Last Updated June 24th, 2019
Chlorophyll: Quick Facts
Chlorophyll is the natural green goodness, the green pigment that gives plants their characteristic color. Chlorophyll traps the sunlight and makes photosynthesis, the process by which plants make food, possible. Because of this chlorophyll is considered a photoreceptor (a structure in a living organism that responds to light). Along with sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and other minerals are used by plants to synthesize oxygen and nutrients.
Also, humans have more to share with nature than you might think. Both chlorophyll and human hemoglobin have a similar structure and share four elements in common—carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. While in chlorophyll they are arranged around an atom of magnesium, in human hemoglobin, they are arranged around an atom of iron.
Chlorophyllin: What is it?
Herbal supplements actually contain a substance called chlorophyllin, with properties and benefits similar to chlorophyll. The main difference is that chlorophyllin contains a copper complex instead of magnesium. Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of water-soluble salts with sodium and copper derived from chlorophyll.
Benefits of Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll has several benefits. Some of them are mentioned below:
Alkalizes your body
Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg discovered in the 1930s that cancer cells cannot survive in an environment with an alkaline pH. The pH of the body is measured by testing your urine sample. Chlorophyll helps raise the pH of the body. In other words, it alkalizes the body. This not only reduces the risk of cancer but also prevents the body from being excessively acidic.
Improves the immune system
According to a study conducted in 2005, it stimulates the immune system by increasing the peripheral blood leukocyte (WBC) count. The peripheral blood leukocytes include all the leukocytes circulating in the blood at any given time. A white blood cell (WBC) count of less than 4 x 109/L indicates leukopenia.
This increase in leukocytes has been observed to treat the symptoms of leukopenia like dizziness and fatigue.
Detoxifying your blood
Chlorophyllin improves the functioning of essential detoxification pathways in your liver, referred to as Phase I and Phase II. Biotransformation is the metabolic process by which the liver alters the harmful substances (like drugs) entering the body. Phase II biotransformation enzymes help in the elimination of potentially harmful toxins and carcinogens from the body. Chlorophyll helps promote this enzyme activity. Phase II detoxification involves making the toxins water-soluble. And chlorophyllin is more water soluble than chlorophyll. This makes it 410-fold more potent than regular chlorophyll in promoting the activity of phase II enzyme, quinone reductase.
Cleaning Your Intestines
A study conducted in 2012 investigated the usefulness of Maytenus (a kind of flowering plant) species used in southern African traditional medicine to treat intestinal infections and diarrheal diseases. It justified the traditional use of leaf crude extracts and fractions from four plants of the Maytenus species. It proved that they can be used to remedy gastrointestinal disorders resulting from infection, inflammation, and oxidative stress complications.
Getting rid of body odors
The deodorizing effects of chlorophyll were observed as early as the 1940s and 1950s and prompted doctors to administer chlorophyll to reduce fecal and urinal odor in patients with colostomies and ileostomies. Compounds rich in chlorophyll are known to deodorize the smelly compounds in TMA (trimethylaminuria), a condition that causes a fish-like smell and odor. There is little evidence, however, which suggests that chlorophyll can help get rid of bad breath.
Energizing the body and preventing cancer
Chlorophyll is also known to prevent cancer and energize the human body. Aflatoxin is a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on few agricultural crops like maize, peanuts, cottonseed, etc. Chlorophyll has been known to reduce the risk of aflatoxin-induced liver cancer in humans who consumed molds and legumes containing the toxin in China. The study is, however, inconclusive as to whether chlorophyll can actually reduce the risk of liver cancer that is not aflatoxin-induced.
Healing of wounds
During the 1940s and the 1950s, the topical application of chlorophyll was proven to be useful in accelerating the healing of slow-healing wounds. These wounds were associated with pressure ulcers and vascular ulcers in patients. In the late1950s, it was added to papain (an enzyme obtained from papaya) and urea-containing ointments for testing in patients. These ointments were used for the chemical debridement (removal of foreign tissue or foreign objects from wounds). This helped reduce inflammation, improved the healing process, and helped in controlling odor. These chlorophyll-containing ointments are still used in medicine available on prescription in the US.
Studies about the general health benefits of chlorophyll are not yet conclusive. More research is needed on how the desired effect is achieved and of the dosage necessary in different cases. Before taking any kind of herbal supplements, even those that contain chlorophyll, it is better to consult a physician for his/her opinion.
Chlorophyll was found to have an anti-aging effect in a study conducted on women. It reduced the signs of photoaging or aging that takes place due to prolonged exposure to the sun. The effects of chlorophyllin were similar to that of tretinoin, a prescription drug that is used to fight photoaging. It was then suggested that probably a combination of both chlorophyllin and tretinoin could be used to reduce the effects of photoaging.
A study conducted in a sample of 10 people suggested that chlorophyllin gel was helpful in reducing acne in patients who had acne and deep pores in their skin when used for a period of 3 weeks. A separate study of 24 respondents where the subjects were treated with topical chlorophyllin and phototherapy showed reduced acne lesion and reduction in the oiliness of the skin. But this was observed in a sample of Asian descent, and so may not apply to other skin types.
There are few studies with sufficient evidence to back the utility of chlorophyll in the treatment of medical conditions seen in humans. Other possible health benefits that require more research include chlorophyll’s effect on:
- Increased energy
- Hormonal balance
- Arthritis and fibromyalgia relief
- Weight loss
- Decreased hunger
Side Effects of Chlorophyll
Natural chlorophyll and chlorophyllin are generally non-toxic. But there are possible side effects, some of which are:
- Problems with digestion
- Change in the color of the stool to green, yellow, or black, which can be mistaken for gastrointestinal bleeding
- Itching or burning, when applied topically.
Since the side effects of chlorophyll use are still not very clear, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are advised to avoid the use of chlorophyll in the form of herbal supplements. On the other hand, fresh leafy greens are always available as a natural source of chlorophyll for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
How does one get chlorophyll?
- You can get chlorophyll by eating sufficient quantities of green vegetables such as spinach and alfalfa. Wheatgrass is another major source of chlorophyll, with about 70% of it being the green goodness.
- You can also get chlorophyll by taking herbal supplements that are available in the form of powder, syrup, and tablets. These herbal supplements may have warnings and instructions on dosage. Make sure you read them carefully.
Sources of Natural Chlorophyll
Green leafy vegetables are natural sources of chlorophyll. But because a vegetable is green need not necessarily mean it is rich in chlorophyll. Broccoli and asparagus are both green but are not rich in chlorophyll and have a whitish interior. Examples of natural sources of chlorophyll are:
- Green beans
One cup of raw spinach contains about 24 mg of chlorophyll. One cup of parsley has about 19 mg of chlorophyll. You can create a “liquid chlorophyll” drink by blending parsley with water. Other greens will average 4 to 15 mg per cup.
Herbal Supplement Dosages for Chlorophyll
Most liquid chlorophyll supplements recommend adding around 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of the supplement to a drink. If the taste is unpleasant, start with a smaller dosage and gradually increase the dose. According to Oregon State University, the average daily dose of chlorophyll supplements for a healthy adult over three doses is between 100 and 300 mg. Do not take herbal supplements if you are allergic to them. Read the labels and warnings carefully and consult a physician before you take them.
Herbal supplements for chlorophyll: Spirulina vs. chlorella
Most herbal supplements for chlorophyll are derived from spirulina or chlorella and are available as tablets. Spirulina and chlorella are single-celled microalgae found in fresh water. Spirulina and chlorella differ in their shape and their health benefits. Spirulina is spiral-shaped whereas chlorella is spherical in shape. Also, spirulina is a source of beta-carotene (an organic, strongly colored red-orange colored pigment found in plants), proteins and essential minerals, as well as chlorophyll. But the content of chlorophyll is much higher in chlorella than in spirulina. Actually, chlorella contains the highest amount of chlorophyll of any known nutritious plant on this planet. So chlorella is the one to pick over spirulina if you want more chlorophyll in your diet.
Make your own Chlorophyll Detox Lemonade
A glass of chlorophyll detox water or chlorophyll detox lemonade may be just what you need in the morning. But you are free to take a sip at any time of the day, be it post- or pre-workout, before an important meeting or work session, it could still work wonders for you. This is a very good way to get all the health benefits of chlorophyll.
Remember the daily dosage of chlorophyll is about 130 mg. A cup of spinach provides you with 24 mg, and you would need to eat at least 5 cups of spinach every day to reach the daily recommended dosage of chlorophyll. Some people do not like the taste of spinach. If this is the case, do not worry. Liquid chlorophyll (containing chlorophyllin), which we will be using to make this drink, is virtually tasteless. Yes, it does have a bit of an earthy taste, but we can also almost get rid of. Let’s see how.
Below are the ingredients and instructions to prepare for one serving.
- 8 ounces of filtered water
- 30 drops of liquid chlorophyll
- Juice extract from 1 lime
- Mint leaves for taste (about 4-5)
- Sea salt (tiny pinch)
Sea salt in the recipe helps to reduce the mildly earthy flavor of chlorophyll.
- Mix all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 10 seconds.
- Add ice as required to your chlorophyll lemonade and drink up!
The green pigment found in plants may be our soldier against not just simple and embarrassing conditions like body odor but also diseases like cancer in the future. Many of its health benefits are proven, and many are still being explored. What makes it stand out in the crowd is that it provides all those health benefits without any noticeable side effects. So the next time you watch Popeye the Sailorman eat a can of spinach and beat up the bad guys, you know very well what it is that really helped him blow up like that – maybe it was all that chlorophyll goodness!
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