You may know chlorophyll as the green pigment in plants’ leaves that help it turn the sun’s rays into food. The supplement liquid chlorophyll won’t turn you into a photosynthesizing plant, but natural medicine aficionados argue that it has a number of health benefits.
But what does science say?
“Chlorophyll is what plants use to help clarify the environment,” said Anne-Marie Davee, registered dietician and a University of New England Nutrition program faculty member. “Lo and behold, someone came up with the idea to liquify it and make it so that humans could use it for cleansing that it might do a similar thing in the body.”
Liquid chlorophyll supplements are usually measured with a dropper or tablespoon and taken orally, either undiluted or mixed in another liquid such as water, juice or a smoothie. According to Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information Center, the average dosage of chlorophyll supplements is between 100 and 300 milligrams per day divided into three doses.
Although chlorophyll is fat-soluble, chlorophyll supplements are actually made of chlorophyllin, which contains copper instead of magnesium so that it can be absorbed by the digestive system.
Claims about the health benefits of the supplement are far-reaching, including detoxifying blood, reducing body odor, preventing cancer, treating wounds and acne and helping with weight loss. However, studies have returned mixed results on its effectiveness.
A 2012 study from Oregon State University on rodents and fish found that chlorophyll reduced the incidence of liver tumors by 29 to 63 percent and stomach tumors by 24 to 45 percent. A 2014 study from Lund University in Sweden found that people who took a daily green plant membrane supplement that included chlorophyll had greater weight loss than a group that didn’t.
But overall, the studies on liquid chlorophyll are inconclusive.
“I’m not sure as a dietician that I would recommend that someone take it in a liquid chlorophyll form,” Davee said. “The human body is just so different and individuals are so very different. It would be hard to do a sweeping conclusion based on a limited number of animal studies.”
Davee said that she is wary of supplements like liquid chlorophyll because they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
“With any type of dietary supplements, it’s buyer beware,” Davee said. “They can go to market without proving any sort of scientific benefit or consequence.”
If you still want to try liquid chlorophyll, though, Davee said to check with your doctor before you do so, especially if you are taking any other medications.
“For instance, blood thinners will often have interactions with high potassium foods,” Davee said. “You always want to look at, is there any mixing or interaction with your current medications or will it hurt any preexisting conditions that you might have.”
Also, be prepared for some of the unsavory side effects of liquid chlorophyll.
“It’s kind of disgusting to drink and you have green stools in the end,” Davee said. “If you’re already struggling with some digestive issues, I would suggest talking to your physician before taking a supplement like this to make sure this isn’t going to worsen your condition.”
A better bet, Davee said, is to get your chlorophyll, in addition to other nutrients and antioxidants, through the food that you eat. Any vegetable that is green on the inside and outside is filled with chlorophyll, including spinach, green beans, arugula, peas, parsley and wheatgrass.
“If you’re looking for chlorophyll to help detoxify your body or reduce your risk of cancer, I would highly recommend eating more leafy green vegetables,” Davee said. “To me, that would be a better way of cleansing than doing something like a liquid chlorophyll supplement.”