• Katie Floyd

Anti-inflammatory Properties of Chlorophyll: The TNF-α Gene

In some parts of the world, green leaves from plants native to the area are commonly used in traditional medicine. Some native plants have been used to treat joint inflammation and osteoarthritis. Locals will use the hot oil extract from the fresh leaves of these plants and apply it on the inflamed joints (1).

This animal study included leaves from several plants used in traditional medicine for joint inflammation and osteoarthritis. Streblus (S.) asper (Siamese rough bush, khoi, serut, and toothbrush tree), Chromolaena (C.) odorata (Siam weed and Christmas bush),Synedrella (S.) nodiflora (nodeweed), and Amaranthus (A.) viridis (slender or green amaranth) were all studied.

The research from this article highlighted the anti-inflammatory properties of chlorophylls from these fresh green leaves and their magnesium-free degradation products, pheophytins. Chlorophyll a and pheophytin a (magnesium-free chlorophyll a) showed potent anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenan-induced paw edema (or paw swelling) in mice and formalin-induced paw edema in rats (2).

Chlorophyll a from S. asper leaves applied topically showed promising anti-inflammatory activity. The study suggested that its activity is comparable to that of diclofenac, a drug (orally) used in the treatment of pain, migraines, and arthritis. The chlorophyll a and pheophytin a from C. odorata and S. nodiflora leaves also showed anti-inflammatory activity, specifically against carrageenan-induced inflammation. Chlorophylls a and b and pheophytins a and b also showed varying levels of antioxidant activity, in vitro (3).

The effects of chlorophyll a and b were also studied on the bacterial lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-α (Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha) gene. According to a review in Microscopy Research and Technique, Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF-α), is an “inflammatory cytokine produced by macrophages/monocytes during acute inflammation and is responsible for a diverse range of signaling events within cells, leading to necrosis or apoptosis” (4).

Chlorophyll a and b both inhibited the TNF-α gene expression, but the results were dependent on concentration. Chlorophyll a at a concentration of 5 μg/ml almost completely suppressed the gene expression, whereas chlorophyll b showed almost the same level of suppression but at a higher concentration (20 μg/ml) (5).

The study ultimately concludes that both chlorophylls and pheophytins, are valuable and abundantly available anti-inflammatory agents. These promising results could lead to further studies and be used as a catalyst for the development of conventional medicine to treat inflammation and related diseases.

Read the full study here:


(1-3, 5) Appian, S., Asha, V., Nair, A., Sasidharan, S., Sureshkumar, P., Rajendran, K., Karunagaran, D., Ramalingam, K. (2011). Chlorophyll Revisited: Anti-inflammatory Activities of Chlorophyll a and Inhibition of Expression of TNF-α Gene by the Same. Inflammation. 35(3):959-66. doi:10.1007/s10753-011-9399-0

(4) Idriss HT, Naismith JH. (2000). TNF alpha and the TNF receptor superfamily: structure-function relationship(s). Microsc Res Tech. 50(3):184–195. doi:10.1002/1097-0029(20000801)50:3<184::AID-JEMT2>3.0.CO;2-H

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