Activated charcoal is definitely the newest health trend. You may have seen black detox lemonades pop up, that are supposed to cleanse your digestive tract. And in a way they do... let's look at what activated charcoal does for you.
First of all, activated charcoal is not just your regular charcoal you use to fire up the BBQ. The BBQ charcoal is toxic and should never be ingested. Regular charcoal gets activated either through steam or chemicals. During this process, the pores get enlarged, creating a bigger porous surface. So when you look at a spoonful of powder, you won't see these pores, but they are there, and they can trap toxins in them. This trapping of toxins happens because the charcoal has a negative electrical charge. Most toxins have a positive electrical charge, so they cling to each other like magnets. Because of the large porous surface of the charcoal, a lot of toxins can now suddenly get swept up. This is why the WHO calls activated charcoal an essential medicine, specifically for poisoning. Poison can get swept up by the activated charcoal in the digestive tract, so it doesn't get absorbed into the body. The poison then gets safely excreted out of the body through the stool. This works very well when you have diarrhea through a virus or bacteria. The activated charcoal will sweep them up, and help to shorten the occurrence of diarrhea. That is why activated charcoal comes on all my travels with me - especially around Asia, where I might eat foods that aren't as hygienically prepared.
Now the big question: should we have activated charcoal on a regular basis to help clean out our digestive tract? Just like toxins stick to the activated charcoal, so do other compounds with a positive change - vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, etc. When you take activated charcoal on a regular basis (and with that I mean more than when you are sick) you are interfering with the absorption of all your good nutrients. They will just get swept up and escorted out of your body, without ever working for you. This also applies in case you are on any medication. Make sure to never take this together with activated charcoal or you may lose out on the effects of your medication.
So for the sake of the time and money you spent on cooking up delicious meals or balancing supplements, don't have these together with activated charcoal. It would be such a waste! Also think about your gut for a moment. We can't constantly throw bombs in there to clear it all out. This throws off the very sensitive balance of our gut, causing more digestive issues in the future.
For me, activated charcoal would be a no to treat hangovers or just detox the system regularly. Instead, focus on eating whole, real foods. They have enough power to cleanse you in a gentle way, guiding out toxins you may take in from food and your environment, without disturbing your digestive tract in the process.
I hope this helps to clear up any confusions around activated charcoal.