Biological activities of chlorophyll derivatives

Chernomorsky, S., Segelman, A. New Jersey Medicine. 1988; 85(8): 669-73

Chlorophyll is generally regarded as a photosynthetic pigment present in green plants. This article reviews the anti-inflammatory, wound healing and malodour reducing properties of chlorophyll.

In a study on embryonic hearts in mice, it was noted that growth occurred at a faster rate when chlorophyllin was introduced into the heart cells. In other animal experiments, wounds treated with chlorophyll derivatives healed faster when compared to other agents. Chlorophyll acted on different aspects of wound healing and resulted in faster healing. Furthermore, chlorophyll derivatives had an antibacterial effect considered beneficial in wounds that tend to get re-infected.

Another animal study reported that chlorophyll enhanced the formation of blood cells in anemic animals. A 70-83% increase in the number of red blood cells and haemoglobin concentration was noted within 10-16 days of regular administration of chlorophyll derivatives. Induction of the formation of other blood cells was also noted.

Significantly, none of these studies reported any signs of toxicity from administration of chlorophyll derivatives even over a prolonged period of time.

Clinical investigations of the uses of chlorophyll derivatives actively started in the US in 1940. Numerous chlorophyll derivatives including chlorophyll copper complex (CCC) were used in the form of ointments and solutions to promote healing of wounds at various hospitals. Remarkable improvement was noted in the wound healing process, even in wounds that did not respond to other therapies. In more than 400 cases of suppurative disease, CCC stimulated granulation tissue and epithelialisation better than other agents. Chronic refractory skin ulcers were also treated successfully. In addition, the itching and burning sensation generally associated with most skin wounds and burns was also significantly reduced. Chlorophyll derivatives were successful in resolving numerous skin disorders, burns and even gum diseases.

Both local application and oral consumption of chlorophyll derivatives significantly reduced the malodour associated with colostomy. There were no reports of toxicity.

Although the exact mechanism of action of chlorophyll is not known, it is thought to exert its action via:
1. stimulation of protein synthesis
2. antimicrobial effects
3. neutralising effects on wound-healing retarding compounds in exudate
4. tight binding of microbial indolic compounds.

Other clinical studies have shown positive results using chlorophyll derivatives for treating pancreatitis, cancer and psoriasis. Further research is required to prove these beneficial effects on a larger scale.

The introduction of anti-inflammatory steroids and antimicrobial drugs during the 1940s overshadowed the therapeutic effects of chlorophyll. However, management of slow healing wounds with these agents remains a time consuming and expensive process. Further studies are required to explore the therapeutic potential of chlorophyll.

In practical terms, CCC led to:

1.    Increased growth rate in mouse embryo heart cells (40%).
2.    Increased healing rates.
3.    Wound healing acceleration without inflammation.
4.    25% increased healing rate in 70% of traumatic & thermal wounds.
5.    Fibroblast activation.
6.    Marked increase in cell mitotic indices.
7.    Increase in number of blood vessels and circulation.
8.    Bacteriostasis in vitro. Staph. aureus neutralised.
9.    Abolition of hemagglutination in wounds.
10.   Reversal of X-ray induced leukopenia in animals.
11.   Antiulcer activity in animals.
12.   Protection against CCl4 – induced hepatitis.
13.   Increased O2 consumption indicating cell regeneration.