Should You Try Drinking Charcoal to Detox?

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The Claim: Choosing a juice that contains activated charcoal will attract and sweep away the toxins in your body, leaving you healthier, according to this theory.

Oz Says: Nope. Let's back up. In emergencies, "activated" (a.k.a. heated) charcoal, a powdery substance derived from coconut shells, wood, or peat, does act like a magnet for toxins and other molecules in the stomach. It then soaks them up like a sponge and helps you eliminate them next time you hit the bathroom, says Jamile Wakim-Fleming, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic. It's used in the ER if you've ingested something poisonous, but there's very little evidence that it can help otherwise healthy people detox. What's more: It's not necessary to help your body detox in the first place, says toxicologist Charles McKay, M.D., vice president of the American College of Medical Toxicology. It already filters out and sends away what it doesn't need.

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Drinking charcoal may actually do more harm than good. "Charcoal doesn't differentiate between toxins and nutrients," says Dr. Wakim-Fleming. So it might take the health benefits of that kale, lemon, and ginger mix right out of you. And steer clear if you're on prescription meds, says McKay; there's a chance it could undo their effects.

The Verdict: SKIP IT

This story originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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