by Gianne Rayandayan, Herbalist
Back in Spring, it was safe to say: chlorophyll was having a moment.
Tik tok had shown a spotlight on this phytonutrient as 2021’s latest skin-care trend, and there was a week when it was nearly impossible to keep on the shelf!
We are always excited when people take an interest in their health. However, we would be remiss to ignore all of chlorophyll’s other fantastic clinical benefits, aside from skin improvement! In this post, we take a deeper look into chlorophyll’s effect on the body, and our favorite ways of working with it.
(Fun fact: this actually isn’t chlorophyll’s first time in the sun. This article from tedium.co explains how the combo of early research and new advertising platforms (i.e. radio and television) created the perfect storm for chlorophyll’s market explosion back in 1952. We’re seeing that today with the internet and tik tok’s influencer culture! Go figure.)
So what is Chlorophyll?
In nature, chlorophyll is responsible for converting sunlight into usable, chemical energy for plant-growth (1). Chlorophyll is simply a phytonutrient, like quercetin, or Vitamin A. What you’ll see in supplements is actually the derivative chlorophyllin (2), which is water-soluble. Raw chlorophyll, on the other hand, is fat-soluble.
Both provide the same benefits, but to absorb the most out of your dietary greens, you’ll want to lightly cook them and pairing them with healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, or fish. Foods heavy in chlorophyll include arugula, spinach, kale, green peas, and microgreens (2, 7).
On that note, while you would certainly be consuming large amounts of chlorophyll-derivative from a liquid extract, this does not mean that you should drop greens from your diet altogether! Whole plant-foods provide vital prebiotic action for your gut microbiome (among a host of other benefits)! If you’ve ever had an herbal consultation with us, you’d know how much we stress the importance of happy gut flora!
If you do your digging, you’ll find that despite current research- we still don’t really understand how chlorophyll acts on our bodies. (Not that a research paper should have to convince you to eat your greens!)
Metabolic Plant Feedback Hypothesis
So why should chlorophyll have any effect on us at all? According to the ‘Metabolic Plant Feedback Hypothesis’, coined by Prof. Dr. Jurg Gertsch at the University of Bern’s Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine in Switzerland, consuming bulk amounts of ‘weak-action’ phytochemicals (like micronutrients or chlorophyll) may have inhibited a lot of the inflammatory processes otherwise seen in our ancestors’ progressively carb-heavy diets.
Over time, this becomes comparable to the effects of taking ‘stronger’, more chemically potent herbs. Our early ancestors, therefore, may have relied on less medicinal herbs because their diets were so full of diverse plant-matter. Another fancy way of explaining why eating your veggies is so important.
That being said, isolated chlorophyll extracts are shown to be highly bioavailable (3). Here are some of the ways we like working with chlorophyll extracts in a clinical setting:
A famous study on liquid chlorophyll extracts administered to anemic rabbits (6) showed that intravenous liquid chlorophyll significantly improved the quality of bone marrow and blood. This is helpful for situations and conditions where the blood (and consequently, cellular respiration) is impacted, anemia being one example.
In her practice, Clinical Herbalist Anne Salazar, RH(AHG) notes that “adding liquid chlorophyll to a diet where supplemental iron is already present produces far better results in treating anemia than with iron alone”.
In a similar vein, post workout recovery and going to altitude are two more anecdotal situations where chlorophyll’s blood-building attributes can definitely come in handy. To prevent altitude sickness, try supplementing with a dropperful of liquid chlorophyll 1-2 times per day for a few weeks prior to traveling (a month is ideal!), and continuing throughout. We love taking chlorophyll with reishi capsules for added oxygenating and adaptogenic benefits needed at altitude. Maintaining proper hydration with mineral-rich water is also crucial to cellular respiration and recovery!
High carb, high sugar, and high protein diets account for a lot of the bloating and inflammation we see in patients coming in. Chlorophyll is great for ‘detoxing’, but the term itself is vague. Chlorophyll’s ‘detox’ abilities are actually the sum of a variety of actions working together:
Studies have shown chlorophyll to modulate blood-glucose levels (5), improve cellular waste metabolism and stimulate phase II detoxification (10). A study on overweight women presents reported decreases in cravings as well as LDL levels (6).
Chlorophyll’s has also shown to be an effective antioxidant, lowering inflammatory cytokines (11) and neutralizing oxidative stress (10). This further supports Gertsch’s metabolic plant feedback hypothesis-- ancestrally, large amounts of food-based chlorophyll kept inflammatory responses to a minimum, even if humans were transitioning to a more carb-heavy (and consequently inflammatory) diet.
If skin health is truly an issue you’d like to address, we encourage you to stop by in-store or book a complimentary herbalist consultation to see how we can address your specific issues. Chlorophyll can help, but there may be more targeted ways of improving acne, whether through liver support and/or hormone-modulating herbs!
All this in mind, it makes sense as to why so many folks see an improvement in their skin and overall health. If chlorophyll is something you want to try, we stock our own Remedy chlorophyll liquid extract derived from mulberry leaves, and Now’s capsule-form chlorophyll derived from organic alfalfa leaf. You can also find chlorophyll in our Remedy Breath Freshener Spray, paired with cinnamon and xylitol for extra biofilm-busting.
It is practically instinctual for us, as humans, to understand that eating green plants is good for our bodies. Because it is such a low-risk, high benefit phytonutrient, why not jump on the chlorophyll train? Your body might just thank you!
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31338957/ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318244748_Effects_of_Chlorophyll_on_Body_Functioning_and_Blood_Glucose_Levels
- https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666314003493?via%3Dihub women
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1394693/?page=1 rabbit
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31168157/ micro
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11018464/ rats liver