How Chlorophyll Works
How Chlorophyll Works
Chlorophyll can be found in all green plants. This includes leafy greens and other veggies we commonly eat, plus certain types of algae or bacteria. While chlorophyll is totally natural, a similar semi-synthetic mixture called chlorophyllin is made in laboratories to be used in supplements, such as those marketed as “liquid chlorophyll.” These supplements have been in existence for more than 50 years and are commonly used to treat skin wounds, body odor, digestive problems and other health concerns with practically no side effects at all.
You probably know that plants couldn’t live without chlorophyll, but maybe you’re wondering what kind of chlorophyll benefits there are for humans. As mentioned, chlorophyll is linked to natural cancer prevention, blocks carcinogenic effects within the body and protects DNA from damage caused by toxic molds like aflatoxin. Chlorophyllin supplements are believed to help neutralize oxidants, which means they effectively decrease oxidative damage caused by factors like a poor diet, chemical carcinogens, UV light exposure and radiation.
The Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute in India has found that chlorophyll from fresh green leaves has potent anti-inflammatory activities against dangerous bacteria and other environmental toxins. It helps turn off a pro-inflammatory cytokinecalled lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-α, making it a promising treatment option forinflammation and related chronic diseases that conventional medicine has failed to control. (9)
Another one of the big chlorophyll benefits might surprise you. It seems to help promote weight loss by controlling appetite hormones and improving obesity-related risk factors, all without the scary side effects of most commercial weight-loss supplements. (10)
The chlorophyll definition is “the green substance in plants that makes it possible for them to make food from carbon dioxide and water.” There are two main forms of chlorophyll found in nature: chlorophyll-a and chlorophyll-b. There is a small difference between the two types, basically that each absorbs light from the sun at slightly different wavelengths. In natural plants containing chlorophyll, there is a ratio of 3:1 cholorophyll-a (a bluish-black solid) to cholorophyll-b (a dark green solid), which both work together to reflect the dark green pigment that’s visible to the human eye.
Plants and algae use chlorophyll to trap light from the sun that’s needed for photosynthesis, which is why chlorophyll is considered a “chelate.” In fact, it’s considered the single most important chelator found in nature, since it gives plants energy, which then give us energy.
Chlorophyll-a and chlorophyll-b are both fat-soluble, meaning they won’t dissolve in water and are absorbed by the digestive system best when they’re consumed with at least a small amount of fat (lipids). Synthetically made chlorophyllin is soluble in water, however, which means you can take a chlorophyllin supplement without needing to eat a source of fat to fully dissolve it.
On a molecular level, the structure of chlorophyll is very similar to heme, which is a part of hemoglobin present in human blood. Heme, which is what makes blood appear bright red once exposed to oxygen, is bound to proteins forming hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the lungs and other respiratory surfaces to be released into tissues throughout the body.
The primary reason chlorophyll is considered a superfood is because of its strong antioxidant and anticancer effects. Chlorophyll benefits the immune system because it’s able to form tight molecular bonds with certain chemicals that contribute to oxidative damage and diseases like cancer or liver disease. These are called “procarcinogens” substances, and some of the types that chlorophyll can help block include: (11, 12)
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in tobacco smoke
- heterocyclic amine toxins found in meat cooked at high temperatures
- food-born toxins, including aflatoxin-B1, a type of dietary mold (also called a fungus) found in many grains and legumes, such as corn, peanuts and soybeans. When processed and included in refined foods, I like to call these “metabolism death foods“
- UV light that can cause skin damage in excess
How to Get More Chlorophyll: Top Chlorophyll Food Sources
What’s the best way to detox using chlorophyll? The very best sources of chlorophyll found on the planet are green vegetables and algae. Here are some of the top food sources to incorporate into your diet to experience all of the chlorophyll benefits.
- Leafy green vegetables: Green veggies like kale, spinach or Swiss chard get their signature pigment from a high concentration of chlorophyll. Ideally, every day you should consume some variety of leafy greens as part of your recommended five to seven servings of vegetables, but if you find this difficult consider juicing greens instead.
- Raw or lightly cooked foods: An interesting finding published by the Institute of Food Technologies is that chlorophyll content is decreased when green veggies are cooked, thawed after being frozen or when they start to spoil. For example, the amount of chlorophyll in spinach was decreased by about 35 percent after it was thawed and another 50 percent after it was boiled or steamed. (13) To consume the most chlorophyll from your diet, try eating more of a raw food diet or lightly cooking your veggies using low temperatures.
According to Oregon State University, here is a list of the chlorophyll content (bound to magnesium) of selected raw vegetables:
- 1 cup spinach: 23.7 milligrams
- 1/2 cup parsley: 19.0 milligrams
- 1 cup watercress: 15.6 milligrams
- 1 cup green beans: 8.3 milligrams
- 1 cup arugula: 8.2 milligrams
- 1 cup leeks: 7.7 milligrams
- 1 cup endive: 5.2 milligrams
- 1 cup sugar snap peas: 4.8 milligrams
- 1 cup Chinese cabbage: 4.1 milligrams
- Chlorella: A type of blue-green algae that’s native to parts of Asia, chlorella is packed with chlorophyll in addition to many phytonutrients, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Just like chlorophyll itself, chlorella is tied to healthy hormonal balance, detoxification, cardiovascular health, and lower levels of inflammation, blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition to consuming the algae, for convenience sake you can also take extracted chlorella supplements in either powder or tablet form.
- Chlorophyllin supplements: Green algae like chlorella are often used to make chlorophyllin, which is found in most supplements. That’s because natural chlorophyll is not very shelf-stable and is prone to degradation, making it hard to consume and very expensive. Oral doses of chlorophyllin supplements taken in amounts about 100–300 milligrams per day (usually divided into three doses) have been used to safely treat conditions with almost no side effects for over five decades.
- Liquid chlorophyll and other common sources: Supplemental chlorophyll can be found in herbal treatments, including alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and silkworm droppings. If you have access to liquid chlorophyll, try adding a few drops to a glass of water once or twice a day. It will turn your water bright green, although rest assured it doesn’t taste as bad as it might look and might help give you a little boost in energy when sipped throughout the day.