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A real detox sticker.

Detox: What’s Real, What’s Not, What’s Useful, What’s Dangerous?

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Detox: What’s Real, What’s Not, What’s Useful, What’s Dangerous?

Out of the subscribers who engaged in the poll, it looks like we have a lot of confidence in at least some detox approaches being useful!

Celery juice is most people’s go-to, and indeed it was the only one to get mentioned in the comments added. So let’s take a look at that first…

Celery juice

Celery juice is enjoyed by many people, with many health benefits in mind, including to:

  • reduce inflammation
  • lower blood pressure
  • heal the liver
  • fight cancer
  • reduce bloating
  • support the digestive system
  • increase energy
  • support weight loss
  • promote good mental health

An impressive list! With such an impressive list, we would hope for an impressive weight of evidence, so regular readers might be wondering why those bullet-pointed items aren’t all shiny hyperlinks to studies backing those claims. The reason is…

There aren’t any high-quality studies that back any of those claims.

We found one case study (so, a study with a sample size of one; not amazing) that observed a blood pressure change in an elderly man after drinking celery juice.

Rather than trawl up half of PubMed to show the lacklustre results in a way more befitting of Research Review Monday, though, here’s a nice compact article detailing the litany of disappointment that is science’s observations regards celery juice:

Why Are People Juicing Their Celery? – by Allison Webster, PhD, RD

A key take-away is: juicing destroys the fiber that is celery’s biggest benefit, and its phytochemicals are largely unproven to be of use.

If you enjoy celery, great! It (when not juiced) is a great source of fiber and water. If you juice it, it’s a great source of water.

Activated Charcoal

Unlike a lot of greenery—whose “cleansing” benefits mostly come from fiber and disappear when juiced—activated charcoal has a very different way of operating.

Activated charcoal is negatively charged on a molecular level*, and that—along with its porous nature—traps toxins. It really is a superpowered detox that actually works very well indeed.


It works very well indeed. It will draw out toxins so well, that it’s commonly used to treat poisonings. “Wait”, we hear you say, “why was that a but”?

It doesn’t know what a toxin is. It just draws out all of the things. You took medicine recently? Not any more you didn’t. You didn’t even take that medication orally, you took it some other way? Activated charcoal does not care:

Does this mean that activated charcoal can be used to “undo” a night of heavy drinking?

Sadly not. That’s one of the few things it just doesn’t work for. It won’t work for alcohol, salts, or metals:

The Use of Activated Charcoal to Treat Intoxications

*Fun chemistry mnemonic about ions:

Cations are pussitive

Anions (by process of elimination) are negative

Onions taste good in salad (remember also: Cole’s Law)

Bottom line on detox foods/drinks:

  • Fiber is great; juicing removes fiber. Eat your greens (don’t drink them)!
  • Activated charcoal is the heavy artillery of detoxing
  • Sometimes it will remove things you didn’t want removed, though
  • It also won’t help against alcohol, sadly

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