Wheatgrass (triticum aestivum) belongs to the Poaceae grass family.
It can be grown both indoors and outdoors. The roots and stem are made into juice and are a popular ingredient at smoothie stands and juice bars.
Wheatgrass is also powdered and used as a dietary supplement as tablets or capsules. Wheatgrass has grown in popularity as having various healing properties.
To get the best nutritional value from this herb, it must be harvested before it turns brown. Most of the health benefits are got from the cotyledons of wheatgrass.
Its benefits were known first in the 1930s in the US after various experiments conducted by Dr Charles Schnabel.
Nutrients in wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is a natural source of many vitamins and minerals like calcium, selenium, vitamins A, C, E and B12, magnesium, iron, amino acids, magnesium, chlorophyll, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium, zinc and proteins. It is called ‘super food’ or ‘super vegetable’ by many nutritionists.
Health Benefits of Wheatgrass
For many years, wheatgrass has been used by folk medicine practitioners in the treatment of constipation, gout, cystitis, chronic skin disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are many health benefits of wheatgrass that we can enjoy since it is rich in vitamins and nutrients.
Wheatgrass helps in treating various problems of the gastrointestinal tract and eases bowel problems. It can also treat patients with rectal bleeding.
Wheatgrass protects the body from harmful carcinogens and cancer-causing agents. These are nullified due to the presence of chlorophyll in wheatgrass. This helps in halting premature aging.
Wheatgrass has very high nutritive value. 2 oz of this herb provides the same nutritive value as 4lbs organic vegetables.
Hence, consuming more of wheatgrass and less of unhealthy junk foods will improve your health.
Wheatgrass is extremely alkaline. This property helps to maintain the acidity in the body.
This balancing of pH levels improves the functioning of various organs of the body.
Those who get frequently constipated can enjoy the health benefits of wheatgrass since it has high fiber content.
This helps to improve body metabolism and relieve constipation.
Anyone who suffers from nausea can drink wheatgrass juice.
This helps to cleanse the body, drain toxins from the lymph nodes, break up mucus found in the body, therefore alleviating symptoms of nausea.
Wheatgrass juice also promotes weight loss since it is high in fibers.
This provides the required energy to the body that burns out excess fat found in unhealthy diets. Hence, wheatgrass is included in various weight loss diet plans like protein diet plan, etc.
Wheatgrass is also said to reduce blood pressure since RBC count increases.
This, in turn, reduces the risk of contracting cardiac diseases.
Wheatgrass is low in sodium and this benefits those with hypertension who must have low-sodium diets.
The high fiber content and vitamin C in wheatgrass can control blood pressure.
Obesity is a major contributor to hypertension. Since wheatgrass promotes weight loss, it can also help control hypertension.
A significant study found that patients suffering from ulcerative colitis benefited from 100ml wheatgrass juice drunk every day for at least a month.
There was a significant reduction in rectal bleeding when compared to a group on placebo. Patients also had fewer bowel movements.
Wheatgrass also has antioxidants that can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis. Chlorophyll works like hemoglobin and increase RBC count and dilates blood vessels, therefore reducing blood pressure.
Benefits in Anemia
Chlorophyll present in wheatgrass is similar to hemoglobin, and this could help improve red blood cell creation in the body.
This increase in RBC count can treat anemia. Anemia results in decreased supply of oxygen to vital organs, body tissues, and this result in fatigue.
Patients with chronic fatigue found their energy levels improving with an intake of wheatgrass.
This is because the oxygenation of tissues improved.
It was found that if beta-thalassemia patients consumed 100ml wheatgrass juice per day the requirement of blood transfusions by these patients reduced by at least 50%.
Recent studies have found that wheatgrass juice did not provide a significant advantage to patients already undergoing blood transfusions.
Wheatgrass possesses natural enzymes that can neutralize carcinogens and toxins in the body. This helps to detoxify the body.
The best results are got from wheatgrass juice. If wheatgrass is cooked before consumption, the natural enzymes can be destroyed.
Oxygen free radicals in the body can also be stabilized since wheatgrass has antioxidant properties.
Wheatgrass can treat common infections like bronchitis, colds, coughs, diarrhea, throat and mouth infections. The functioning of the immune system improves since wheatgrass is rich in many vitamins and minerals.
The essential nutrients like vitamins A, E and C, amino acids and minerals found in wheatgrass have anti-oxidant effects and can rid the body of free radicals that cause tissue damage and increase the risk of contracting cancer.
The high vitamin C and B-complex content in wheatgrass help can improve immunity, energy production, and cell metabolism.
The high alkaline content in wheatgrass can help maintain the delicate pH balance that gets disturbed when we consume processed foods.
Maintaining optimal pH balance is needed to protect the body against cancer. The high chlorophyll content improves oxygen levels to the cells.
This helps to maintain normal cells and prevents the growth of cancer cells.
Myelotoxicity causes inhibition of bone marrow activity. This is a result of chemotherapy. Wheatgrass is said to help treat myelotoxicity.
A study conducted on some breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy found that when they were given wheatgrass juice daily, it helped reduce myelotoxicity.
Wheatgrass did not seem to interfere with chemotherapy as such, although a few patients found their symptoms of nausea worsened after they discontinued drinking wheatgrass juice.
Benefits in High Cholesterol
Animal studies found that consumption of wheatgrass juice could reduce total LDL (bad) cholesterol.
There is no proof if humans with high cholesterol will enjoy the same benefits.
However, some studies have been conducted on the benefits of wheatgrass for heart diseases.
One found that those who consumed high-fat diets are prone to high blood cholesterol and therefore susceptible to heart disease.
Consuming wheatgrass can have anti-oxidant effects and this decreases total blood cholesterol and increases HDL or good cholesterol levels in the blood.
Fiber-rich foods can improve heart health and reduce the risk of contracting heart disease by reducing total cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Young sprouts of wheatgrass are rich in dietary fiber and those who can digest this can enjoy the benefits.
Benefits in Pancreatitis
One cause of pancreatitis is high triglyceride levels. While there is no scientific evidence of the benefits of wheatgrass for pancreatitis, wheatgrass does alleviate symptoms of ulcerative colitis by reducing the triglyceride levels.
This can benefit patients with pancreatitis too. Wheatgrass also improves abdominal pain in patients with pancreatitis.
Anti-oxidants found in wheatgrass can reduce the development of cancer cells by fighting free radicals. This can benefit treating of various cancers including pancreatic cancer – one of the most fatal of cancers.
Benefits in Pregnancy
Healthy nutrition is required during pregnancy. There are some safety concerns about consuming wheatgrass during pregnancy.
This is because wheatgrass juice is consumed raw and this could cause mold and bacterial contamination. The anti-oxidant effects of wheatgrass could also have a negative effect on pregnant women.
However, if it is grown under strict hygienic conditions, wheatgrass can benefit pregnant women by improving the immunity of baby and mother, keep hair healthy, aid in digestion, reduce hypertension, cleanse the body of toxins, prevent tooth decay and maintain optimal blood sugar levels.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women must consult their doctor before consuming wheatgrass.
While there is no solid scientific proof of the benefits of wheatgrass for diabetes, researchers suggest that it can improve lipid and blood glucose levels.
A study of a group of diabetic patients was done.
These people were given wheatgrass as part of one meal.
The GI index of some foods reduced quite significantly after wheatgrass was included in the diet and therefore their blood sugar levels improved.
Research has also found that triglyceride levels in a study group of diabetic patients improved after consuming wheatgrass.
Other possible benefits of wheatgrass for diabetic patients include – healing of foot ulcers using wheatgrass spray, regulation of cholesterol and sugar due to the high fiber content and improving insulin sensitivity since wheatgrass has magnesium.
The nutrients in wheatgrass stimulate the production of red blood cells and improve the health of blood. It can flush out blood clots and regulate menstrual bleeding.
The foul odor of menstrual blood can be reduced since wheatgrass has detoxifying properties. Wheatgrass improves the health of malnourished women and helps regulate menstrual cycle.
Since it can increase RBC count, it can alleviate symptoms of anemia and reduce heavy bleeding.
Amino acids in wheatgrass play a critical role as metabolism intermediaries and protein building blocks.
These amino acids also provide the body proteins it requires to build muscles.
Bodybuilders and athletes require a lot of energy after they work out very hard and for long hours. The chlorophyll content in wheatgrass provides plenty of energy that they require.
The high nutrient content in wheatgrass ensures that symptoms of oxidative stress are alleviated in bodybuilders.
The high chlorophyll content in wheatgrass means that it can detoxify the liver, reduce the absorption of several harmful carcinogens, strengthen cells and neutralize pollutants present in the blood.
This can reduce the risk of contracting liver cancer.
Fatty liver conditions and overall functioning of the liver can improve by consuming wheatgrass at least thrice a week.
A detox diet can benefit those with fatty liver conditions. Wheatgrass enema can strengthen the liver and colon.
Consuming wheatgrass juice helps to detoxify the body and flush out harmful toxins.
This eases some of the load off the liver by removing waste and heavy metals from the blood and improves immune system functioning.
There is a possibility that wheatgrass could reduce the risks of developing colon cancer just as green leafy vegetables do.
Wheatgrass is also said to help treat or prevent more serious conditions like AIDS.
Differences between conventional and organic wheatgrass
Many products are labeled ‘organic’. When you buy authentic organic wheatgrass products, it means that it must be grown in organic soil from organic seeds.
Apart from this, the land where it is grown should have a certification of not having used non-organic pesticides and fertilizers for a minimum of three years.
Non-organic wheatgrass does not meet these stringent standards.
This means that non-organic wheatgrass may have been grown in soil that contains harmful fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals.
This could prove harmful in the long run.
So, can we consider organic wheatgrass safer to consume and more nutritious than wheatgrass that is grown using conventional methods?
Organic farming refers to farming practices that encourage water and soil conservation and methods to reduce pollution.
Organic farmers do not use conventional fertilizers or weed killers to control weeds. For example, they use modern crop rotation methods, keep away weeds and spread mulch rather than use harmful weed killers.
Organic wheatgrass is grown using natural fertilizers, natural pesticides, and environmentally friendly plant-killing compounds. Organic farmers may mulch or hand weed to manage weeds.
Conventionally grown wheatgrass will cost less than organic wheatgrass. You need to weigh the health benefits when purchasing the product.
Check the labels to make sure the product you buy is certified ‘organic’.
While there is no proof that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown foods, it is true that they contain fewer pesticides. So, the choice really depends on you.
Those who have the time can purchase organic wheatgrass kits to make their own homemade fresh juice.
These kits come with all the requirements for growing environmentally friendly organic wheatgrass at home – organic seeds, growing trays, organic growing mix, and an instruction booklet.
Organic wheatgrass seeds produce healthy thick-bladed plants.
The organic growing mix is rich in minerals and free of pesticides. It does not contain any animal by-products and provides a clean and safe growing medium for your wheatgrass.
Possible Side Effects of wheatgrass
Despite the many health benefits of wheatgrass, people can experience a few side effects. It could cause hives, nausea, headaches or swelling of the throat.
Since wheatgrass is grown in water or soil, we should be careful when consuming it raw for it may be contaminated with mold or bacteria.
Those who have grass or wheat allergies, gluten intolerance, celiac disease or are pregnant and breastfeeding must check with their doctor before taking any form of wheatgrass.
Many people find the strong, bitter taste of wheatgrass difficult to bear.