What Is Chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants and vegetables

Foods containing chlorophyll

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Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants their green color. It helps plants absorb energy and get their nutrients from the sunlight during a process known as photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is found in many green vegetables, and some people also take it as a health supplement or apply it topically. Its potential health benefits include its ability to boost energy, heal wounds, and help fight certain illnesses.

Benefits

In addition to playing an important part in keeping plants and vegetables healthy, chlorophyll has reported health benefits in humans, too, as a natural source of antioxidants. Some medical studies suggest that it may help skin conditions, body odors, and certain types of cancers.

Topical Application

Research shows that when applied topically, chlorophyll can help heal wounds. The use of chlorophyll for its wound-healing properties has its origins in much older studies from the 1950s. Some doctors still prescribe a topical medication containing chlorophyll known as chlorophyllin to help promote wound healing and reduce some of the odors associated with open wounds.

Topical chlorophyll has been used in pilot studies for reducing acne and seen some positive results. It may potentially work as an anti-aging remedy to reduce the signs of photoaging (aging from sun exposure). Other studies have shown that chlorophyll may be protective against cancer as an antioxidant.

Internal Use

There’s less solid evidence available for chlorophyll’s health benefits when ingested internally as a supplement, either in liquid, powder, or tablet form.

Some researchers have dubbed liquid chlorophyll a potential “blood builder,” referring to its potential to increase the red blood cell count and improve their quality. One small study found a benefit when sodium ferrous chlorophyll (this includes iron, which chlorophyll normally lacks) was administered to hemodialysis patients.

Chlorophyll is chemically similar to hemoglobin, a protein that is essential in red blood cells as it carries oxygen around a person’s body. This could mean it’d be beneficial to improve anemia-related symptoms, like fatigue, low energy, and dizziness. However, if anemia is due to iron deficiency, chlorophyll alone will not address the underlying problem as it lacks iron.

Chlorophyll has also been shown to enhance the liver’s ability to remove toxins and waste from the body via the detoxification process. Chlorophyll’s cancer-treating potential has so far only been tested in animals, but those results show that chlorophyll and its derivatives may help prevent and slow cancer growth. This includes natural chlorophyll consumed via a diet rich in green vegetables.

Experts agree that chlorophyll likely has more health benefits than what has been studied so far, including potential body deodorizing effects. Here are some of the areas that have shown some initial promise, but still need more research:

  • Digestion improvement
  • Constipation relief
  • Inflammation reduction, especially in arthritis
  • Anti-aging benefits
  • Yeast reduction in patients with Candida
  • Increased energy
  • Hormonal balance
  • Fibromyalgia relief
  • Weight loss

Uses

Whether or not you decide to intentionally take a chlorophyll supplement, experts and dietitians agree that it's not a bad idea for most of us to incorporate more green vegetables containing chlorophyll into your diet. Of course, check with your doctor or health care professional before drastically changing any dietary habits or supplements.

You'll find that there's a wide variety of chlorophyll-rich vegetables, mostly dark green, leafy vegetables, including:

  • Parsley
  • Alfalfa
  • Arugula
  • Wheatgrass
  • Seaweed
  • Spirulina
  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens
  • Broccoli 
  • Asparagus
  • Matcha, a type of powdered green tea

Not a huge vegetable fan, but still want to make sure you're taking advantage of naturally-occurring chlorophyll in your diet? There are other options, such as pistachios, hemp seeds, parsley, basil, and cilantro that are also rich in chlorophyll. Some fruits, like green apples, kiwi, and green grapes can be options, too.

Another way to get more of the substance is by taking a chlorophyll supplement in pill, capsule, or liquid droplet forms. Nutritional supplements that contain chlorophyll, such as greens powder, green tea, wheatgrass, spirulina, barley grass, chlorella, and blue-green algae. 

It’s also been popularized in what’s known as “wheatgrass shot,” which is particularly rich in chlorophyll and often found at juice bars and other health food stores. Chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes contribute to the detox properties of wheatgrass.

Keep in mind that doing a juice cleanse (consuming pressed vegetable juices) or juicing at home will also likely increase your intake of chlorophyll, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Risks

Though it's generally thought to be non-toxic, it's important to note that there can be some mild side effects associated with ingesting liquid chlorophyll. Some of these reported side effects include: 

  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Discolored (usually green) stools
  • Vomiting

Keep in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate or recommend a daily allowance for chlorophyll supplements, so if it’s consumed in large amounts or it has improper labeling, it’s possible that chlorophyll can be harmful.

You should also check with your doctor if you’re taking any prescription medications, as chlorophyll supplements could interfere with certain drugs, especially those that cause photosensitivity (increased sensitivity to the sun).

A Word From Verywell

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.

Others may find that they'd rather do without some of the side effects of consuming substantial amounts of chlorophyll, such as green-tinged stools. In any case, remember it’s a good idea to discuss adding new health supplements and new food group with your doctor before actually incorporating them into your routine.

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