Experts Say There Are Major Things to Know Before Drinking Chlorophyll Water


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Green juices, green powders and even green milkshakes have all had their moment in the spotlight. But the latest green-tinted health beverage trend going viral on TikTok, with nearly 550 million views, is chlorophyll water, which — let’s face it — looks a bit like something you would scoop out of a long-neglected fish tank.

The plant-based supplement certainly sounds and looks healthy, and TikTok videos, alongside plenty of marketing material, have made some pretty wide-ranging claims for chlorophyll’s health benefits. Among the biggest claims are that the vibrant green drink can improve your complexion and deliver clearer skin, energize your immune system, and improve your digestion.

But is there any truth to these claims ? Good Housekeeping asked health experts to explain more about this social media wellness trend.

 

What is chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is a pigment found in plants that makes them green. It plays a key role in photosynthesis, the process where plants turn solar energy and carbon dioxide into oxygen and energy-rich molecules, like glucose, explains Kristin Dean, MD, the associate medical director at Doctor on Demand.

“Chlorophyll is essential for plants to make food,” explains Bridget MacDonald, RDN, a registered dietitian and health coach at Welcyon. However, she adds, “It is not essential for humans.”

The chlorophyll supplements that are used to make your water turn green, however, are not the same thing you would find in, say, that potted fern on your windowsill. They are usually made from chlorophyllin, a semi-synthetic blend of sodium copper salts that are derived from chlorophyll, says Jerlyn Jones, MS, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Chlorophyllin has similar properties to chlorophyll and easily dissolves in water,” she adds.

Chlorophyll benefits

According to a brand representative for Sakara, the producer of a product called Detox Water Drops which contains chlorophyll per its ingredient list, chlorophyll is rich in antioxidants and “extremely potent for [holistic] healing.”

According to marketing materials and testimony from the brand, the main benefits of chlorophyll are that it can improve acne, as well as gut health and digestion (similar to other supplements). Products like Sakara’s also claim to help the blood carry oxygen through the body, which some research suggests can boost energy, clear away impurities, stimulate organs and support the lymphatic system.

Other wellness enthusiasts have suggested that chlorophyll also has cancer-fighting properties and can help with weight loss, Dr. Dean tells us. Alas, there’s little research proving any of these claims to be true.

The plant-based supplement is far from a “cure-all,” Jones explains. “Chlorophyll has certain antioxidants and potential anti-inflammatory benefits such as skin healing; however, larger studies are needed to further evaluate the potential health benefits of chlorophyll.”

That said, smaller studies have shown that chlorophyll could potentially have some impact on health. In a pilot study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2015, 10 adults using topical chlorophyllin for three weeks had mild to moderate improvement in acne and reduction of larger pores. Another small study of just 10 women published in the same journal showed that topical chlorophyllin improved sun-damaged skin after eight weeks.

“Chlorophyll has been studied to have antioxidant properties so it does have the potential to assist with reducing inflammation and oxidation in the body,” MacDonald says. “However, other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and much stronger and more beneficial.”

Side effects and toxicity

Natural chlorophyll and subsequent chlorophyllin aren’t known to be toxic, as experts at Oregon State University have explained. Jones says some people may experience side effects when consuming the supplement, such as diarrhea, green-colored urine or stool and yellow or black coloring on the tongue. Topical chlorophyll application could cause itching or burning, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should probably avoid chlorophyll and chlorophyllin, Jones says, since the consumption risks for this group are largely unknown.

All the experts we consulted for this guide agreed: You should discuss chlorophyll supplements with a healthcare provider before adding them to your long-term routine. This is especially crucial for those who are breastfeeding, taking medications and those with chronic health conditions.

You should also keep in mind that chlorophyll and chlorophyllin supplements (and all other supplements) aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Dean adds. “Taking supplements which are not regulated by the FDA can put you at risk of consuming unknown toxic substances depending on the manufacturing practices of the company you are purchasing from,” she warns.

“People should always be careful before jumping on a popular food trend,” Jones says. “The possible side effects may potentially cause undue stress and harm. These supplements can also be expensive. Instead, make smart food choices by eating more vegetables like arugula, leeks, and broccoli.”

Dosage

Sakara representatives suggest following the dosage and instructions on any product’s label for the safest results. But if your daily dose of green starts to have severe GI side effects, such as vomiting or diarrhea, it may be time to try a different drink.

In the store and online, chlorophyll supplements are sold in many different forms: Tablets, sprays, ointments and liquid drops. “Some people incorporate chlorophyll into their meals by adding a liquid form to recipes,” Jones says. To make chlorophyll water, you can add drops or powder into a glass or bottle of water while following the product’s recommended dosage.

Food sources

An even better way to get the benefits of chlorophyll without downing a green drink is through eating your greens.

Green vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, parsley, green beans and peas, can naturally up your dose of chlorophyll, Jones says. A cup of spinach, for instance, packs in about 24mg of chlorophyll, whereas a half cup of parsley contains 19mg, she adds.

“There are much more health benefits in consuming a cup of dark green leafy veggies such as spinach, kale or broccoli then there is in a cup of chlorophyll water,” says MacDonald. “Additionally, you will get more antioxidant benefits in a cup of water supplemented with vitamin C.”

Bottom line: Since officials at the FDA do not regulate supplements, it’s hard to recommend one product over another — but most liquid chlorophyll supplements shouldn’t pose a risk to a majority of consumers. As scientists’ research into the health benefits of consuming chlorophyll is inconclusive, and since manufacturers aren’t required to adhere to quality control in selling these supplements, the easiest way to enjoy more chlorophyll is to eat it. Try incorporating more hearty vegetables in your diet; staples like spinach contains more or as much of this plant-based pigment than supplements provide, and in smaller amounts. Whether you’re hoping for a better complexion or improved digestion, fiber-packed and chlorophyll-rich vegetables are never a bad idea.

Headshot of Erica Sweeney

Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.



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