Is Chlorophyll Water Effective or Another Wellness Scam?

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You may have seen chlorophyll water popping up on your TikTok FYP, with those who swear by it raving about its range of benefits. If you paid attention in biology class, you likely know that chlorophyll gives plants their green hue and plays a role in photosynthesis, but what does a green pigment that helps make plant food have to do with human health? According to wellness influencers, liquid chlorophyll supplements are a miracle cure for everything from acne to body odor. Some of these are more plausible while others are too good to be true, and it can be hard to determine for yourself which claims to believe. For that reason, we’ve tapped two registered dietitians for their take on the chlorophyll water claim. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about chlorophyll water, from the potential benefits to whether it's worth a try.

Meet the Expert

  • Madelyn Larouche is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and creator of Food Freedom with ADHD, which supports clients in understanding their eating patterns and regulating them in a way that works for them.
  • Tanya Mezher, MS, is a registered dietitian and nutritionist specializing in digestive health and stress management. She is the lead functional practitioner at Malla, a holistic healthcare startup that blends natural medicine with modern science.

What Is Chlorophyll Water?

Chlorophyll is the natural compound that makes grass and leaves green and also plays a starring role in the photosynthesis process, when plants convert sunlight into nutrients. All green plants, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and parsley, contain chlorophyll. "Liquid chlorophyll, technically known as chlorophyllin, is basically the human-made form, which is a concentrated extract of the plant substance," explains registered dietitian and nutritionist Tanya Mezher, MS. 

Chlorophyll is popular to consume for its antioxidant properties and general health benefits, and many use it as a supplement or an alternative to eating greens directly, according to Mezher. However, liquid chlorophyll—the "water" popularized by TikTok—is not pure chlorophyll. "What you're looking at in that little bottle is 'a semi-synthetic mixture of sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll,'" says registered dietitian and nutritionist Madelyn Larouche. This mixture is a semi-synthetic, water-soluble product derived from chlorophyll but bound to copper instead of magnesium, making it easier to absorb. However, there’s no objective evidence that chlorophyll absorption needs any improvements upon the way we already get it through eating green plants.

The Benefits of Chlorophyll Water

As anyone who's come across a post about it knows, numerous claims exist about the benefits of liquid chlorophyll, and while some have evidence backing them, not all are supported by science. Some of the more dramatic claims surrounding liquid chlorophyll include eliminating acne and body odor, warding off cancer, "cleaning" the blood, weight loss, and more. Many of these assertions are tenuous at best—with mixed results and associations but no clear proof—but chlorophyll water does still have a few more plausible benefits.

Fights Inflammation

A 2012 study looking at the anti-inflammatory activities of chlorophyll concluded that chlorophyll and its products are valuable anti-inflammatory agents that may help treat inflammation and related diseases. Additional research has pointed to liquid chlorophyll, when applied on the skin or taken internally, helping reduce wound or acne inflammation. Small clinical trials have shown an improvement in acne without notable side effects, but many of the studies have been done on mice, and more research is necessary.

Antioxidant Properties

"The antioxidant claims in which chlorophyll helps to fight free radicals and protect the body from oxidative stress are the most clear, with research conducted in both animal and human studies," Mezher says. Studies have found that chlorophyll and its derivatives act as antioxidants, which are molecules that fight free radicals in the body, thus helping to prevent the skin and cell damage plus potential health risks (such as cancer) that these can cause. While these studies have shown promise in mice and worms, more are necessary to demonstrate that these effects are enough to provide measurable benefits in humans.

Aids Natural Detoxification

Studies have also shown evidence of chlorophyll aiding our natural detoxification process, specifically in reducing ingested aflatoxins (related to mold exposure) and heavy metals. "Interestingly, the structure of chlorophyll in plants is very similar to hemoglobin—the protein structure of red blood cells—in humans and is considered to support the quality of red blood cells and therefore circulate energy and oxygen in the body," Mezher explains. Again, though, more studies are necessary to really say whether chlorophyll has these effects, and the researchers involved stress that these potential benefits are theoretical at best.

Anti-Aging Properties

Although tenuous, some evidence exists that chlorophyll may promote youthful skin. "When it comes to skin metabolism, the primary vitamins that play an important role in this process are vitamins C, E, A, and D," Larouche says. "Chlorophyll is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, which contributes to cellular repair and rejuvenation of healthy, glowing skin." Moreover, a 2015 study showed significant results when 10 participants applied chlorophyllin gel to sun-damaged skin over eight weeks. While the study was small, there are no real downsides or adverse effects to giving it a try.

The Risks of Chlorophyll Water

Liquid chlorophyll or chlorophyll water is generally safe for consumption, and there's no recognized upper limit of toxicity. However, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding may want to avoid it, as limited research is available about its safety for these groups. Larouche says that people taking methotrexate—a medication used to treat psoriasis, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis—should also avoid liquid chlorophyll, as should anyone taking a multivitamin that includes copper. Liquid chlorophyll has more than the recommended daily allowance of copper, so taking too much has the potential to contribute to toxicity.

Regular consumption of chlorophyll water can lead to increased sun sensitivity, so be sure to be vigilant about wearing a good SPF if you choose to integrate it into your routine. For the same reason, Mezher says that you may want to avoid or minimize use of liquid chlorophyll if you take specific medications that also increase photosensitivity, such as acne medications.

Mezher also warns that another risk of taking liquid chlorophyll is experiencing gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. "In my experience, I have had clients report adverse GI effects and abnormal liver enzyme increases when supplementing on their own prior to our meeting," she says. "It is always best to consult with your healthcare practitioners to personalize a supplement plan based on your medical history and health goals."

Is Chlorophyll Water Actually Good for You?

While taking chlorophyll water has many potential benefit claims, most of the research is limited, and it certainly can't replace an overall healthy diet and lifestyle. "It may be good for you to the extent that it contributes to your general hydration, nutrient-dense meals, and proactive healthful lifestyle," Mezher tells us. "But do not expect to eat ultra-processed foods, drink alcohol, and stay up all night just to have chlorophyll water be the cure."

Mezher recommends getting chlorophyll from foods first by bulking up your meals with green vegetables like arugula, parsley, and spinach, which are naturally high in chlorophyll and give you the added benefits of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that all interact to optimize digestion and absorption. This will have positive ripple effects on your overall health.

Chlorophyll Supplements vs. Greens Powders

While chlorophyll supplements are similar to other green powder supplements, such as chlorella or spirulina, their sources and benefits differ. Many green powders combine different dried ground fruits and vegetables, which provide a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. 

"Chlorella is specifically a type of green freshwater algae, while spirulina is a type of blue-green saltwater algae—both have a high content of chlorophyll, which contributes to their hues and health benefits, similar to other vegetables," Mezher explains. Chlorella is also known for its high protein content and vitamins (including B12). Spirulina is a good source of protein, essential fatty acids, and phycocyanin. "Phycocyanin is a unique pigment that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions, and is being further researched for its potential anti-cancer effects," Mezher says.

In general, all of these ingredients and forms of plants can be beneficial for many different reasons. "The best approach is to ensure and increase diversity in your diet, and one way to do that is by eating a variety of vegetables and supplementing as preferred," Mezher tells us. Be sure to check the ingredients of any supplement you try, and ensure it comes from a reputable brand. Additionally, Mezher reminds us that these are meant to supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle, not replace it.

The Final Takeaway

While there aren’t many drawbacks to drinking chlorophyll water apart from, possibly, wasting your hard-earned cash, if you eat a balanced diet, you likely won’t gain much benefit. "The only people who will benefit from a liquid chlorophyll supplement are those who don't eat vegetables—especially green leafy vegetables," Larouche says. "I would not recommend liquid chlorophyll to someone already eating a balanced and adequate diet."

Article Sources
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