Wheatgrass: The Health Benefits and the Hype
What Is Wheatgrass?
People are always looking for plants and products with high nutritional value and potential health benefits. It's important to be a little cautious about certain claims and keep a healthy dose of skepticism. Wheatgrass is one of those plants that deserve closer attention.
Wheatgrass is a food product that is made from the young leaves of the wheat plant and the long green leafy blades of wheat are therefore also known as wheatgrass. Its scientific name is Triticum aestivum and it is a subspecies of the family Poaceae. It mostly grows in the temperate climate regions of Europe and the United States. It is available in the form of powdered concentrate or juice.
This product originated over 5000 years ago in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The young blades of wheat were considered sacred by the Egyptians who valued it for its health benefits.
Wheatgrass Nutritional Value and Vitamins
The Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences lists the nutritional value and vitamins found in wheatgrass. It contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, enzymes and amino acids.
It has nearly all the major vitamins required by the human body such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K and most of the B complex vitamins (B1-thiamin, B2-riboflavin, B3-niacin, B5-pantothenic acid, B6-pyridoxine, and B12-cobalamins). It is gluten-free as it is cut when the leaves are very young before the grains start forming.
Wheatgrass juice is considered one of the best high nutrition foods, I prefer not to use the term superfood. The nutritional content of the juice is often compared to that of broccoli and spinach. It has higher vitamin C than oranges and twice the amount of vitamin A than found in carrots.
Vitamins in Wheatgrass
B Complex Vitamins
Wheatgrass Studies and Experiments in the West
It was first consumed in the West during the 1930s when an agricultural scientist named Charles F. Schnabel used it in his experimental research in Kansas which made the plant popular. His primary research was to ascertain the value of different animal feeds to find out which feed would provide best results for livestock. At that time not much was known about the nutritional properties of wheatgrass, but when the cattle grazed on it they showed excellent weight gain and milk production. This led to an increase in the production of dairy products by more than 30%. After he succeeded in his experiments on farm animals, Schnabel decided to test wheatgrass on humans.
He used wheatgrass that was grown outdoors for his experiments as he needed it to be slowly grown for a period of 200 days in winter and spring. He harvested the crop in the jointing stage, which was the stage when the plant would have acquired maximum nutritional value. He then dehydrated it to make it into tablets and powders which could be consumed by both humans and animals.
In 1940 powdered wheatgrass produced by Schnabel were available for consumption in pharmacies all over the United States and Canada. Other renowned scientists who took part in Schnabel’s research were, Dr. George Kohler, Dr. G.A. Emerson, and Dr. C. Von Wendt.
Popularization in the US
Anne Wigmore, the founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, USA, was another strong advocate in popularizing the consumption of wheatgrass. She introduced the Raw Food Diet with the aim to cleanse the body of toxins and provide nutritional balance in the body.
She also believed the wheatgrass could be used to treat people suffering from serious afflictions. Despite many criticisms, Anne Wigmore’s recommendations and teachings are followed by many healthcare centers.
How To Grow Wheatgrass Yourself
Wheatgrass, unlike wheat malt, is used fresh or in the freeze-dried form. Malt, on the other hand, is dried convectively. It is also grown longer than wheat malt. It can be cultivated either outdoors or indoors and the popular method used indoors is to grow it in trays using potting mix. It is harvested when the leaves split when another leaf grows before they start developing gluten. Once these leaves are cut, new crop shoots may form.
Wheatgrass that is grown outdoors is used in tablets and powdered concentrates by dehydrating it first at a low temperature. The wheatgrass juice powder comes in freeze-dried or spray-dried form and has an unpleasant bitter taste and gritty texture. This caused the companies to introduce an effervescent tablet with improved taste which was convenient for consumption.
Detoxing and Cancer
There are claims of its great health benefits by its proponents who often consider it a superfood. It has even been purported that its consumption prevents cancer. Studies conducted in 2002 provided evidence that wheatgrass may help those suffering from symptoms of ulcerative colitis and also with side effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer patients. It is believed that the chlorophyll in wheatgrass benefits and enhances the production of hemoglobin in the blood and helps to purify the liver. It should be noted that most wheatgrass cancer treatment claims are not that well supported.
Always talk to your medical professional before using supplements or radically changing your diet. Natural remedies and health foods are no replacements for serious medical treatment of certain conditions like cancer.
A shot of wheatgrass juice per day is recommended for stabilizing blood sugar levels. It is also considered a natural antioxidant and helps in the detoxification of the body and improving the immune system. Including it in one’s regular diet can prevent tooth decay problems. It is even believed to have anti-aging benefits.
Wheatgrass Powder and Juice
These days, it is mostly consumed in the powdered form, in tablets, or as a juice. Wheatgrass juice is a very popular health drink available in juice bars and healthy or organic food restaurants. It is often found in popular food diets as well. It is a modern health dream, a wholesome food product that enriches and protects the body in the best way possible.
Wheatgrass Health Benefits
Wheatgrass is widely considered one of the finest medicines in nature today. It is a staple for most health nuts and fitness freaks. It is most popularly consumed as freshly squeezed juice or as a freeze-dried powder which is then mixed with water to make juice or can also be added to tea or other beverages.
To improve on its bitter taste it can be taken with some sugar, lemon, ginger or honey and for those who cannot stomach the taste at all, there are tablets available. Not many people are aware of it but there are lotions, sprays, gels and creams containing wheatgrass that are available in drug stores and regular stores too.
Health and Body
There is a very wide spectrum of wheatgrass health benefits and many curative properties as well, some of which have been scientifically proven. For instance, studies conducted in 2002 pointed to evidence that wheatgrass may help those suffering from symptoms of ulcerative colitis and can also battle the side effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer patients.
It is a very powerful naturally occurring detoxifying agent and can remove heavy metals from the body. It neutralizes toxins in the body and removes them. It even strengthens the immune system especially building immunity against cold and flu so it is good to have it on a daily basis during winter.
Digestion and Other Health Benefits
A shot of wheatgrass juice in the morning on an empty stomach can suppress appetite and prevent overeating as it contains most of the nutrients the body requires and so naturally the body does not hunger for any extra food. It is a great stimulant to increase blood circulation and the amount of oxygen in the blood.
The juice can be applied on the face and neck instead of oral consumption and that would do the trick as well. It effectively increases the functions of the heart, lungs, intestines and uterus. Daily consumption of wheatgrass benefits digestion greatly. It acts as a natural antacid for indigestion and heartburn and even remedies ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome.
Experts say that it can be used to alleviate arthritis symptoms as the chlorophyll in it fights inflammation and pain of joints. A cotton cloth soaked in 6 ounces of the juice must be placed over the affected joint and covered with plastic. It is an excellent deodorizer as it can remove bad odors from the body and also get rid of bad breath.
Gargling with wheatgrass juice can help protect teeth from tooth decay, ensure healthy gums and remove toothache. It is better than using a harsh mouthwash.
A wheatgrass implant or enema works wonders in cleaning and healing colon walls and internal organs. Applying the juice to hair can prevent premature graying and leaving it on the scalp for about 15 minutes will help rid dandruff. The juice can be used as a douche in feminine hygiene. For slight eye irritations rinsing the eyes with a mixture of strained wheatgrass juice and water will work wonders. It also reduces high blood pressure by opening up blood capillaries. Any and all of these remedies should be attempted only after getting consent from your doctor.
Wheatgrass benefits are many and diverse. It’s a plant species definitely worth its place in your diet. Just remember there are no miracles, a healthy balanced diet is important, not a one cure-all plant species. Talk with your dietician or medical professional before making radical changes.
- Ben-Arye E., Goldin E., Wengrower D., Stamper A., Kohn R., Berry E. (2002). Wheatgrass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 2002, Apr;37, 444-9.
- Neethu S. Kumar, Megha Murali, Anju M.Nair, Arun S. Nair. (2016).
Green Blood Therapy of Wheat Grass - Nature’s Finest
Medicine’- A Literature Review. Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences, 2016, Volume 11, Issue 2, 57-64.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Sam Shepards