Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants and algae their green color. Plants use chlorophyll to trap light needed for photosynthesis.1

The basic structure of chlorophyll is a porphyrin ring similar to that of heme in hemoglobin, the blood protein. Two different types of chlorophyll (chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b) are found in plants. Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll.1  

Chlorophyll is a versatile nutrient that not only helps plants but humans as well. Chlorophyll is a powerful antioxidant with both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties providing excellent health benefits both internally and when used in topical applications.1,2,3

Chlorophyll and Cold Sores

Chlorophyll is known to have antiviral effects. Studies show that applying chlorophyll to the skin as a cream or solution improves healing and reduces the number of sores caused by herpes simplex virus infections (HSV).4

The active constituent from Clinacanthus nutans (snake grass), chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b, were found to have anti-HSV activity before the viral entry step. Their inhibitory activity might be virucidal or interference with viral adsorption or penetration.5

Topical application of chlorophyll can boost wounds healing. Ointments containing papain-urea-chlorophyllin (a derivative of chlorophyll) were found to be more effective than standard anti-bacterial treatment at healing skin and reducing pain when applied to wounds.6

Chlorophyll-a and its degradation products are good anti-inflammatory agents and can be used to treat inflammation and related diseases. A study by Subramoniam et al. evaluated the anti-inflammatory property of chlorophylls and their degradation products. Chlorophyll a and pheophytin-a (magnesium-free chlorophyll a) from fresh leaves showed potent anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenan-induced paw edema in mice and formalin-induced paw edema in rats. Chlorophyll-a inhibited bacterial lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-α (a pro-inflammatory cytokine).7

Chlorophyll also possesses antioxidant properties, by virtue of which it eliminates free radicals and protects body cells and tissues from oxidative damage. The antioxidant activity of six natural isolated chlorophyll derivatives and Copper-chlorophyllin (Cu-chlorophyllin) was investigated by measuring their protective action against lipid oxidation. The study found antioxidant activity in all derivatives, with the highest activity found in the synthetic derivative Cu-chlorophyllin.8

Chlorophyll extract is also beneficial in preventing and repairing skin photoaging. Chlorophyll extract stimulates the production of collagen; it also decreases UV-induced epidermal keratinocytic damage. A study by Cho et al. evaluated the effects of chlorophyll in improving wrinkles and elasticity in women aged over 45. The participants received two different doses of chlorophyll extract supplement for 90 days. The study found that chlorophyll improved facial wrinkles and elasticity. Collagen production was increased while UV-induced epidermal keratinocytic damage was decreased.9

A study by McCook et al. showed that skin treated with chlorophyllin improved in a similar way to skin treated with tretinoin, a well-known anti-aging product. The study concluded that using a combination of chlorophyllin and tretinoin could be an effective treatment for reversing the signs of photoaged skin.10

  1. Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin. Oregon state university. Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin. Accessed on: 08 Jan 2021.
  2. Kumar SS, Devasagayam TP, Bhushan B, et al. Scavenging of reactive oxygen species by chlorophyllin: an ESR study. Free Radic Res. 2001;35(5):563-574.
  3. Kamat JP, Boloor KK, Devasagayam TP. Chlorophyllin as an effective antioxidant against membrane damage in vitro and ex vivo. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000;1487(2-3):113-127.
  4. Stephens TJ, McCook JP, Herndon JH Jr. Pilot Study of Topical Copper Chlorophyllin Complex in Subjects With Facial Acne and Large Pores. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(6):589-592.
  5. Sakdarat S, Shuyprom A, Pientong C, et al. Bioactive constituents from the leaves of Clinacanthus nutans Lindau. Bioorg Med Chem. 2009;17(5):1857-1860.
  6. Enzymatic Debriding Agents: An Evaluation of the Medical Literature. Available at: https://www.o-wm.com/content/enzymatic-debriding-agents-an-evaluation-medical-literature. Accessed on: 08 Jan 2021.
  7. Subramoniam A, Asha VV, Nair SA, et al. Chlorophyll revisited: anti-inflammatory activities of chlorophyll a and inhibition of expression of TNF-α gene by the same. Inflammation. 2012;35(3):959-966.
  8. Lanfer-Marquez U, Barros R, Sinnecker P. Antioxidant activity of chlorophylls and their derivatives. Food Research International. 2005;38.885-891.
  9. Cho S, Lee DH, Won CH, et al. Drink containing chlorophyll extracts improves signs of photoaging and increases type I procollagen in human skin in vivo. Korean J Invest Dermatol.2006;13:111–9.
  10. McCook JP, Stephens TJ, Jiang LI, et al. Ability of sodium copper chlorophyllin complex to repair photoaged skin by stimulation of biomarkers in human extracellular matrix. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:167-174.

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