Chlorophyll is sometimes referred to as ‘the lifeblood of plants’.
This name is fitting, as, without chlorophyll, plants can’t make energy from sunlight and would die.
Chlorophyll is a major buzzword in human health, too. But why?
Read on to discover the function of chlorophyll, why it benefits us humans, how to take it, and any side effects you should be aware of.
You might remember learning about chlorophyll in school science lessons. In case that’s now a distant memory - here’s a quick refresher.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants. It’s what makes them green – plants also use it for photosynthesis, the process by which plants create energy from sunlight.1
As a vital component in sustaining plant life, chlorophyll helps produce oxygen for the entire planet!2
Amazingly, facilitating life-giving oxygen isn’t the only way chlorophyll can help enrich our health.
Chlorophyll contains phytonutrients – plant chemicals which can help protect the cells of our bodies through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.3
In recent years, chlorophyll liquid, chlorophyll drops and chlorophyll powder have become a wellness trend, with drinking chlorophyll in particular being touted on social media as a fast-track to clear skin.
Here, we take a look at some of the benefits of chlorophyll – and what the evidence says about each one.
Chlorophyll is commonly used in tablet, drop, liquid or cream form to help heal skin conditions such as acne, aid with weight loss, boost support energy and digestion, ease gut health issues or promote better all-round health.
Chlorophyll is vital to plant life, and therefore life on earth. But we can’t help but wonder what extra health benefits it can offer us.
Here, we look at ten science-backed benefits of chlorophyll for human health.
A study found that taking a 5g green plant membrane supplementation (which included chlorophyll) for 90 days led to weight loss.4
Taking the green plant supplement reduced the participants’ cravings for sweets and chocolate, which could partially explain the weight loss effects seen in the study.
Another finding was that taking the chlorophyll supplement increased feelings of satisfaction and fullness by releasing a gut hormone which tells the brain it has had enough.5
Chlorophyll has a similar chemical makeup to haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body.
It’s been theorised that due to its chemical similarity to haemoglobin, chlorophyll can mimic haemoglobin in our bodies, helping rebuild our red blood cells and enabling them to carry more oxygen around the body.6 This has the benefit of boosting giving us our energy.
Chlorophyllin (a semi-synthetic chlorophyll derivative which includes copper – commonly used in chlorophyll supplements) can promote and accelerate wound healing. This has been proven in several studies.8
It’s thought this is due to its ability to stimulate cell production, which is essential to heal skin following damage.9 Another mechanism thought to support wound healing is by limiting harmful bacterial growth which can slow the speed at which a wound heals.10
Chlorophyll is able to slow and prevent the growth of various types of bacteria that may be harmful to health.
This antibacterial action was confirmed during studies on different bacteria strains in the 1950’s.11
More recent studies have also demonstrated chlorophyll’s antibacterial action against various microbes.12
Perhaps the most well-known potential chlorophyll benefit is a clearer complexion, but can you sip your way to glowing skin with chlorophyll?
Due to its antibacterial properties, chlorophyll can help fight breakouts and other bacterial skin concerns when applied topically.13
Chlorophyll also holds soothing properties. Sensitive skin is a key cause of premature skin ageing, so it makes sense that anything which has soothing properties is good news for your skin.14
But what about the online trend of starting the day with a glass of liquid chlorophyll?
More research is needed on whether drinking liquid chlorophyll can help clear the skin from within – although remember that countless skin-loving foods such as spinach, spring greens, kale and cabbage are high in chlorophyll, so there’s method in the madness.15
‘Antioxidant’ is a buzzword in health and wellness, and anything with proven antioxidant properties is worth our attention.
Antioxidants work by scavenging oxidants, also known as free radicals. These are cell-damaging molecules which lead to disease and premature ageing.
In studies, chlorophyll has shown to be an effective antioxidant, able to neutralise several harmful oxidants.16
Chlorophyll might be able to help regulate our intestinal microbiome – the colony of bacteria which we all have in our gut.17
This is great news for our overall health, as we rely on a balanced population of gut bacteria for everything from good digestion to a balanced mood.18
When taken orally, chlorophyll might be able to prevent strong and unpleasant body odours.
This interesting effect of ingesting chlorophyll has been known to the medical community for decades, but definitive research was lacking.
Then, in 1980, a study on residents of a care home for the elderly confirmed it. Taking chlorophyllin tablets was found to be helpful in controlling body and faecal odours in the 62 residents.19
It’s thought that chlorophyll may also help neutralise bad breath, although definitive studies are lacking.
Chlorophyll is able to help relieve chronic constipation in sedentary people. One study on residents in a care home found that chlorophyll tablets had the effect of softening stools and preventing excessive flatulence among residents.20
A 2014 study on the effects of chlorophyll on weight loss found that taking daily chlorophyll also had a positive effect on cholesterol levels in overweight women.21
Within three weeks of starting treatment, levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol reduced across the group.
Chlorophyll isn’t essential for humans the way it is for plants.
However, the human body can still benefit from the green goodness of chlorophyll.
The phytonutrients contained in chlorophyll have potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can help reduce oxidative stress on our cells, and in turn fight diseases and premature ageing.22
Liquid chlorophyll contains either pure plant extract (extracted from green vegetables or herbs) or a semi-synthetic chlorophyll derivative called chlorophyllin.
Chlorophyllin is often used in place of pure chlorophyll as it’s thought that pure chlorophyll extract isn’t properly absorbed as it breaks down too easily in the gut. Chlorophyllin contains copper which is thought to aid absorption into the body.23
Chlorophyll liquid usually includes mostly purified water to dilute the potent extract.
Chlorophyll tablets usually contain chlorophyllin – the semi-synthetic version of chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll tablets may also be made of a phytonutrient-dense plant, such as the single-celled microalgae chlorella which is rich in chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll drops (again – more likely to be the better-absorbing chlorophyllin) are a concentrated form of liquid chlorophyll.
You can make your own chlorophyll drinks using the drops. Using a pipette or dropper included in the bottle, you add a couple of drops of the bright green concentrate to your own drink – whether that’s water, fruit juice or herb tea.
As the most abundant pigment found in plants, it’s no surprise that chlorophyll is found in many different fruits and vegetables.24 Chlorophyll concentration is highest in bright or dark green plant foods.
Food sources of chlorophyll include:25
As chlorophyll is known for its antibacterial and wound-healing benefits, it’s probably no surprise that you can find it in skincare.26
Chlorophyll creams, gels and treatment masks are available which offer benefits against breakouts and skin blemishes.
Phytonutrient-rich green algae powder, such as chlorella, is high in chlorophyll as well as vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and vitamin E.27
This powder can be added to water, juices and smoothies, as well as sprinkled over both sweet and savoury dishes from salads to overnight chia puddings.
There is no set dose for the amount of chlorophyll you should take per day. Doses and levels of concentration vary widely from product to product.
The dose for chlorella tablets (which are rich in chlorophyll) is 3000mg daily.28
Always follow the instructions on the label.
When taken orally, gastrointestinal side effects are possible. This includes diarrhoea, gas and stomach cramps.
You may also experience discolouration of the faeces (yes, we’re talking about green poo!) or discoloured urine, as well as discolouration of the tongue.29
When applied topically to the skin, chlorophyllin may cause a burning or itching sensation, especially on wounds or broken skin.
We recommend you consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional before using new ingredients on your skin.
Neither chlorophyll nor chlorophyllin supplements have been tested for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so their safety cannot be guaranteed.
As a result, you should seek medical advice before taking chlorophyll while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Chlorophyll can either be taken with meals, or on an empty stomach.30,31 Different varieties, strengths and types of chlorophyll come with different recommendations, so always check the label.
Introduce chlorophyll slowly at the lowest suggested dose to minimise potential side effects.
Last updated: 27 May 2022
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.