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Over on the wellness side of TikTok, liquid chlorophyll is the latest obsession. At the time of writing, the #chlorophyll hashtag on the app has more than 97 million views, with users claiming the plant derivative has cleared up their skin, reduced bloating and helped them lose weight. But how much validity is there to these claims? We consulted nutritionists and other experts to help you understand the full benefits of chlorophyll, its limitations and the best ways to consume it.
What is chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll is the pigment found in plants that gives them their green hue. It also allows plants to convert sunlight into nutrients via photosynthesis.
Supplements like chlorophyll drops and liquid chlorophyll aren’t entirely chlorophyll, however. These contain chlorophyllin, a semisynthetic, water-soluble version of chlorophyll created by combining sodium and copper salts with chlorophyll to supposedly make it more absorbable in the body, explained Noelle Reid, MD, a board-certified LA-based family medicine physician. “Natural chlorophyll may be broken down during the digestive process before it is readily absorbed in the gut,” she said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that people over 12 years old can safely consume up to 300 milligrams of chlorophyllin daily.
However you choose to consume chlorophyll, make sure you start at a lower dose and slowly increase only if you can tolerate it. “Chlorophyllin may cause gastrointestinal effects, including diarrhea and discoloration of urine/stool,” Reid said. “As with any supplement, you should always consult your physician before starting, as there could be drug interactions and maleffects on chronic conditions.”
What are the benefits of chlorophyll?
According to Trista Best, a registered dietitian and environmental health specialist, chlorophyll is “full of antioxidants,” which “act in therapeutic ways to benefit the body, especially the immune system.” Antioxidants work as anti-inflammatory agents inside the body, helping “improve the body's immune function and response,” she explained.
Because chlorophyll is a potent antioxidant, some researchers have found that consuming chlorophyll (or applying it topically) can help with acne, large pores and signs of aging. One small study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology tested the efficacy of a topical chlorophyllin on subjects with acne and deemed it effective as a treatment. Another study in the Korean Journal of Investigative Dermatology tested the effects of dietary chlorophyll on women over the age of 45 and found that it “significantly” improved wrinkles and skin elasticity.
As some people on TikTok have alluded to, scientists have also researched the potential anticancer effects of chlorophyll. One 2001 study from Johns Hopkins found that “taking chlorophyllin or eating green vegetables ... that are rich in chlorophyll may be a practical way of reducing the risk of liver cancer and other cancers caused by environmental triggers,” study author Thomas Kensler, PhD, explained in a press release. However, as Reid noted, the research is limited on the specific role chlorophyll might play in cancer treatment, and “there just isn’t enough data at this point to support these benefits.”
While many TikTokers claim to use chlorophyll as a weight loss or bloat-reducing supplement, there is little research linking chlorophyll with weight loss, so experts don’t recommend relying on them to lose weight. Clinical nutritionist Laura DeCesaris noted, however, that the anti-inflammatory oxidants in chlorophyll “support healthy gut function,” and maintaining a healthy gut can speed up your metabolism and aid digestion.
What is the best way to consume chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll occurs naturally in most of the plants we eat, so ramping up your green vegetable intake (particularly with veggies like spinach, kale and cabbage) is a natural way to increase the amount of chlorophyll in your diet, said Reid. However, if you want to ensure you’re consuming enough chlorophyll, several of the experts we spoke to recommended wheatgrass shots, which are a “potent source” of chlorophyll, according to DeCesaris. Nutritionist Haylie Pomroy added that wheatgrass is also packed with nutrients like “protein, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus and many other essential nutrients.”
Most of the experts we consulted agreed that more research needs to be done regarding specific chlorophyll supplements. However, DeCesaris noted that since there don’t seem to be many negative side effects of adding a chlorophyll supplement to your diet, there’s no harm in trying it.
“I’ve seen enough people feel benefits anecdotally from including chlorophyll in their routine to feel that it can be a good part of an overall healthy lifestyle, despite a lack of rigorous research behind it,” she said.
“[Chlorophyll] is well known to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so in that respect it likely does help to support the health of our cells, and thus tissue and organ function, but more research is needed to fully understand the entire scope of its health benefits,” Reid added.
Where to buy chlorophyll supplements
Once you’ve consulted your doctor and gotten the go-ahead to supplement chlorophyll in your diet, you need to decide how. Chlorophyll supplements come in many different forms — liquid drops, encapsulated supplements, powders, sprays, etc. — and out of all of these, DeCesaris likes the liquid formulas and gelcaps best.
“Sprays are better for topical application, whereas liquids and powders can be easily mixed into [drinks],” she explained.
Specifically, DeCesaris recommended Standard Process’s Chlorophyll Complex supplements for a gelcap option. According to the brand, more than 80 percent of the raw plant ingredients used to make the supplements are grown on an organic farm.
Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and the founder of Real Nutrition in New York City, likes the Now Food Liquid Chlorophyll (currently out of stock) and the Sunfood Chlorella Tablets. (Chlorella is a green freshwater algae rich with chlorophyll.) “Both are easily incorporated into your meal plan and are loaded with nutrition — either chew a few up, add drops to your water or blend into smoothies,” she said.
Many of the experts we consulted said they love wheatgrass shots as a daily chlorophyll supplement. This one from KOR Shots contains wheatgrass and spirulina (both strong sources of chlorophyll), plus pineapple, lemon and ginger juice for added flavor and nutrients. The shots boast a 4.7-star rating from 25 Amazon customers.
For an on-the-go option, Kelly Bay, a functional medicine practitioner, clinical nutrition specialist and certified dietician nutritionist, said she’s a “big fan” of Chlorophyll Water. In addition to chlorophyll, the drink also contains vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C and vitamin D. The antioxidant-rich water can be purchased either in a 12-pack or a 6-pack.