This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
The chloroplasts and chromo-plasts (green and red cells) in plants are protoplasmic, and these protoplasts take from the air certain plant foods, especially carbon dioxide. During daylight green plants require carbon dioxide to be taken in through the stomata of the leaves, and in the cell sap it is reduced by the action of sunlight, and carbohydrates are formed. Fresh supplies of this gas are worked up in the green chlorophyll-bodies ("The Natural History of Plants," Kerner and Oliver).
Plants possess a catalytic agent and it has to do with the production of sugar. Chlorophyll seems to be this agent. Some animals, also, have chlorophyll and can form starch, the volvox being an instance. But light synthesis does more than this; it also forms methyl derivatives. Many methylated bases are found in plants and some also in animals, such as choline, stachydrine, betaine, and creatine. Carbohydrate metabolism, in plants and animals, has points in common. Chlorophyll, when decomposed, yields, like hemoglobin, pyrrol derivatives; it is evidently related more or less closely to the hematin of the hemoglobin, hemophyrrol being identical with phytophyrrol. Plant chromoproteins are crystalline conjugated proteins like hemoglobin and are closely related to the chlorophyll. Hemoglobin absorbs light, but it is the light chiefly at the violet end of the spectrum, although there are some bands in the green. By this absorption, the blood pigment is supposed to protect the delicate tissues from the irritant action of the more refractive rays. It has recently been suggested that the iron which is always present in the chloroplasts of plant cells plays a very important part in the synthesis of the chlorophyll ("Physiological Chemistry," Mathews).
The chlorophyll and chromoproteins of plants may bear a very important part in their remedial actions, especially when injected. We know this to be the case as regards other plant proteins. See "Pollen Extracts" and "Plantex" for a discussion of that subject. And does not this line of thought also suggest that we may lose much of remedial action from many plants by drying them?
Now, to come to the practical application of chlorophyll as a remedial agent, read the following:
"One occasionally sees statements that certain green plants, such as spinach, leeks, etc., have special dietetic value because of an iron content, but so far as we know the claim that chlorophyll, wherever it is found, is a hematopoietic substance, is of recent origin. Professor Burgi in the Corre-spondenz-Blatt fur Schweizer Aertze, April 16, endeavors to show that the green coloring matter of vegetation is not only the most powerful regenerator of the blood, but a valuable stomachic and regulator of assimilation.
"In the same journal for June 3, Maillart of Geneva attempts to demonstrate the same thesis from an economic-historical viewpoint. True chlorosis is notably rare in Geneva, and this may be due to the fact that the town is surrounded by a vast acreage of market gardens. These in turn have been made possible by the great fertility of the land, which has made the industry profitable for centuries. Green herbs are produced in the greatest variety. So much in use are legumes that the Genevese have been termed 'legumivores,' and legume soup, which also contains leeks, lettuce, and carrots in the winter, and salad vegetables in the summer, is a characteristic Genevese dish which is famous as an appetizer. Aside from the soup, great quantities of green vegetables are consumed: green beans, green peas, watercress, chervil, dandelion greens, artichokes, asparagus, sorrel, spinach, and other chlorophyll-containing vegetables. On the other hand, the demand for vegetables poor in chlorophyll, such as cabbage and cauliflower, is not greater in Geneva than elsewhere in Switzerland. When the Genevese emigrate they invariably miss this abundance of green stuff. Maillart advises the daily use of green legumes, not only for the anemic and dyspeptic, but for the healthy as well. Chlorophyll has been given as such to the anemic, but doubtless cannot replace the fresh vegetables. The author does not allude to the value of tinned beans and peas in this connection, but it is evident that from the dietetic standpoint they cannot replace the fresh articles." - Editorial, Medical Record, July 29, 1916.
My experiments which have, thus far, led to few definite conclusions, convince me, first of all, that many green-plant tinctures possess activities not found in the parallel dried-plant tinctures; second, that many plants devoid of chemical proximates may possess physiologic ones inherent in the vital constitution of the plant itself; that chlorophyll and the chromo-proteins have, with the vitamines, a place in the treatment of deficiency diseases; and that, injected into the tissues and the blood, these and other plant principles will produce results that will bring plant remedies prominently to the fore again.
I have administered various tinctures that carry much chlorophyll and possess little drug activity, such as the tincture of pussy willow buds, grass, etc., as a tonic in anemia; but results are not yet ripe for any report or estimate thereon therapeutically.