What is chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll plays an important role in making plants green and healthy. It also has vitamins, antioxidants, and therapeutic properties that may benefit your body.
You can get chlorophyll from plants or supplements. Supplements may be more effective, as chlorophyll doesn’t survive digestion long enough for absorption. Chlorophyll supplements are actually chlorophyllin, which contains copper instead of magnesium.
Luckily, chlorophyllin has similar properties to chlorophyll. The marketed benefits are:
- stimulating the immune system
- eliminating fungus in the body
- detoxifying your blood
- cleaning your intestines
- getting rid of bad odors
- energizing the body
- preventing cancer
But studies are mixed about whether chlorophyll actually boosts health in these ways. Always talk to your doctor before you take chlorophyll, or any herbs or supplements. They can cause unintended side effects, especially if you are already taking medication or have existing health concerns.
What are the benefits of chlorophyll?
1. Skin healing
Chlorophyllin has been shown to reduce inflammation and bacterial growth in skin wounds. A review of wound care studies found that commercial ointments with papain-urea-chlorophyllin are more effective than other treatments. The ointment also reduced pain and healing time by half. Your doctor can prescribe this ointment.
2. Blood builder
Some people suggest that liquid chlorophyll can build your blood by improving the quality of red blood cells. A 2004 pilot study found that wheatgrass, which contains about 70 percent chlorophyll, reduced the number of blood transfusions needed in people with thalassemia, a blood disorder. But the study authors didn’t conclude that chlorophyll was the reason for the decreased need for transfusions.
Dr. Chris Reynolds, a clinical expert in wheatgrass, believes that the benefits come from wheatgrass itself rather than from the chlorophyll. It’s unclear how wheatgrass affects red blood cells. But it is believed that chlorophyll is destroyed during the production of wheatgrass extract.
4. Detoxification and cancer
Researchers have looked into the effect of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin on cancer. One animal study found that chlorophyll reduced the incidence of liver tumors by 29 to 64 percent and stomach tumors by 24 to 45 percent.
There have only recently been human trials. A small study of four volunteers found that chlorophyll may limit ingested aflatoxin, a compound known to cause cancer. According to International Business Times, there’s currently a clinical trial in China on the effects of chlorophyllin on liver cancer. This trial is based on the findings from an old study where chlorophyllin consumption led to a 55 percent decrease in aflatoxin biomarkers.
5. Weight loss
One of the most popular claims associated with liquid chlorophyll is weight loss support. A study found that people who took a green plant membrane supplement including chlorophyll on a daily basis had greater weight loss than a group that didn’t take the supplement. The researchers also found that the supplement reduced harmful cholesterol levels.
6. A natural deodorant
While chlorophyllin has been used since the 1940s to neutralize certain odors, studies are outdated and show mixed results. The most recent study of people with trimethylaminuria, a condition that causes fishy odors, found that chlorophyllin significantly decreased the amount of trimethylamines. As for claims about chlorophyllin reducing bad breath, there’s little evidence to support it.
What are the risks?
Natural chlorophyll and chlorophyllin are not known to be toxic. But there are some possible side effects, including:
- digestive problems
- green, yellow, or black stool, which can be mistaken for gastrointestinal bleeding
- itching or burning, when applied topically
Researchers haven’t studied the effects of taking chlorophyll in pregnant or breast-feeding women. Check with your doctor before taking it. It’s also possible that chlorophyll could negatively interact with medications you are taking.
How to take chlorophyll supplements
You can buy chlorophyll supplements at most health food stores, drug stores, and natural food shops. As a supplement, chlorophyll comes in a few different forms, including tablets, ointments, sprays, and liquid. According to Oregon State University, the average dosage of chlorophyll supplements is between 100 and 300 milligrams per day over three divided doses.
Chlorophyll supplements aren’t regulated, and their doses vary. Consult with your doctor to decide whether or not you need them, and what dosage is right for you.
Some people incorporate chlorophyll into their diets by adding a liquid form to recipes. You can also add the powder form into water, juice, or sauces.
The blog Cook almost Anything shows how you can make your own liquid chlorophyll supplement by using parsley and water. Three ounces of parsley makes about 2 tablespoons of chlorophyll. Get the recipe here. You can then use your homemade chlorophyll for a tasty smoothie recipe, like from the blog The Green Lean Bean.
Plants that are fresh and green are probably a good source of chlorophyll. This means vegetables and herbs such as:
One cup of raw spinach contains about 24 milligrams of chlorophyll. Parsley has about 19 milligrams per cup. You can blend parsley with water to create a “liquid chlorophyll” drink. Other greens will average 4 to 15 milligrams per cup. Your best source of chlorophyll will come from veggies and herbs that are green, inside and out. Veggies like broccoli and asparagus may be green on the outside but their whitish interior indicates a smaller amount of chlorophyll.
Wheatgrass has the most chlorophyll-related benefits
Wheatgrass may be a good alternative medicine approach for some conditions. A review of wheatgrass juice therapy found that it might be helpful for people who need:
- blood transfusions
- anticancer therapy
- ulcer healing
- liver detoxification
- to prevent tooth decay
Wheatgrass oil may help treat scars. You can roast wheatgrass until it turns black and then press out the oil. Wheatgrass should be available at your local health food store or farmer’s market. You can also plant your own wheatgrass. An organic kit costs about $40 online. Wheatgrass powder can range from $12 to $60, depending on the quality and where you buy it.