The Benefits of Chlorophyll

This green pigment in plants is available in liquid, capsule, and tablet form

Foods containing chlorophyll

fcafotodigital / E+ / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Chlorophyll is best known as the substance that gives plants their green color and helps them absorb energy and get their nutrients from sunlight. While essential to the life of a plant, chlorophyll also has many purported health benefits for humans.

Liquid chlorophyll, for example, is a popular supplement that detoxes the body, strengthens the immune system, boosts energy, and more. While there may indeed be some health benefits of chlorophyll, research is lacking.

This article discusses chlorophyll, its potential health benefits, and how to get more chlorophyll in your diet. It also covers chlorophyll supplements and their potential side effects.

What Does Chlorophyll Do for the Body?

Chlorophyll has many suggested health benefits in humans. In particular, it is considered a powerful antioxidant and may help prevent damage to cells that cause them to age prematurely.

Some experts have also suggested that chlorophyll may help treat skin conditions, reduce body odor, and even prevent certain types of cancers.

Chlorophyll is also sometimes used for the treatment or prevention of:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Liver toxicity
  • Obesity
  • Oral thrush (a yeast infection in the mouth)
  • Vaginal yeast infection

However, to date, there is little evidence supporting these and other health claims.

1:51

Click Play to Learn All About Chlorophyll

This video has been medically reviewed by Allison Herries, RDN

Red Blood Cell Counts

Some researchers have dubbed liquid chlorophyll a “blood builder,” suggesting that it can increase the number of red blood cells and/or improve their quality. This is based on the fact that chlorophyll is chemically similar to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

A 2016 study involving 72 people on hemodialysis concluded that participants given liquid chlorophyll two to three times daily for three weeks had better red blood cell counts than those given a placebo (sham treatment). It is thought that chlorophyll may help reduce the risk of anemia—a lack of healthy red blood cells—common among people on dialysis.

Liver Health

It has also been suggested that chlorophyll can enhance the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body, although the findings thus far have been limited to animal studies.

Chlorophyll’s cancer-fighting effects have really only been studied in animals or test tubes. One study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology reported that rainbow trout bred in tanks with liquid chlorophyll had a lower incidence of liver cancer. Whether the same would occur with human use of chlorophyll has yet to be established.

Wound Healing

There is some evidence that chlorophyll, when applied topically (to the skin), can help heal wounds.

The use of chlorophyll for wound-healing dates back to the 1950s. Some healthcare providers still prescribe chlorophyllin— a semi-synthetic mixture of water-soluble sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll—to promote wound healing and reduce odors associated with open wounds.

Acne and Skin Aging

A 2018 study in the Journal of Clinical Aesthetics and Dermatology concluded that topical chlorophyll was beneficial in people with acne. Despite the positive findings, the results were limited by the small size of the study (24 participants) and the lack of a control group (a group of participants given an inactive placebo).

A 2016 study published in Clinical Cosmetics and Investigational Dermatology inferred that topical chlorophyll has anti-aging properties that may reduce the signs of aging from sun exposure. However, these findings were also limited by the small study size (four women) and the lack of a control group.

Chlorophyll may also haver other skin benefits, though more research is needed.

Chlorophyll Supplements

Nutritional supplements containing chlorophyll are often sourced from wheatgrass, spirulina, barley grass, chlorella, and blue-green algae. They are available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form. Liquid chlorophyll is often actually chlorophyllin.

There is no recommended dose for chlorophyll supplements. As a general rule, do not exceed the dose printed on the product label.

Food Sources

Whether or not you decide to take a chlorophyll supplement, nutritional experts agree that it's not a bad idea to incorporate vegetables containing chlorophyll into your diet.

Dark-green leafy vegetables are typically rich in chlorophyll, but there are other foods that contain healthy amounts of chlorophyll as well. These include:

  • Alfalfa
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Barley grass
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens
  • Green apples
  • Green grapes
  • Hemp seeds
  • Kiwi
  • Matcha tea
  • Parsley
  • Pistachios
  • Seaweed
  • Spinach
  • Spirulina
  • Wheatgrass

Side Effects of Chlorophyll

Though chlorophyll is generally considered to be safe in supplement form, some people may experience mild side effects, particularly when using liquid chlorophyll.

These include: 

In addition, liquid chlorophyll supplements can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and increase the risk of sunburn.

Chlorophyll supplements can potentially interfere with certain drugs, so be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting chlorophyll supplements.

Safety Considerations

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly regulate nutritional supplements. Because of this, the quality of supplements from one manufacturer to the next can vary.

To better ensure safety, opt for brands that have been voluntarily submitted for certification by a third-party authority like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International. Certification doesn't mean that the supplement works, but it does confirm that the ingredients are pure and present in the amounts listed on the label.

Summary

Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plants their green color. Chlorophyll has nutritional value when consumed in food but is also thought by some to offer significant health benefits. This includes the treatment of acne, anemia, and constipation, as well as the prevention of liver toxicity, yeast infections, and even cancer. To date, there is little evidence to support any of these claims.

Dark-green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of chlorophyll, but chlorophyll can also be found in other green fruits, herbs, and vegetables. When taken as a supplement, chlorophyll may cause green stools, nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal side effects.

A Word From Verywell

Chlorophyll should neither be regarded as a substitute for a prescribed medication nor considered inherently safe just because it is "natural." Even consuming large amounts of chlorophyll in juice form can lead to an upset stomach and diarrhea.

Speak with your doctor before using any nutritional supplement or making drastic changes to your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it healthy to drink liquid chlorophyll?

    Liquid chlorophyll is safe to drink in moderation, but it may not be the health elixir it is purported to be. Liquid chlorophyll contains nutrients and antioxidants, but little scientific evidence supports its use to prevent or treat any condition.

  • What types of cancer might benefit from chlorophyll supplementation?

    Though research is ongoing, some studies have shown that chlorophyll supplements may benefit certain types of cancer, including liver, bladder, and pancreatic.

  • Does chlorophyll make your hair grow?

    Chlorophyll contains antioxidants and other nutrients that may improve hair health, but there is no direct scientific link between hair health and chlorophyll.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stenblom EL, Montelius C, Östbring K, et al. Supplementation by thylakoids to a high carbohydrate meal decreases feelings of hunger, elevates CCK levels and prevents postprandial hypoglycaemia in overweight women. Appetite. 2013;68:118-23. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2013.04.022

  2. Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Chlorophyll and chlorophyllin.

  3. Xu XF, Hu JP, Cheng X, Yu GJ, Luo F, Zhang GS, Yang N, Shen P. Effects of sodium ferrous chlorophyll treatment on anemia of hemodialysis patients and relevant biochemical parameters. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2016;30(1):135-40.

  4. Yun CH, Jeong HG, Jhoun JW, Guengerich FP. Non-specific inhibition of cytochrome P450 activities by chlorophyllin in human and rat liver microsomes. Carcinogenesis. 1995;16(6):1437-1440. doi:10.1093/carcin/16.6.1437

  5. McQuistan TJ. Cancer chemoprevention by dietary chlorophylls: A 12,000-animal dose-dose matrix biomarker and tumor study. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012;50(2):341–52. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2011.10.065

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Chlorophyll copper complex; papain; urea topical ointment.

  7. McCook JP, Stephens TJ, Jiang LI, Law RM, Gotz V. Ability of sodium copper chlorophyllin complex to repair photoaged skin by stimulation of biomarkers in human extracellular matrix. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:167-174. Published 2016 Jul 25. doi:10.2147/CCID.S111139

  8. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Chlorophyll.

  9. Cleveland Clinic. Are there health benefits to using liquid chlorophyll?

  10. Vaňková K, Marková I, Jašprová J, et al. Chlorophyll-mediated changes in the redox status of pancreatic cancer cells are associated with its anticancer effectsOxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:4069167. doi:10.1155/2018/4069167

By Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.