Medical News Today: What are the benefits of chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is present in most green vegetables, and some people take it as a health supplement. The potential benefits of chlorophyll include improving health, boosting energy, and fighting illnesses.

In this article, we examine the possible benefits of chlorophyll and the evidence supporting them. We also look at how to take chlorophyll supplements.

What is chlorophyll?

Green vegetables with chlorophyll.
Green vegetables have a high chlorophyll content.

Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plants their green color. Plants use chlorophyll along with sunlight to get their nutrients.

One of the primary ways of including chlorophyll in the diet is by eating green vegetables, such as alfalfa and spinach. Wheatgrass is particularly rich in chlorophyll and is available to purchase online as a powder, juice, or capsule.

A popular way to get chlorophyll into the diet is through taking supplements. These are available in the form of drops, pills, or capsules. A variety of chlorophyll supplements are available for purchase online.

Most chlorophyll supplements contain chlorophyllin. Chlorophyllin is a water-soluble derivative of natural chlorophyll that is potentially better absorbed by the body than other forms of chlorophyll.

The label on supplements containing chlorophyllin may list ‘sodium copper chlorophyllin’ or ‘chlorophyllin copper complex’ in the ingredients.


Benefits

People have used chlorophyll as a health supplement for many years. A variety of medical studies have suggested that it may be helpful for skin conditions, body odors, and fighting certain kinds of cancer.

Chlorophyll is generally safe for people to try if they are interested in its possible benefits. However, anyone who has a health condition or takes any medications should speak to their doctor first.

Some of the potential benefits of chlorophyll include:

Anti-aging remedy

Topical chlorophyll may work as an anti-aging remedy. A study found that applying a gel containing chlorophyllin to the skin reduced signs of photoaging, which is aging that results from sun exposure. The study used skin samples from four healthy women and lasted for 12 days.

The results of the study showed that skin treated with chlorophyllin improved in a similar way to skin treated with tretinoin, which is a prescription skin cream that has been proven to help with skin aging. The authors suggest that using a combination of chlorophyllin and tretinoin could be an effective treatment for reversing the signs of photoaged skin.

Acne treatment

Topical chlorophyll may also have potential as an acne treatment.

One study found that a gel containing chlorophyllin helped reduce facial acne and large, visible pores. The 10 people who completed the study had mild to moderate acne and used the chlorophyllin gel for 3 weeks.

In another study, researchers compared using a combination of topical chlorophyll and phototherapy with phototherapy alone for the treatment of acne. The people who received the combination had fewer acne lesions, less severe acne, and less oily skin than those who did not. However, the 24 participants were all of Asian descent and had darker skin types, so the results may not be relevant for everybody.

Blood-building properties

Chlorophyll is chemically similar to hemoglobin, a protein that is essential in red blood cells as it carries oxygen around a person’s body.

Researchers have suggested that wheatgrass juice, which is rich in chlorophyll, may be helpful in treating hemoglobin deficiency disorders, such as anemia and thalassemia.

Deodorant properties

Green chloroplasts in plant cells under microscope.
Chlorophyll may have odor-reducing properties.

Researchers have studied chlorophyll for its potential as a deodorant for many years.

A study published in 1960 suggested that chlorophyll may reduce odors for people who have had a colostomy. Later, a study from 1989 found that chlorophyll was not effective in controlling odors in people who have had a colostomy. However, a 1980 study noted that chlorophyll improved lower body odor in older adults living in nursing homes.

Today, some deodorants and mouthwashes contain chlorophyll. Some people also take chlorophyll pills to help reduce body odors.

Wound-healing properties

Researchers studied chlorophyll as an aid for wound healing in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of these studies suggested that chlorophyll may help heal surgical wounds and prevent infections.

More recently, a 2008 review suggested that a medication containing chlorophyllin promotes wound-healing and reduces odors. Some doctors prescribe this medication today.

Cancer treatment

Chlorophyll has shown potential as a cancer treatment in some tests conducted on animals:

  • A 2015 review concluded that chlorophyllin might help prevent and slow cancer growth.
  • A study from 2005 found that natural chlorophyll reduced the risk of colon cancer in rats. The rats ate a diet high in red meat and low in green vegetables, which has associations with an increased risk of colon cancer. However, the authors did not see the same results for chlorophyllin.
  • A 2016 study found that chlorophyllin helped slow the progression of lung cancer in mice. The researchers administered the chlorophyllin to the mice in microscopic capsules known as nanocapsules.

Benefits that need more research

Although chlorophyll has a variety of potential health benefits, there are few adequate scientific studies to back them up, and all of them require further investigation. So far, most studies have been small and limited, and many of the potential health benefits have not been shown to work in humans.

Other possible health benefits that require more research include chlorophyll’s effect on:

Foods rich in chlorophyll

Most naturally green vegetables contain chlorophyll. Foods that are particularly rich in chlorophyll include:

  • spinach
  • collard greens
  • mustard greens
  • chlorella
  • spirulina
  • alfalfa
  • parsley
  • broccoli
  • green cabbage
  • asparagus
  • green beans and peas
  • matcha green tea

Besides chlorophyll, these vegetables also provide a variety of healthful vitamins and minerals.


Using chlorophyll supplements

Green chlorophyll capsules and powder supplements.
Chlorophyll supplements can come in powder, liquid, or capsule form.

Chlorophyll supplements vary widely in strength and formulation. Some supplements come in drops that a person can add to water or another drink. Others come in capsule form.

Packages containing chlorophyll supplements usually include instructions for how to use them. If not, ask a doctor or nutritionist for advice before taking.

Most liquid chlorophyll supplements recommend adding around 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of the supplement to a drink. If the taste is unpleasant, try starting with a smaller amount and gradually increase the dosage.

For chlorophyll capsules, studies have used dosages ranging from 100 to 300 milligrams up to three times per day.

Chlorophyll supplements are generally safe to use and do not appear to have any serious side effects. However, anyone who is pregnant or breast-feeding should speak to a doctor before taking a chlorophyll supplement.

Some people may find that chlorophyll supplements cause stomach upset or skin irritation. People who experience bothersome side effects should stop taking the supplement and see a doctor.


Outlook

Chlorophyll has a variety of potential health benefits, but the evidence for most of these is insufficient and more research is needed.

Some people may find that including more chlorophyll in their diet or taking supplements makes them feel better or helps with medical conditions, such as anemia.

Always discuss health supplements, including chlorophyll, with a doctor before taking them.

A range of chlorophyll supplements are available for purchase online.

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