Alkalize. Balance. Detoxify. These are words used to describe “It Works, Greens”, a supplement said to restore pH balance to the body. With restored alkalinity, it’s said, you will experience immune system health and increased energy. I’ve been intrigued by –and had questions about – claims that we can alter the alkalinity of the body to improve health for a while now and so when It Works Greens came to my attention, I thought I’d review it and see what I might discover. If you were curious also, keep reading and let’s see what we can find out about it. Also see my review of It Works Fat Fighter as well as the ThermoFit review for more information.
It Works Greens Research
When I goggled “It Works Research,” and “It Works Greens Research” I didn’t see any websites mentioning clinical trials on the product. I also checked ClinicalTrials.gov. No relevant research showed up. Finally, I checked the National Library of Medicine (PubMed.gov) and saw no studies either.
This says to me that It Works Greens currently has no published, peer reviewed clinical research trials to substantiate that it alters the overall pH of the body or promotes other health benefits. That doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t work, but rather that it appears that it has not yet been studied in clinical research. I'll update this section as I become aware of research.
It Works Greens Nutrition Facts
According to the product label, a serving of It Works Greens is 2 level scoops (this equals 4 grams). These 2 scoops have the following basic nutrition information:
|Amount Per Serving||Percent Daily Value|
|Calories from fat||5|
|Total fat||0.5 g||< 1% DV|
|Total carbs||<1g||<1% DV|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||4% DV|
|Magnesium (dimagnesium malate)||50 mg||12% DV|
|Potassium (potassium citrate||260 mg||7% DV|
Other ingredients listed are Natural flavors and silica. They don’t say what the natural flavors are.
A couple of things occurred to me when I looked at the Nutrition Facts label.
One thing is while they tell us how much potassium and magnesium the Greens has, they don’t tell us how much protein is in the product. I know there must be some protein because we can see soy protein listed in one of the proprietary blends. Royal jelly, also has some protein as does Spirulina.
Given that a serving is only 4 grams, I don’t think It Works Greens has much protein, per serving. I’d just like to know how much it has.
This is the form of magnesium used in It Works Greens. Basically magnesium is chemically bonded to another compound (malic acid) to increase its absorption in the body. How relevant this increased absorption is I can’t say. Magnesium malate is also sold on Amazon if you want to see what others are saying about it.
This is the type of potassium used in It Works Greens. It’s the mineral potassium, bonded to citric acid. Like magnesium above, I believe this is to increase absorption. According to Drugs.com, potassium citrate is used to alkalize the urine to reduce kidney stone formation.
Two scoops of It Works Greens provides 260 mg of potassium. For comparison, 1 cup of spinach has over 800 mg of potassium. This potassium review at MayoClinic.com gives potassium content of various foods.
The comments about potassium citrate on Amazon may provide additional insights on this product.
The Proprietary Blends
It Works Greens contains two proprietary blends containing several different ingredients. Here are the amounts contained in each of them
- Proprietary Blend 1 has: 2231 mg (about 2.2 grams)
- Proprietary Blend 2 has 330 mg
To put things in perspective, 1 ounce of anything equals 28 grams.
While the It Works company does not tell us how much of each ingredient is in these proprietary blends, we do know that the ingredients listed at the beginning are present in the greatest concentration, while those at the end of the list are present in the lowest concentration.
As you look at these tables, read them from left to right. This will help you get an idea of the most and least abundant ingredients.
Proprietary Blend 1 ( 2,231 mg)
Here are the ingredients in the first proprietary blend. Read the table from left to right. This will tell you which ingredient is present most and least.
|Soy lecithin||Soy protein isolate||Spirulina pacifica|
|Apple fiber||Barley grass||Eleuthero root extract|
|Brown rice flour||Alfalfa leaf||Barley malt|
|Beet juice powder||Royal jelly||Bacillus coagulans (LactoSpore)|
|Acerola||Chlorella||Milk thistle seed|
|Astragalus root extract||Green tea leaf extract||Ginkgo biloba leaf extract|
|Dulse||Bilberry extract||Aloe vera gel|
As you can see, there are a LOT of ingredients here. Some of them are commonly consumed foods while others are not. I won’t cover them all but instead, will mention a few that I thought were interesting.
The first 3 ingredients listed are:
- Soy lecithin
- Soy protein isolate
Soy lecithin is found in many products and for a more detailed description, I’ll direct you to an interesting review I found at ChrisKresser.com.
Because both Soy and spirulina contain protein, I believe It Works Greens has some protein too. I wish they would tell us how much per serving it has.
This is a type of blue-green algae. Blue green algae contains some protein. Since this is the 3rd ingredient listed in this proprietary blend, my guess is a good amount of the 2231 mg is composed of spirulina.
This is also called Siberian ginseng. There are many different compounds in Siberian ginseng. Since It Works Greens uses the root, I take that to mean the whole root. This might be preferable in that it has the potential to provide a wide spectrum of those different compounds.
That said, without knowing the reasons it's present or amount used, I can’t comment on the evidence for those effects. I’m not aware of any evidence that eleuthero root alkalizes the body.
In this study from 2001 titled The effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus and Panax ginseng on steroidal hormone indices of stress and lymphocyte subset numbers in endurance athletes, Siberian ginseng had no effect on various immune system cells or hormone levels (including testosterone) in people.
This is a probiotic bacteria. The label states that It Works Greens contains a specially, trademarked version called LactoSporewhich is a product from a company called Sabinsa corporation. This company makes several supplements including the type of ForceLean which I covered in my review of Coleus Forskohlii.
On ClinicalTrials.gov, I found a study on the safety of LactoSpore but the results don’t yet appear to be completed.
Astragalus Root Extract
It’s scientific name is Astragalus membranaceus. I also covered this herb in my review of Zi Xiu Tang so see that for more insights. There are many extracts in the root of this plant. The company does not tell us what extract of Astragalus is in It Works Greens. That said, there have been some studies noting that extracts of astragalus can improve various aspects of the immune system.
Much of the research I saw however involved exposing cells to astragalus extracts rather than giving the herb to people. In other words, I’m not aware of any research that showed astragalus reduced colds/flus or improved cancer outcomes.
Astragalus is also sold online, likely because of its reported immune enhancing benefits.
Green Tea Leaf Extract
They don’t tell us what extract from green tea It Works Greens Has. Is the extract caffeine? Is it Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)? I can’t comment if I don’t know the extract or the amount in the product.
Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract
This herb is often used because of its reputation to help memory although several studies have noted it does not help memory. If I knew the reason why gingko is in the product, then I could say more.
Aloe Vera Gel
This is the last ingredient present in this proprietary blend. As such, it is present in the lowest amount. There has been some research that aloe vera might reduce blood sugar levels . It might do many other things too however without knowing the amount in the product and the reason why it’s used, I can’t comment more than this.
Proprietary Blend 2 (330 mg)
Here are the ingredients in the second proprietary blend of It Works Greens. One serving of this blend provides a total of 330 mg of all these ingredients. Since broccoli is first on the list, this blend contains mostly broccoli extracts. I actually like that. Read the table from left to right to see which is present the most and the least.
|Broccoli||Black walnut leaf powder||Blackberry fruit||Blueberry fruit|
|Corn silk stylus||Cranberry||Dandelion leaf||Goldenseal (aerial parts)|
|Kale||Lemon grass||Marshmallow root||Meadowsweet (aerial parts)|
|Oat straw (aerial parts)||Papaya leaf||Parsley||Pau d'arco bark|
|Plantain leaf||Red raspberry leaf||Rose hips||Rosemary leaf|
|Slippery elm bark||Spinach||Strawberry fruit||Tomatto|
|Tumeric root||Watercress||White willow bark||Okra|
There are 28 ingredients in this blend of ingredients. I won’t cover them all but as above, just mention those that I thought were most interesting to me
It's scientific name is Hydrastis Canadensis. Whenever I see goldenseal I think back to the days when people used to think it would help them pass drug tests. The idea was that goldenseal would mask illegal drugs from being detected in urinalysis tests. For the record, it doesn't do this.
Goldenseal contains many different compounds. One of those is called berberine and this has some evidence that it may help the immune system work better. In this study, both Goldenseal and Astragalus (which is also in Greens) did appear to stimulate some immune system cells. That said, much of the research I saw appeared confined to test tube studies.
White Willow Bark
White willow bark contains compounds that appear to “look like” aspirin and because of this, I sometimes see it in arthritis supplements. For example, this ingredient is also in Instaflex (click to see the review). I can’t think of a reason why it would be in It Works Greens. If anyone knows, let me know and I’ll be happy to update this review.
Pau d'arco Bark
It's scientific name is Handroanthus impetiginosus (I can't pronounce it either). I've honestly never seen this ingredient before in any of the supplements I've reviewed to date. This is the bark of a tree that grows in South America and Florida. While some of the ingredients in Pau d'arco bark may have antibiotic effects, I'm honestly not comfortable with seeing it in supplements.
From what I was able to gather, Pau d'arco bark was looked at as a possible cancer treatment in the 1960s until it was found that the amount that might help, overlapped with the amount that might cause internal bleeding. Granted, this effect was seen in amounts much more than is in this product. For more information on this, I direct you to these reviews
My personal opinion is I wish they would remove Pau d'arco bark from this product.
As a side note, with few exceptions (like Pau d'arco bark), most of the stuff I see in this proprietary blend are things we can buy at a supermarket – broccoli, cranberry, kale, parsley etc. In contrast, most of the ingredients in the first proprietary blend, are herbs and other things not likely found at your local supermarket.
Because of that, I wish there was more of these food-based ingredients in It Works Greens. Unfortunately, this blend is only providing 330 mg total for all the ingredients.
Is It Gluten Free?
The promotional material I have states that Greens contains a small amount of gluten. According to the FDA, to be called “gluten free,” products must have less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Since I don't see “gluten free” on the label, I'll assume it has more than that amount. Here is the FDA gluten free report.
Update 7/18/16: Information sheets on the product website now state that orange and berry flavor greens are made with gluten free ingredients.
Are The Ingredients GMO?
No, It Works Greens contains only non-genetically modified ingredients. Even the soy is non-GMO. For those wanting to limit their exposure to genetically modified foods, this is a good thing.
Can Kids Use Greens?
Greens is for adults only. This is likely because of the lack of clinical information about how some of the ingredients might act in kids. When in doubt, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. The It Works company says not to give this product to kids.
Does Greens Only Contain Greens?
When I first heard of It Works Greens, I was under the impression that it was a fruit and vegetable supplement, something similar to Juice Plus, which I reviewed previously (click to read that review). But looking over the ingredients in the proprietary blends, you can see that this product contains more just fruits and vegetables.
Yes, there is broccoli, spinach and kale, but it also has royal jelly, white willow bark, Siberian ginseng and ginkgo biloba, as well as other things that I doubt is in most of our kitchens. The product also contains soy, which, for better or worse, some may not care for. I say this not to slam Greens but just to point this out in case you were thinking like I did when you first heard the name of the product.
Does It Works Greens Alkalize The Body?
The idea of being more alkaline as a way to promote health has been around for a long time. Acid foods – such as meats and grains- are said to be bad, while eating more alkaline foods – like fruits and vegetables – are said to be good for us. I’ve even been to health fairs where people would place their tongue on a piece of pH paper to test show whether they were acid or alkaline.
Honestly, I never understood this. Even if the mouth or urine is acidic, that does not mean the same thing as the acidity level in the blood.
The degree of alkalinity (or acidity) is measured by the pH. This is a scale from 0 to 14. A pH of 1 is very acidic while a pH of 14 is very alkaline.
A neutral pH (neither too acid or too alkaline) is 7.0.
Here’s the thing: the pH of our blood is about 7.35 to 7.45. In other words, the pH of healthy human blood is normally slightly alkaline. The body is usually very good at maintaining this healthy pH range.
This is actually very important because significant deviations from this range (making the blood either too acid or too alkaline), could actually kill us!
Having said all that, I do believe it's best to eat a more “alkaline diet” – but that’s not because it makes us more alkaline.
Rather, eating a more alkaline diet means we are also eating more fruits and vegetables and flooding our bodies with all of their healthy antioxidants and other compounds. I believe that is what helps us stay healthy.
I don’t believe that eating these foods significantly alters the pH of the blood and make us more “alkaline.” I think the benefits of eating more “alkaline foods” is that they tend to contain many health-promoting compounds like antoixodants and phyto-nutrients.
Life Shotz is another super drink people are talking about. See that review for more information.
It Works Greens Side Effects
I think if you are healthy, It Works Greens is likely pretty safe. I’m not aware of any negative side effects from It Works Greens at the time I wrote this review. I did notice a variety of comments on Amazon so do check too as there are some interesting discussions about the product.
That said, here are some things that I believe are worth mentioning based on the ingredients in the product. This list is not complete.
- Talk to your doctor if your are pregnant or breast feeding. This is just in case some of the ingredients are passed to the baby.
- Speak to your doctor or pharmacist first if you are thinking about giving It Works Greens to children. Even the company says not to do this.
- Stop taking It Works Greens at least 2 weeks before having surgery. This is to reduce surgery complications. Some of the ingredients in have blood thinning properties. This is important for those who take blood thinner medications too.
- If you take any medications, speak to your doctor first.
Again, I think if you are healthy you will be OK. If you have any health issues, show the ingredients to your doctor first and see what they say.
Does It Work?
If we define “work” as “does It Works Greens alkalize the body”, then, at this time, I’d have to say I'm skeptical. I say that based on the fact that the pH of the blood is always slightly alkaline and I’m not aware of any good proof that foods can alter this for any significant length of time. Could it be that the product has other effects? Sure, but that would take research to know for sure.
Since there is currently no clinical research on It Works Greens, it’s hard to know either way if it does anything more than eating more fruits and vegetables would. I'll be honest and say that I believe the product is overly complicated, containing ingredients that I don't feel are needed. Why doesn't It Works Greens just contain green vegetables?
If you are healthy and the product starts you on the road to eating more fruits and vegetables, then I’d say that is a step in the right direction. If you are already eating this way, it's up to you whether you feel you need it or not.
Here's It Works Greens on Amazon to see what others are saying about it.