you can do in capsule form, in powder form, and you nw, sort of, drinks that are popular now, as it passes through your intestinal tract, it's going to pull anything," she said.

One such charcoal drink, called "Black Magic," is the brain child of Sugarman's company.

"We just wanted it to really be cleansing and energizing and purifying," Sugarman said.

She said she came up with the idea for the drink based on her own home remedy. She has been drinking the mixture of activated charcoal powder and water for years, saying it helps with indigestion and even food poisoning.

"It is kind of an ancient healing remedy," Sugarman said.

But is it safe to consume regularly?

"Like most things, if you take it to an extreme, it could become an issue," Stein said.

Stein also said the need for detoxification is arguable.

"At this point, that's not a medical recommendation," he said.

Doctors also warn activated charcoal can't tell the difference between absorbing prescription drugs and toxins so it could render your medication useless.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.