Chlorophyll: Uses and Risks

Chlorophyll is a pigment in plants. It's what makes them look green. Chlorophyll has been a popular supplement since the 1960s. But so far, there's no clear proof that it has health benefits.

Why do people take chlorophyll?

We have very little research about chlorophyll as a treatment.

There's some evidence that chlorophyll given through an IV helps with pain and other symptoms caused by chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is swelling, inflammation or infection of the pancreas.

Some lab tests suggest chlorophyll could help block some cancer-causing chemicals. But we don't know if it would have any benefit against cancer in people.

Some people use chlorophyll supplements for bad breath, constipation, and to promote healing. There's not much evidence to support these uses, though.

"Chlorophyllin" is a different supplement. It comes from chlorophyll but doesn't have the same effects.

There's no standard dose for chlorophyll. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get chlorophyll naturally from foods?

Chlorophyll is in all leafy plants. Levels are especially high in some vegetables we eat, like spinach, parsley, and green beans.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

  • Side effects. There could be minor effects on the stomach/intestines, like nausea/vomiting from chlorophyll supplements.They seem to be fairly safe, though.
  • Risks. Chlorophyll may make some people more likely to get a rash from the sun. We don't know if chlorophyll is safe for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using chlorophyll supplements. Be careful with medications that also list sun sensitivity as a side effect, like drugs for acne, infections, and pain.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on February 28, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: "Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin."

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: "Chlorophyll," and "Chlorophyllin."

NYU Langone Medical Center: "Wheat Grass Juice."

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