What Exactly Is Chlorophyll Water—And Is It Worth The Hype?
You probably first heard of chlorophyll way back in high school biology class. But lately, you may have noticed this plant pigment popping up at juice bars, in bottled waters, and in supplements that tout all sorts of benefits from detoxification to increased energy levels to cancer prevention. But is chlorophyll water legit or just another overblown fad?
We looked into the research and chatted with a couple of experts to get their take.
What is chlorophyll, anyway?
Here's a little refresher in case you're fuzzy: Chlorophyll is a pigment that's naturally produced by plants and algae and gives them their characteristic green color. It's critical for photosynthesis, the process by which sunlight is converted into energy.
You can ingest chlorophyll directly from plants, algae, and sea vegetables (chlorella, parsley, and spinach all contain significant amounts) or via supplements. Most supplements contain a chlorophyll derivative called chlorophyllin—often listed as sodium copper chlorophyllin on the ingredient list—that's water-soluble and better absorbed by the body. Most research on the potential health benefits of chlorophyll has been performed with chlorophyllin.
The potential health benefits of chlorophyll water.
As mentioned above, research on the health benefits of consuming chlorophyll supplements and chlorophyll water isn't as robust as we'd like, but there are practitioners who have used it successfully with their patients, and there have been some promising studies that are worth considering.
It may help bind and eliminate heavy metals from the body.
Research on chlorella1—a microalgae containing high quantities of chlorophyll—has demonstrated an ability to rid the body of toxic metals and chemicals such as mercury and support healthy metabolism, explains Abby Cannon, R.D., a registered dietitian and sustainability expert.
Though it's not clear whether chlorella's chelating (i.e., heavy-metal-binding) properties come solely from chlorophyll or from a combination of compounds.
It might protect against some diseases.
Research suggests chlorophyll has promising benefits for liver health, says Cannon. Studies on animals have found2 that chlorophyll supplementation reduces the incidence of liver tumors by up to 64%.
While the exact cancer-fighting mechanisms are unclear, early research3 shows that chlorophyll may reduce the risk of liver damage caused by aflatoxins (dangerous cancer-causing compounds produced by fungi that may be present on a variety of foods, including peanuts) by activating certain enzymes.
In lab studies4, chlorophyll has also shown some promise in helping the immune system fight colon cancer cells.
It has antioxidant properties.
Chlorophyll also has significant antioxidant effects5, and studies6 show that supplementation may help decrease oxidative damage caused by certain cancer-causing chemicals and radiation.
How significant these effects are is not yet clear, but it's the reason some people choose to supplement with chlorophyll after flights, as we are exposed to increased levels of radiation during air travel7.
It may act as a natural deodorant.
Chlorophyll has long been used in medical settings to act as a sort of "internal" natural deodorant and reduce fecal odor in patients with colostomy bags, and some believe it can reduce overall body odor when taken internally as well.
Research on this is mixed, but one study8 found that chlorophyll supplementation reduced the number of trimethylamines in people with a condition called trimethylaminuria—a condition that causes a fishy odor due to an inability to break down trimethylamines.
While there have been a number of other claims made regarding the health benefits of chlorophyll, there's just not enough evidence at this time to back them up.
Are chlorophyll waters and supplements worth it?
Currently, there are a few bottled chlorophyll waters on the market, as well as a variety of chlorophyll supplements that come as powders, capsules, or tinctures.
Both may be somewhat beneficial for your health, but going for bottled chlorophyll drinks may be a waste of money (since you're getting a lower concentration than you'd get in a supplement)—not to mention a waste of plastic. So if you want to get in on the trend, a DIY approach makes the most sense.
"Liquid chlorophyll comes in a tincture, and you can add a few drops to some water in the morning," says Cannon.
Both Cannon and Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, a functional medicine practitioner, emphasize the importance of quality when selecting a chlorophyll supplement (or any dietary supplement for that matter). Look for chlorophyll supplement brands without binders or fillers.
How much should I take?
Oral doses of 100 to 300 mg 9of chlorophyllin per day in three divided doses have been used safely, but you should always start slowly and work your way up, advises Cannon.
You can also take a chlorella powder supplement or tablet, which naturally contains chlorophyll and a variety of other nutrients. The best time of day to take chlorophyll is really any time of day—it shouldn't disrupt your sleep routine.
What are the side effects?
Chlorophyll is generally safe10, with no toxic effects being reported in over 50 years of clinical use, although it may cause your poop or urine to be a bit darker in color. If you choose to get your chlorophyll from a chlorella powder, however, keep in mind that this microalgae also contains vitamin K and iodine, so it shouldn't be taken with blood-thinning medications, warns Cannon.
How to increase your intake of chlorophyll from whole foods.
Supplements and trendy chlorophyll waters aren't the only way to boost your intake. As a general rule, green vegetables, especially those that are green all the way through (as opposed to green veggies with a whitish or lighter center like broccoli) have the highest chlorophyll content. The following foods are great sources of chlorophyll:
- Green beans
- Sea vegetables (e.g., nori, kelp)
- Sugar snap peas
The research on chlorophyll for protection against radiation and heavy metals is promising, but much of it has yet to be proved in humans. The good news: Practitioners have had success using chlorophyll with their patients, and the side effects of chlorophyll are minimal. If you're curious, give it a try and see how you feel. Just chat with your doctor first, especially if you are taking another medication. Or just up your chlorophyll intake the old-fashioned way: by eating your greens!
Stephanie Eckelkamp is a writer and editor who has been working for leading health publications for the past 10 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Syracuse University with a minor in nutrition. In addition to contributing to mindbodygreen, she has written for Women's Health, Prevention, and Health. She is also a certified holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She has a passion for natural, toxin-free living, particularly when it comes to managing issues like anxiety and chronic Lyme disease (read about how she personally overcame Lyme disease here).