Remember the term “cholorophyll” from your school biology days? Learn more about its health benefits.
Chlorophyll is a chemoprotein known for its contribution to the green pigmentation in plants and algae. Plants use chlorophyll to trap light to make photosynthesis possible. This is the process of converting light energy to chemical energy, and storing it as food.
The name “chlorophyll” comes from the Greek word “chloros” which means a yellowish green colour and from “phyllon”, which means “leaf”. Chlorophyll was first isolated in 1817 by two scientists named Joseph Caventou and Pierre Pelletier.
In 1883 a German physiologist Julius von Sachs proved that chlorophyll played an important part in the photosynthetic process. He showed that chlorophyll was found in special structures called chloroplasts, and was not spread evenly around all the plant structures.
Two scientists were awarded Nobel prizes for their work on chlorophyll: Richard Willstatter in 1933 for separating chlorophyll a and b chromatographically, and in 1965 Robert Burns Woodward for figuring out the structure of the chlorophyll molecule.
In 2011 the Australian Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year was awarded to Min Chen for her discovery of a new type of chlorophyll in the stromatolites of Shark Bay in Western Australia.
Studies on the possible benefits of chlorophyll are ongoing, but most of the claims made in connection with the properties of chlorophyll, such as that it can reduce odours, kill bacteria and assist in wound healing, are based on research performed in the early 20th century. The one exception is that it does seem to help reduce pain in patients with pancreatitis.
Many of the benefits of chlorophyll are apocryphal, but its traditional uses are many:
- To improve bad breath
- To reduce the odour of urine and faeces (especially for people with colostomy bags)
- To help with wound healing
- To assist in the removal of toxins via the liver
- To give relief from constipation
- To help reduce pain and other symptoms in those with recurring pancreatitis
- To protect from aflatoxins and help to combat the tumour – producing effects of carcinogens
- To assist in the management of auto-immune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis
How to include chlorophyll in your diet
Natural chlorophylls aren’t toxic. When taken orally, chlorophyll tablets or liquid may cause green discolouration of urine and faeces. As the safety of chlorophyll supplements has not been tested in pregnant or lactating women, it’s not recommended for use by them.
Liquid chlorophyll is widely available and is made from alfalfa concentrate. Chlorophyll is also available as tablets and powdered extracts. Alternatively you could just include some of the following foods in your diet, either as side dishes, or juiced:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans