Black Lemonade - What Is It? Does It Work?

No, black lemonade made with activated charcoal cannot detox you. And it may not be safe, either.
Is 'black lemonade a scam?

A reader asks:
What is the 'black lemonade' I'm seeing on social media and does it really work?

The so-called "black lemonade" recipe that is currently making the rounds of social media is nothing more than a new twist on a decades-old hoax called the master cleanse. It is just lemon juice, some type of sweetener (usually maple syrup or honey), a bit of salt and some activated charcoal.

It is, of course, the activated charcoal that makes the lemonade "black".

Could black lemonade be dangerous?

Most recipes for black lemonade that I have seen call for a teaspoon of activated charcoal in more than a quart of "lemonade"--enough for a few day's worth. Still, activated charcoal has known side effects and is not considered safe for everyone. Among other problems, it can cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting 
  • Pain

And contrary to what proponents of black lemonade claim, these side effects are absolutely not signs that your body is detoxing from some unknown toxin.

But isn't activated charcoal used to treat overdoses?

Yes, activated charcoal is sometimes given to people who have accidentally or purposely consumed toxins or poisons. It works by binding to the substances and preventing their absorption. But nothing we know about activated charcoal suggests that it can be used to force the body to purge "toxins" from the kidneys or liver.

But what we do know, however, is it activated charcoal can prevent absorption of certain medications and interact directly with others. There's also concern that activated charcoal could interfere with the body's absorption of certain nutrients.

Remember, in an emergency situation activated charcoal is usually given as a single dose. It is never used for several days at a time, the way proponents of the black lemonade advise.