Let’s revisit chlorophyll and look at the benefits and clarify the myths. There’s so much information about chlorophyll that I’m going to break it into two parts. In Part 1 (this post) I will tell you a little about the chemistry of chlorophyll and its similarities (and differences) to hemoglobin in blood in order to lay the foundation for deciphering the benefits from the myths, which I will present in Part 2.
Chlorophyll, a phytochemical, is the molecule in plants and algae that make them green. Chlorophyll is also the molecule that is responsible for photosynthesis in plants. Energy absorbed by chlorophyll in the form of sunlight converts carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen:
Chlorophyll is considered the “blood of plants” because of similarities between chlorophyll molecules (chlorophyll a and b specifically found in plants) and the heme subunit of hemoglobin molecules in blood. Both chlorophyll and heme molecules have similar (but not identical) chemical structures, ring structures (porphyrin rings) that contain a charged metal atom (ion) in the center of the ring. Chlorophyll contains magnesium, which makes plants green and heme contains iron, which makes blood red. Chlorophyll and hemoglobin both transport and release oxygen. Chlorophyll releases oxygen to the air and hemoglobin releases oxygen to our cells.
While very similar, there is one major difference between the structures of chlorophyll and heme molecules that makes those molecules behave differently. Chlorophyll has a chain, or tail of 20 carbon atoms (phytol tail), which makes chlorophyll soluble in fats. Hemoglobin does not have the phytol tail, and is soluble in water.
In order to make chlorophyll behave chemically more like heme, a derivative of chlorophyll is made by chopping off the phytol tail, which makes it water-soluble, and replacing magnesium with copper to keep the green color. This derivative is chlorophyllin. It’s chlorophyllin, not chlorophyll, that’s in Liquid Chlorophyll and many chlorophyll supplements.