On Your Health

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Chlorophyll: What is it? Is it Good For Your Health?

Seems like social media has become infatuated with mesmerizing, swirling, wonderfully green chlorophyll. We get it: watching someone squeeze droppers full of evergreen liquid into water is enchanting. It’s perfect for TikTok and Instagram, but you may be wondering whether it’s good for your health.

What is chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is what we call the pigment that makes plants green. Plants use chlorophyll to make food during photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants (and some other organisms) use sunlight to make foods out of carbon dioxide and water.

What’s the logic behind people taking chlorophyll?

In a way, it makes sense. If eating green vegetables is good for you, then ingesting a condensed form of the substance that makes your greens green must be really good for you. Plus, chlorophyll is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are helpful: they fight free radicals in your body, compounds which are linked to illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Free radicals become problematic when their levels in our bodies become high.

Our bodies make antioxidants to defend against free radicals, but antioxidants are also found in foods, particularly plant-based whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Vitamins A and C are antioxidants and are also terrific for our skin. Creams and lotions touting their chlorophyll content are also regaining popularity.

What are some of the other purported benefits of ingesting chlorophyll or using it topically?

People have been taking chlorophyll for ages. In the 1930s, scientists experimented with chlorophyll on a variety of things, like speeding the healing of wounds. This led one scientist, Dr. Benjamin Gruskin, a Temple University researcher, to patent the use of chlorophyll in water soluble solutions. In the 1950s, there was a chlorophyll-taking fad because people thought (thanks to TONS of marketing) that chlorophyll reduced body odor and bad breath. Palmolive even put the “power of chlorophyll” into its dish detergent. Anyone remember the gum and mint brand Clorets? It was one of the many products launched under the auspices of the benefits of chlorophyll, and it’s still in production today.

Back in fashion today, chlorophyll is being touted for its amazing range of health benefits, including the following.

  • Acne treatment
  • Boosting energy
  • Relieving constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Cancer prevention
  • Skin care and wound healing
  • Relieving flatulence

That seems great, right?

Sure. And research has verified that chlorophyll contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. When we use “chlorophyll drops,” though, it’s not actually chlorophyll. That beautiful, swirly green potion you see influencers dripping into crystal clear water is actually chlorophyllin, a semi-synthetic mix of compounds (sodium copper salts) derived from chlorophyll. Chlorophyllin is also available in pill and topical form. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that people over 12 years old can safely consume up to 300 milligrams of chlorophyllin daily.

Lindsey Wohlford, a dietician at MD Anderson, had this to say about possible benefits of chlorophyllin. “There is some research that shows chlorophyll skin products could potentially fight acne, and there’s been very, very limited evidence about weight loss. Aside from that, we know it comes from plants and contains antioxidants. That's about the extent of what we can safely confirm.”

What about side effects?

There are some.

  • Digestive problems.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Green, yellow, or black stool, which can be mistaken for gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Itching or burning, when applied topically.
  • Discolored tongue
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight

Are there other ways to increase my chlorophyll intake?

Yes. The best and easiest way to include actual chlorophyll in your diet is to eat green vegetables. Spinach, alfalfa and wheatgrass are three great choices. Most juice shops offer wheatgrass shots, and they can also be found in natural grocers. Eating foods high in chlorophyll gives you the additional benefits of eating your greens, including nutrients such as iron and plenty of dietary fiber. The following are chlorophyll-rich foods.

  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Alfalfa
  • Parsley
  • Broccoli
  • Green cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans and peas
  • Matcha green tea

What’s the bottom line?

If taking chlorophyllin protected us from cancer and diabetes, made us smell fresh, cured our acne and helped us lose those extra five pounds, it would not be a secret touted primarily by the people of TikTok.

Chlorophyll may well have some health benefits, but it hasn’t been studied enough to know. Taking it won’t hurt you, but whether it will do everything the advertising industry says it will do definitely remains to be seen.

More green vegetables, however, are always a good idea. For more information on different health topics, visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog.

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