Activated charcoal seems to be everywhere these days. Health nuts rave about its detoxifying properties, foodies love taking selfies with their cool black ice cream. It's safe to consume, but if you take medications daily, you might want to lay off the activated charcoal pills or coconut ash cocktails, as it could make them ineffective. So how much activated charcoal can you have if you're currently on birth control?
If you're taking hormonal birth control, you might just want to stay away from the trendy powder altogether. Here's the deal with activated charcoal: it basically acts like a sponge and soaks up whatever comes its way, which is why it can help with hangovers or overdoses. But it doesn't know the good stuff from the toxins. So even if you take your pill in the morning and then don't have an activated charcoal smoothie till after your morning run, it could still render it ineffective.
Most bottles of activated charcoal come with a warning that says to wait at least two hours before taking medication, so talk to your doctor about what's best for you if you really don't want to give it up. Simply put, if you're consuming activated charcoal and on hormonal birth control, it's basically like you're on antibiotics (which can also mess with the efficacy of your pill): Be warned, and be very careful. This goes for about 200 other medications, too, so if you love your charcoal, make sure it's not messing with your health.
If you're buying activated charcoal for yourself, you will likely see the warning and know what dosage is OK to take, per your doctor's orders. But it does present an ethical problem for restaurants and bars that use it as an ingredient. Avery Glasser, the founder of Bittermens, said in an Imbibe interview earlier this year that he was thinking of making a charcoal cocktail called "See Ya In Nine Months." Yes, that's a terrible joke, but when it comes to dangerous drinks, bartenders might have some responsibility to warn patrons that activated charcoal can negatively affect any medications, much like restaurant servers ask guests about allergies before throwing in an order.
Although there are only small amounts of the black powder in ice cream or a pizza dough batter, you never know when your body is going to finally process the charcoal, so stay on the safe side when it comes to your birth control or medications that are of critical importance.
Don't freak out if you've been taking birth control and unwittingly consuming activated charcoal so far, but do check in with your doctor so you can be safe going forward. No one wants any unplanned surprises later on.