Facts About Wheatgrass
A shot of wheatgrass is one of the healthiest drinks you can have. Is it a miracle food or just one more in a list of very healthy foods?
When I first read about wheatgrass, I was looking for something to cleanse the blood after getting blood poisoning. That was back when I first started realizing just how much our food can change our health for better or worse. But that first time in the health food store, watching people drink that small cup of green liquid called wheatgrass, my first thought was what the lawn mower looked liked after mowing a wet lawn. Actually my first taste of wheatgrass wasn’t far off that mowed grass thought either.
What Wheatgrass Is
Wheatgrass is a grass, one of the easiest and fastest growing grasses. Wheatgrass is actually the young wheat plant. It can be grown in fields or indoors. The grass is harvested just before its fruit grows, which with wheat grass is the wheat kernel.
History of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is not a new or even a recent fad, its health benefits have been known for centuries. As long ago as ancient Egypt, the pharaohs believed in the healing powers of wheatgrass. In the 1930s, Dr. Charles Schnabel, an agriculture chemist, conducted research with wheatgrass; among the tests he did was to feed wheatgrass to sick chickens. The ill chickens regained their health and increased the number of eggs produced. Dr, Schnabel then sold his wheatgrass in powder form to drugstores, which led to more research by the Quaker Oats Company.
Further research with cows found that cows that were fed a diet of wheatgrass had healthier calves and produced more milk. Another link was found where infants had better health if their mothers drank milk from grass-fed cows. In the 1940s, Dr. Charles Kettering found a link between the healing properties of chlorophyll and good health. Chlorophyll is a main chemical in wheatgrass and other green plants. In 1913 Dr. Willstatter found the healthful link between the chlorophyll in plants and the hemoglobin in our blood. During World War I, Ann Wigmore watched as her grandmother treated soldiers with it and later used wheatgrass to treat her own colon disease. Ann Wigmore founded the Hippocrates Health Institute fifty years ago.
Nutrients of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is a green plant, and like any other vegetable and fruit plant it has many phytochemicals, which are healthy for us. It is said that one ounce of wheatgrass juice has the vitamin, mineral and nutrient equivalent of 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of fresh vegetables. I don’t know if that is true, but a juice form of any vegetable will be a more concentrated form with more nutrients. Wheatgrass doesn’t appear to have a larger amount of nutrients over other vegetables, though different vegetables have unique amounts of nutrients and phytochemicals.
Wheatgrass has an abundance of phytochemicals, antioxidants and vitamin K. Other vitamins and nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12, beta-carotene, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, folic acid, 90 different minerals and 20 amino acids (a complete protein).
The Health Benefits of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass contains 70% chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has a molecular structure that resembles hemoglobin and from a chemical standpoint is almost identical. Hemoglobin is a component of our red blood cells, which carries oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. Because of this fact, proponents of wheatgrass say that it is cleansing for the blood, oxygen and liver. It also detoxifies the whole body in general.
It is also believed that since chlorophyll is derived from sunlight and energy that drinking wheatgrass juice or taking wheatgrass powder gives a person more energy. Proponents of wheatgrass advertise that it can actually heal scars in the lungs. Clear up acne, lower blood pressure, purify the blood, is antibacterial for us inside and outside of the body and prevents tooth decay.
In the 1940 edition of the American Journal of Surgery, Dr. Benjamin Cruskin believed chlorophyll to be an antiseptic, clearing up sinusitis, neutralize strep conditions, heal wounds, reduce varicose veins, ease the symptoms of menopause and clear up gum disease.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been many clinical studies with wheatgrass. One study in Israel found that wheatgrass significantly reduced the symptoms of ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease) .
Grow Your Own Wheatgrass
Buying wheatgrass juice at a health food store or juice bar can be expensive. You can buy your own packets of grown wheatgrass and juice it yourself at home. These packets cost $5 for a 5-ounce packet, which would give you 4 ounces of juice according to Whole Foods. You could also buy a wheatgrass growing kit and grow it yourself at home. It grows in about 10 days. Either way you would need to buy a juicer, they make juicers that are made for juicing wheatgrass. You can also buy wheatgrass powder or in pills.
The Bottom Line
Wheatgrass is healthy for you, just like all other vegetables and plant foods. It does appear that wheatgrass can be healing for certain conditions, and is one more plant food that is high in phytochemicals and nutrients that other plants foods might not have, filling in nutrient gaps for your weekly diet.
Allergic Reactions to Wheatgrass
Some people have reported being allergic to wheatgrass. If after drinking a small amount you feel swelling in your throat, hives or both, get medical attention since this could be an allergic reaction. The Jamba Juice web site does say that their wheatgrass contains wheat gluten.
When you have a shot of wheat grass and you think to yourself the old toast, “Here’s to your health”, it could really be true.
© 2009 Sam Montana
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 Ben-Arye E, Goldin E, Wengrower D et al. Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol . 2002;37:444-9