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Chlorophyll

Definition

Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes plants green. Chlorophyll poisoning occurs when someone swallows a large amount of this substance.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Chlorophyll

Where Found

  • Green plants
  • Plant foods
  • Some cosmetics
  • Natural supplements

Note: This list may not include all sources of chlorophyll.

Symptoms

Chlorophyll is considered nonpoisonous. Most people who swallow chlorophyll have no symptoms. In rare cases, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Diarrhea
  • Loose bowel movements (stools)
  • Stomach cramps

If someone does swallow chlorophyll, their tongue may appear yellow or black, and their urine or feces may appear green. If chlorophyll touches the skin, it may lead to mild burning or itching

Home Care

Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the substance
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.

The person may not need to be seen in the emergency room, but if they are, they may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Medications to treat symptoms
  • Laxatives

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well the person does depends on the amount of the substance swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster the person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Recovery is very likely because chlorophyll is relatively nonpoisonous.

Prevention

Do not touch or eat any plant with which you are not familiar. Do not take food supplements or vitamins without reading the label. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.

References

Radbruch L. Antibiotics. In: Walsh D. et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 131.


Review Date: 10/21/2013
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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