Health Benefits of Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a naturally occurring pigment that gives plants their dark green color. Chlorophyll is also necessary for photosynthesis, the process in which plants use sunlight to get nutrients from carbon dioxide and water. 

While it is found in leafy green plants and herbs, chlorophyll—and compounds derived from chlorophyll— is also used in dietary supplements as a form of alternative medicine. For example, liquid chlorophyll is a popularly used chlorophyll supplement. 

Some research has found that chlorophyll has antioxidant properties and may provide certain health benefits, like reducing inflammation. However, research into the potential benefits of chlorophyll supplements is still limited and ongoing.

Here’s what you need to know about chlorophyll, including benefits, risks, side effects, and potential drug interactions.

Woman adding green powder into a blender to make a smoothie.

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Benefits of Chlorophyll

Research suggests that chlorophyll may improve health and well-being in multiple ways.

Has Powerful Antioxidant Properties

Chlorophyll functions as an antioxidant, which has several potential health benefits. 

Antioxidants have been shown to fight against oxidative stress, which is thought to trigger cellular damage and disease. 

Having a diet rich in antioxidants may be able to help fight against the effects of aging and lower your risk for a number of serious health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer.

May Be Helpful for Inflammatory Conditions

Chlorophyll contains anti-inflammatory compounds, such as phytol, that help reduce inflammation throughout the body. 

According to some research, taking chlorophyll supplements could reduce swelling and pain in people with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. More research is needed to confirm these early findings.

Could Be Helpful for Iron-deficiency Anemia

Research shows chlorophyll is similar to hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the rest of the body. In some cases, chlorophyll may be able to mimic the actions of hemoglobin.

This could be beneficial for health conditions with a lack of hemoglobin, such as iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which the body does not produce enough red blood cells, leading to low iron in the body.

Other research in China based on a Chinese medicine formula (Shengxuening, or SXN, derived from silkworm fecal matter) also showed that chlorophyll supplements may help treat this type of anemia.

Chlorophyll may work to treat certain kinds of iron-deficiency anemia and other blood disorders that have low red blood cell counts. However, more research is needed to determine if chlorophyll supplements are a suitable complementary medicine to accompany other treatments for anemia.

May Benefit Skin Health

For many years, sodium copper chlorophyllin—a mixture made with chlorophyll compounds—has been used to promote wound healing when applied to the skin. More recently, some research has found that topically applying sodium copper chlorophyllin could also have several benefits for the skin. These benefits include: 

  • Treating acne
  • Reducing pore size 
  • Reducing facial redness 
  • Improving overall skin texture
  • Preventing the loss of hyaluronic acid, a compound that keeps skin moisturized 

Good Sources of Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is found naturally in green plants and herbs. Some examples of chlorophyll-rich foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Alfalfa
  • Parsley
  • Wheatgrass
  • Nettle
  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Collard greens
  • Seaweed

Chlorophyll can also be taken as a dietary supplement in liquid or tablet form. These supplements typically contain chlorophyllin, a partly synthetic chlorophyll form made with sodium copper salts. 

Chlorophyllin can also be found as a topical cream or ointment. 

How to Take Chlorophyll 

You can receive the benefits of chlorophyll by incorporating more chlorophyll-rich foods into your diet. These include most green plants and herbs. 

You can also choose to take chlorophyll as a supplement, in a liquid or tablet form. Talk with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement. They, along with the dosage information on the product’s box, can inform you how to take the supplement. You will need to find out when, how often, and at what amount you should take chlorophyll.

Some people also apply chlorophyll topically to heal wounds or improve their skin. In this case, look for a lotion, ointment, or other skin product containing chlorophyll.  Follow the product’s instructions for use. 

Dosage

There is not a standard dose for chlorophyll supplements. When taking the supplement, follow the recommended dose on the product packaging or that your healthcare provider recommended. If you notice any adverse reactions, stop taking the supplement immediately.

Is Chlorophyll Safe?

Most people who take chlorophyll as a supplement will not experience harmful effects.  However, taking large amounts of chlorophyll could lead to chlorophyll poisoning that requires emergency medical treatment. 

There is not enough research available to determine if chlorophyll supplements are safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Potential Drug Interactions

Before using chlorophyll supplements, talk to your healthcare provider about any other medications you’re taking. 

Because chlorophyll promotes light absorption, it can sometimes lead to photosensitivity (light sensitivity). This could increase your risk of sunburn and other health complications. Chlorophyll supplements may become harmful when combined with other medications that cause sensitivity to sunlight.  

Other medications that can cause photosensitivity include: 

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Antihistamines
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Diuretics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen)

Chlorophyll may also interact negatively with blood thinners like warfarin, which includes brand names like Coumadin and Jantoven. Some research has shown that warfarin may be less effective when used alongside chlorophyll products that contain vitamin K. 

What to Look For

Supplements like chlorophyll aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it’s important to take caution when using them. 

When buying chlorophyll supplements, make sure they are third-party tested. This means a lab outside of the manufacturer tested the supplements for quality and safety.  

You can also reach out to the manufacturer with any questions about the product. Avoid supplements whose suppliers make questionable or over-the-top claims, such as promising to cure a certain condition. 

If you have any questions about finding reputable dietary supplements, talk to your healthcare provider. 

Can You Take Too Much Chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is generally considered to be nonpoisonous. However, it’s possible to experience chlorophyll poisoning if you ingest too much of the substance. 

Symptoms of chlorophyll poisoning may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Stomach pain

Are you experiencing these symptoms?

If you think you have symptoms of chlorophyll poisoning, seek immediate medical help by calling 911 or contacting the national toll-free Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 (within the U.S.). Don’t try to make yourself vomit, as this could be dangerous.

Side Effects of Chlorophyll

For many people, chlorophyll doesn’t cause side effects. For some, possible side effects of chlorophyll may include:

  • Yellow or black tongue 
  • Green urine or stool 
  • Skin irritation, such as mild burning or itchiness, when used topically
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loose stools

A Quick Review

Chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plants green, may have certain health benefits. These benefits may include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as skin healing. To reap the potential benefits of chlorophyll, you can use chlorophyll supplements or increase your intake of chlorophyll-rich foods, such as green plants and herbs. Chlorophyll is generally considered safe, but there might be some harmful effects if the supplement is taken in large amounts. More research on chlorophyll is needed before stronger conclusions can be made about its effectiveness and safety. 

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