What is Organic Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass first became a household name in the United States in the 1930s and has since developed and gained a reputation in the medical industry (x, x). The good reputation of this ingredient has seen it enter the limelight in the world of natural health. Wheatgrass is now present in many health food stores and juice bars.
Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich plant sourced from the freshly sprouted leaves of the common wheat plant known as Triticum estivum. It comes in a variety of forms. One of which is a multipurpose fine powder for both human and animal consumption. Taking it in juice form is preferred over taking it in other forms. Wheatgrass powder is a good option in cases where the plant is not available.
It also has the name ‘green blood’ due to its chlorophyll content and benefits (x). Anecdotal reports indicate it can serve as a treatment for cancer and chemotherapy side effects, diabetes, joint pain and anemia. Wheatgrass may also contain nutrients that boost immunity, rid the body of wastes and kill harmful bacteria in the digestive system. By adding wheatgrass to a smoothie, you can access nutrients like magnesium, iron, calcium, amino acids and vitamins A, C and E, as well as antioxidants.
High in Nutrients
Wheatgrass is a good source of vitamins and minerals. It contains 17 amino acids, and eight of them are essential. Those eight essential amino acids are only present in food sources since the body cannot produce them (x).
The chlorophyll pigment found in organic wheatgrass is also considered to have great health benefits (x). Chlorophyll contains enzymes and superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is a copper-rich protein found in mature red blood cells. This enzyme helps to decompose superoxide radicals in the body into a more manageable form, which helps to slow down the aging process.
Wheatgrass contains a number of important antioxidants like vitamins C and E and glutathione (x). These antioxidants help fight free radicals, which prevents oxidative stress and cell damage. By helping the body to fight free radicals, antioxidants are often attributed with the ability to help prevent health conditions like arthritis, heart diseases, cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases which are thought to be partially caused by the effects of free radicals in the body (x). One study showed that wheatgrass could reduce oxidative damage to cells due to its antioxidant activity (x). Another study showed that it could increase the levels of antioxidants glutathione and vitamin C (x). The antioxidants can also help with mental health issues like depression. However, more research needs to be done on its antioxidant effects on humans as most of these studies are animal and test-tube studies.
The body needs cholesterol in order to make hormones and produce bile. However, too much cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease by clogging the walls of arteries and blocking blood flow. Some studies show that wheatgrass may help lower cholesterol levels. A study conducted in 2011 by Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica showed that its treatment helped lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in rats with abnormally high cholesterol levels. Moreover, it may lower cholesterol levels and increase the level of beneficial cholesterol (HDL) in the body. It is said to have similar effects as those of atorvastatin, a prescription drug mainly used to control high blood cholesterol (x).
Some studies have shown that wheatgrass could help kill cancer cells thanks to its high antioxidant content. One study showed that wheatgrass extract led to a decrease in the number of oral cancer cells by over 40 percent (x). Another study found that wheatgrass slowed the development of colon cancer cells and also caused some of the cells to die (x). Other trials show that it could help lessen the side effects associated with cancer treatments like chemotherapy (x). In one study, wheatgrass lowered the risk of impaired bone marrow function, which is a common complication of chemotherapy (x).
Inflammation is a normal response triggered by the immune system in order to protect the body against infections and injuries. Wheatgrass is believed to have antioxidants that help fight chronic inflammation, which is believed to contribute to health conditions like heart disease and cancer (x). Inflammation can occur when the immune system reacts to a number of health problems like skin issues, arthritis and stomach problems. Its chlorophyll pigment has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed that chlorophyll prevented the activity of a certain protein that triggers inflammation (x). Chlorophyll was also shown to lower inflammation in some cells found in the arteries (x).
Promotes Weight Loss
Wheatgrass helps to stimulate the thyroid gland, which is the gland responsible for metabolic levels in the body. When the thyroid gland is stimulated, it can boost metabolism, which increases energy levels in the body. Chlorophyll in wheatgrass has thylakoids, which help to increase satiety. This lowers hunger in the body and reduces food intake. It also aids in weight loss efforts by suppressing appetite (x, x). Some research even shows that wheatgrass can helps fight obesity (x).
Blood Sugar Regulation
Increased blood sugar levels can result in serious complications like vision problems, nerve damage and skin infections. Some of its symptoms are fatigue, headaches and thirst. According to some studies, wheatgrass can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and also benefit people with diabetes. A study conducted in 2014 found that it could increase insulin levels, which helps lower blood glucose (x). It can also help lower the side effects associated with diabetes.
Wheatgrass for Acne
Wheatgrass is an ideal natural supplement option for people looking to improve their skin health. Its antioxidants help slow down the aging process and detoxify the body, giving the skin a glowing look. Wheatgrass has antibacterial benefits and the ability to lower chronic inflammation, making it an excellent tool to reduce occasional breakouts and acne. One study showed that it worked effectively when used consistently, and even assisted in reduction of scars and blemishes when taken over a period of seven months (x).
Wheatgrass for Diabetes
While there may be some benefit of wheatgrass to those dealing with diabetes, only limited studies can confirm these health benefits. Wheatgrass may be effectively used to manage diabetes due to its role in improving lipid and glucose levels. A study published in the December 2009 issue of Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology showed that adding wheatgrass to certain foods significantly boosted blood glucose levels. It also has effects similar to those of insulin (x). However any use of wheatgrass to help treat diabetes must be discussed with your medical professional before hand.
Wheatgrass Side Effects
Some people may experience nausea soon after they consume wheatgrass — often the first several times they take it. Some people attribute this to detoxification, but it could also be a sign of the body’s intolerance to wheatgrass. A study carried out by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology showed that wheatgrass raised the symptoms of nausea in six of the patients involved (x). Wheatgrass contains gluten, therefore, those with celiac disease should not take it (x).
Some individuals might experience constipation after consuming wheatgrass supplement because the body might not be able to digest it properly. Constipation could also be due to its high fiber content. This is why one should consume it slowly and in small amounts.
Loss of Appetite
Though this could be good news for individuals trying to control their weight, it could prove to be unhealthy in the long run.
Headaches might be due to the body’s incompatibility with wheatgrass or detoxification. The plant can also be contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that cause adverse side effects, one of them being a severe headache (x).
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Wheatgrass can be contaminated by listeria monocytogenes which should be avoided by pregnant and breast feeding women (x).
According to the American Cancer Society, people with wheat intolerance or allergy should consult a medical professional before consuming wheatgrass in order to be safe. Signs of an allergic reaction from wheatgrass include swollen throats and breaking out in hives (x).
Diabetics Take Note
Due to the effect of wheatgrass on blood sugar levels, individuals with health conditions like diabetes should first seek advice from their doctors before consuming it.
Since wheatgrass mostly grows in moist conditions, it can develop mold if not properly taken care of and the mold might be included in the final product (powder, pills, tablets, etc.).
Dosage and Instructions
Some people start with taking one ounce daily and then move up to two ounces after a week or so. A standard dose for wheatgrass is not yet clear. The dosage depends on the age and health status of the person in question. It is important for individuals to keep in mind that natural products are not necessarily safe and the dosage is important. People should follow relevant directions on supplement labels and consult medical professionals before consumption.
The suggested serving for organic wheat grass powder is 400 mg (just over 1 tbs) daily, or as directed by a physician.
The Bottom Line
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. Its health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of vitamins, antioxidants, chlorophyll, amino acids and minerals. It provides numerous health benefits, like the ability to lower disease-causing free radicals, fight cancer and lower cholesterol. Wheatgrass can also help with weight management. For optimum results, it is good to include wheatgrass in a balanced and healthy diet.