This article presents some of the scientific evidence for the therapeutic uses of wheatgrass juice. It focuses in particular on a few studies which investigated the usefulness of wheatgrass juice as a complementary therapy during conventional cancer treatments.
Wheatgrass is the germinating wheat kernel that sprouts when soaked for about 10 hours. It has an impressive composition of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll and bio-flavonoids which makes it a favourite among natural health practitioners and raw food lovers. Nearly 70% of the wheatgrass is composed of chlorophyll, which plays a key role as a detoxifying and anti-cancer agent. Chlorophyll also has anti-bacterial effects and prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
Current research on wheatgrass
Although wheatgrass is not as widely studied as many other species in plant kingdom, there are emerging studies that show encouraging findings on its health benefits. Studies focusing on wheatgrass as part of cancer therapy are especially on the rise, documenting its powerful anti-cancer effects. A 2007 study that investigated the usefulness of wheatgrass in patients undergoing chemotherapy found that the group that consumed wheatgrass juice responded better to chemotherapy than the group that did not drink wheatgrass juice. Researchers attributed the positive effect in the supplemented group to the presence of chlorophyll which significantly improved the red blood cells in cancer patients and decreased the associated side-effects of chemotherapy. Researchers of this study concluded that consuming wheatgrass juice may help in reducing the side-effects associated with chemotherapy.
Chlorophyll -the key healing power in wheatgrass
The therapeutic powers of wheatgrass can be attributed to the presence of chlorophyll and a complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals, amino acids, enzymes and essential fatty acids. According to the researchers at the University of Texas, wheatgrass is exceptionally abundant in chlorophyll, the green pigment from plants which is among nature’s most powerful healing agents.
In the 2004 issue of Nutrition Journal researchers revealed that chlorophyll and its derivatives are very effective in binding with cancer-causing agents from pollutants, for example heterocyclic amines from grilled meat, and other molecules. The resulting chlorophyll-carcinogen complex is difficult to absorb, and is thus eliminated by the body, resulting in a significant anti-cancer effect. In a 2006 study which investigated the supportive role of wheatgrass in terminally ill cancer patients revealed that there were significant improvements in the blood hemoglobin, performance status and improved quality of life.
There are studies that document the blood-building abilities of wheatgrass as well. A 2007 study found that wheatgrass juice improved hemoglobin levels and reduced the need for blood transfusions in patients suffering from intermediate thalassemia. Researchers say that because the red blood cells (hemoglobin) and chlorophyll are structurally identical, with the only difference in their central atom, it works out to be favourable to the body in functional aspects as well. This was confirmed in animal studies, too wherein anemic rabbits when fed with chlorophyll, showed a considerable increase in their red blood cell count.
The aforementioned studies formed the basis for investigating if wheatgrass is beneficial as an adjuvant alongside chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin. Studies show that wheatgrass being safe and free of side-effects was able to lower the negative effects of chemotherapy drugs on cancer patients. Researchers suggest that wheatgrass can be used as an antioxidant phytomedicine against oxidative stress in cancer therapy.
Green foods have an alkalising effect on the body and wheatgrass especially has a general nourishing and restorative effect. In addition to its chlorophyll content there are over 80 enzymes identified in wheatgrass and it also contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6 and K. It also provides a spectrum of 92 minerals and trace elements, including zinc, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, boron, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, nickel, sodium and sulphur. Wheatgrass is a perfect add on as a food supplement that offers nutrition and therapeutic benefits to anyone looking to improve their health.
Bar-Sela G, Tsalic M, Fried G, Goldberg H. Wheatgrass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Nutrition and Cancer. 2007;58(1):43-8.
Michael S Donaldson. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:19
Schin S et.al., Therapeutic potential of wheatgrass (Triticum Aestivum) against oxidative stress by platinum containing drugs during cancer chemotherapy: A future prospective. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal Vol 1, Issue 5.Sep- Oct2013.