A heavy metal detox is a supplementation routine designed to take heavy metals like lead and mercury out of your body.
While somewhat controversial, many people believe that a heavy metal detox is an avenue for better physical and mental health.
The negative health effects of high levels of heavy metals in your body are well-established; the only question is whether a particular heavy metal detox is going to substantially reduce levels of heavy metals in your body to an extent that will make a significant difference in your health.
We’ve taken a close look at the ten best heavy metal detoxes available on the market right now and ranked them according to their efficacy.
1. Nested Naturals Super Algae
Among the heavy metal detox supplements that use algae-derived compounds, Nested Natural Super Algae is the best.
It uses a blend of spirulina and chlorella, both of which are derived from organic sources for extra purity.
These two key ingredients are delivered in a cellulose capsule that contains 250 mg of each ingredient. Thanks to the dual detox action of the chlorella and spirulina, this supplement is our top choice.
2. Schizandu Hardwood Activated Charcoal Powder
Schizandu takes advantage of the natural detox powers in activated charcoal to pull heavy metals and other toxins out of your system.
The activated charcoal is finely powdered, so you can mix it into a drink or smoothie, or just swirl it up in a small amount of water and drink it.
It comes in a 32 oz tub, so it’s an excellent bulk buy and an excellent choice if you want to follow a high dose or a specialized detox program.
3. Potent Organics Chlorella
If you want a heavy metal detox that uses chlorella and is also certified organic, Potent Organics Chlorella is the way to go.
With 600 mg of chlorella per capsule, it delivers a strong and concentrated dose using a vegetable cellulose capsule.
For these reasons, it compares favorably to competitors that use pressed tablets that generally have a lower dosage and more binders and fillers.
4. Dr. Mercola Fermented Chlorella
One of the drawbacks of “green” detox sources like chlorella is that your body has a hard time absorbing the raw plant material.
To get around this, Dr. Mercola uses a fermented version of chlorella which allows bacteria to break down parts of the plant wall to improve bioavailability.
If you want a single-source plant-based heavy metal detox, Dr. Mercola Fermented Chlorella is a good call.
5. Now Chlorella
Now specializes in simple and straightforward supplements, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with this chlorella supplement.
At 1000 mg per capsule, it delivers a heavy dose of algae-derived compounds to chelate and remove heavy metals from your body.
It doesn’t have any fancy processing techniques or additives, but it is a reliable solution for algae-based heavy metal detox.
6. Great American Clay Daily Detox Drink
Great American Clay Daily Detox Drink uses a liquid solution of bentonite clay, a naturally-occurring detox agent that is also occasionally used to treat gastrointestinal problems.
A clay-water emulsion like this is best mixed into a smoothie or shake, so while this is one of the better bentonite clay based heavy metal detox products, it’s not for everyone.
If you’d rather just take something in a capsule or tablet, there are other options that are more suited for you, but if you drink a smoothie every day anyways, it’s a good option.
7. Touchstone Essentials Pure Body
Touchstone Essentials Pure Body uses zeolites to remove heavy metals from your body, which makes it stand out from many of the other heavy metal detox supplements.
Zeolites are naturally occurring mineral compounds that have a tremendous amount of surface area relative to their size, which lets them absorb many organic and inorganic toxins, including heavy metals.
Touchstone Essentials Pure Body comes in liquid form, which might limit the amount of zeolites that can be delivered in a single serving, but its unique approach alone makes it worth a look.
8. Good Natured Chlorella Spirulina
Good Natured Chlorella Spirulina takes a high volume approach to their detox tablets. These 50/50 chlorella and spirulina supplements come in bags of 1250 tablets each, and instead of capsules, the plant material is compressed into a tablet.
This necessitates including some binders and fillers, and might not be the most natural way to deliver the plant materials, but many people still find it an effective heavy metal detox, perhaps due to Good Natured’s patented “cell cracking” method which releases more active compounds.
9. Zetox Zeolite Suspension
Zetox Zeolite Suspension uses micronized zeolites suspended in water to remove heavy metals from your body, but in addition to this it includes a massive dose of vitamin B12, ostensibly to increase your overall energy levels.
While the zeolite approach is innovative, not everyone will want a heavy B12 dose, so this product has, at best, a niche application.
10. Healing Foods Company Medicinal Clay
Healing Foods Company Medicinal Clay uses a blend of different “micromineral” clays to deliver a powder-based product that is designed to both detox your body and deliver inorganic minerals like iron, calcium, iodine, and magnesium.
Unlike many other detox products, this supplement actually delivers nutrients versus only taking them out of your body.
Still, the fact that this product has some metals, like iron and magnesium, makes it more susceptible to contamination or trace amounts of heavier metals.
Add to that the fact that the exact types of clay are not disclosed, and you’ve got several factors that will deter many, though not all, people.
Heavy metal detox benefits and side effects
Heavy metal detox supplements are designed to remove compounds like lead, mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals from your body.
It’s well-known that the presence of heavy metals is bad for your health, especially in high amounts, but there’s controversy over whether how well heavy metal detox supplements can remove them.
The matter is only complicated even more by the fact that there are several different types of heavy metal detox supplements, each of which employ different mechanisms to capture and remove heavy metals from your body.
We’ll take a look at the potential health effects of heavy metals, as well as the upsides and downsides of the most common ingredients in detox supplements designed to remove them.
Heavy metals are associated with a wide range of negative health consequences. Heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. These elements are found in trace amounts in everything from fish to potatoes to paints to cigarette smoke to industrial byproducts.
Heavy metals are toxic to just about any major function in your body; a report published in 2003 in the British Medical Bulletin outlines the various risks associated with heavy metal exposure (1).
These include cancer, bone damage, and kidney damage (all associated with cadmium exposure), cognitive impairment (lead and mercury), and skin disease (arsenic) to name just a few.
The negative health effects of heavy metals are so pervasive because they behave similarly to other metallic ions that are essential for your body’s normal function. Lead, for example, behaves very similar to calcium, and as a result, can interfere with bone development.
These well-established health hazards gave rise to the desire for ways to reduce the levels of heavy metals in your body.
Women can experience increases in heavy metal levels in middle age. As we just saw, some heavy metals, like lead, can mimic calcium. As a result, they get incorporated into your bones alongside normal calcium ions.
This happens because bone density starts decreasing during and after menopause, which releases these trapped heavy metal ions back into the body.
This was demonstrated in a study published in 1999 in the journal Environmental Research by a team of researchers from Sweden (2).
They analyzed a group of Swedish citizens of varying ages and found a surprising increase in blood lead levels around age 50-55. They concluded that this was the result of menopause-related reabsorption of bone material.
These findings suggest that women might be at an increased risk of the negative effects of toxic heavy metals as they get older, even if they aren’t exposed to them from the outside environment.
The main ingredients in heavy metal detox supplements are regularly used to remove heavy metals from water, soil, and other biological materials. With all of the risks associated with heavy metals, it should be no surprise that people want a way to remove them from their body.
This is where heavy metal detox supplements come in. Broadly speaking, there are four different kinds of compounds that you’ll find in a heavy metal detox supplement: activated charcoal, algae, clay, and zeolites (3, 4).
All of these are used in industrial, agricultural, and biological processes to trap heavy metals, and they all work in a similar manner. The material in the detox compound is a more “attractive” match for the chemical properties of heavy metal ions, so they stick to the detox compound more strongly than they stick to anything in your body.
If you consume these supplements orally, eventually your body will eliminate them like any other food waste—hopefully along with the heavy metals.
Compounds that trap heavy metals are known to help reduce heavy metal levels in the blood, but it’s unclear if a heavy metal detox can do the same. The theoretical justification of a heavy metal detox is sound, but they have not been directly tested.
Heavy metal detox is related to chelation therapy, which involves using heavy metal trapping compounds that get absorbed into the blood, trap heavy metals, and are then excreted in urine (5).
A heavy metal detox with something like chlorella or zeolites is different, because the compound doesn’t make it into your bloodstream. Whether a heavy metal detox supplement can achieve the same effect is not clear, and seems less likely.
Heavy metal detox supplements could, however, reduce the levels of compounds like lead, arsenic, and cadmium in your stomach, which is important because the primary source of these heavy metals (especially cadmium) is in the food that you eat.
Heavy metal detox compounds aren’t “specific” in their absorption capabilities. They tend to absorb heavy metals as well as large, complex organic compounds.
They are specifically used to remove organic contaminants in wastewater processing, but this same property could lead to some negative effects when used as a supplement, in certain circumstances.
On the organic side, a heavy metal detox could interfere with the absorption of prescription medication—indeed, massive doses of activated charcoal are used to treat prescription drug overdoses, because the detox compound absorbs the large organic compounds in prescription medication.
So talk to your doctor first if you take any prescription medications before you start a detox routine.
Because direct studies in humans are lacking, dosing advice is hard to come by. The good news is that all effective heavy metal detox compounds have an extraordinarily good ability to absorb heavy metals.
When you combine this with the fact that heavy metals concentrations are low in absolute terms, even at harmful levels, it quickly becomes clear that even a very small dose (250-500 mg of chlorella or spirulina, or a teaspoon of activated charcoal) will be effective.
With regards to timing doses, keep in mind the restrictions pointed out earlier—avoid taking a heavy metal detox supplement close to a meal rich in zinc, iron, or other minerals if you are worried about deficiencies.
The negative short-term and long-term health effects of heavy metals are clear: damage to vital organs, increased risk of cancer, cognitive functioning problems, and bone damage are just a few of the possible consequences of high levels of heavy metals in your body.
What’s less clear is whether a heavy metal detox supplement can help in a significant way. While they haven’t been directly tested in randomized controlled trials, the theoretical grounds are fairly firm.
Detox compounds like activated charcoal and chlorella algae have been successfully used to pull heavy metals out of waste water, so they stand a chance of working in the body, too.
The real question is whether reducing levels of heavy metals in the stomach, where the supplements go, will have an effect on heavy metal levels in the rest of the body.
While there’s more research to be done, heavy metal detox supplements show some promise of being used to reduce heavy metal levels.