Chlorophyll: Why it is unable to transport oxygen like hemoglobin does

Back in the 1930’s and 40’s, wheatgrass virutally ruled the US natural health world. After all, it was green and millions of Americans were ingesting it (or using it as an enema, supposedly to gain maximum benefit).

The marketing spin about wheatgrass was all to do with chlorophyll. It appeared to do everything from transporting oxygen throughout the body like hemoglobin to making people well. Some even saw the structures to be similar, but one was a complex protein, the other a hydrocarbon. Chlorophyll was also reputed to “cleanse” the blood and therefore the whole body. Or even more outrageously, it “helped keep the colon healthy by destroying disease causing bacteria.”

In reality though, other than playing its extremely important role in photosynthesis and the production of the oxygen we breathe, there is probably only one other valid claim that can be made about this molecule.

“It’s green.”

And, when it is exposed to the air, it rapidly turns black and oxidises.

Hailed as a great healer, there was no shortage of research funding to prove that chlorophyll could clean and heal infected wounds. For instance, in 1947, US Army Lieutenant-Colonel Bowers reported on the use of “water-soluble derivatives” of chlorophyll in over 400 cases. He described several major effects he had noted in his hospital patients. Notably:

  1. Loss of odour associated with infected wounds
  2. A stimulating effect on tissue formation when used as a dressing particularly for burns
  3. A drying effect in the case of abscesses, sinus tracts, surface wounds and osteomyelitis (bone infection).

Bowers also mentions faster healing of anal fistulas in such conditions as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, bedsores, bone fractures, gunshot wounds and so on. In some cases, legs were saved from “inevitable amputation”. The author was “convinced that chlorophyll is the best agent known for use in the treatment of suppurative diseases, indolent ulcers or wherever stimulation of tissue repair is desired.”

Read “wheatgrass”and add a few other healing phenomena: burns, fractures, anal fistulas, bedsores and infected wounds.

I have seen all these healing phenomena using wheatgrass extract and it DOES NOT CONTAIN CHLOROPHYLL.

But was it the chlorophyll or the so-called “water-soluble derivatives” that did the job?

Almost certainly it was the latter – but what were they? Modern science has provided some answers to that question. Let’s just say the bioactives in wheatgrass are numerous and that they influence gene expression.

You see, chlorophyll is a complex hydrocarbon molecule that oxidizes and degenerates very quickly. It is also very difficult and expensive to synthesize, so to produce a “chlorophyll” product would cost a fortune and be inaccessible to most. (The picture below demonstrates why chlorophyll does not, in fact cannot, transport oxygen in the bloodstream. The molecule can only survive inside the leaf’s chloroplast.)

Then as now, (except in rare cases where actual chlorophyll is used), chlorophyll research was done with a commercial product called “Chlorophyllin”, a commercially manufactured product designed for cleansing wounds in hospital patients. The product contains a copper salt that keeps the mixture green – a so-called food colourant. At the time, it was officially approved by the American Food and Drug Administration but would probably find it difficult to pass muster in the 21st century.

Even the Linus Pauling Insitute that has researched chlorophyll for decades seems confused about this. Their website states: “Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of water-soluble sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll.” (View article offsite).

Also, an article by R. Dashwood at the University of Hawaii entitled “The importance of using pure chemicals in anti/mutagenicity studies: chlorophyllin as a case in point”. This article refers to the increasing number of scientific articles researching chlorophyllin and states the need for its complex biochemical nature to be established before any real conclusions should be drawn about its efficacy.

I agree, because I discovered that chlorophyll has no place in human health or function in 1996 when I tested my wheatgrass extract for chlorophyll.

I was amazed to learn there was no sign of it!

So, don’t bother eating green to benefit from chlorophyll. You’ll be wasting your time, and your oxygen levels won’t improve.

Wheatgrass however, is a totally different matter, which is what these pages are all about.

Dr. Chris Reynolds.