Wheat grass is both a food and a supplement that is prepared from the common wheat plant (Triticum aestivum). Much has been written about the health benefits of wheat grass, which is a very good source of chlorophyll (70%), amino acids, enzymes, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Some of the health claims include the ability of wheat grass to detoxify the body, prevent cancer, enhance blood circulation, and improve gastrointestinal conditions, among other claims. In some cases, the scientific evidence has not yet caught up with the anecdotal claims.
Health Benefits of Wheat Grass
The high chlorophyll content in wheat grass can help fight bad breath and may aid in digestion. Topical use of wheat grass juice on skin abrasions and wounds may provide some antibacterial effect. The high fiber content of wheat grass can assist with irregularity, while gargling with the juice may reduce sore throat symptoms.
Some uses of wheat grass have been the subject of controlled studies. For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the use of wheat grass juice for individuals who had distal ulcerative colitis (UC). Twenty-three patients randomly were assigned to take either 100 cc of wheat grass juice or a placebo daily for one month. Nineteen patients completed the study and had complete information available. Among those who took wheat grass juice, there were significant reductions in overall disease activity and in the severity of rectal bleeding. No serious side effects were noted. The authors concluded that “wheat grass juice appeared effective and safe as a single or adjuvant treatment of active distal UC.”
In a pilot study, women with breast cancer who were being treated with chemotherapy were given wheat grass juice. A total of 60 were enrolled in the study and assigned to receive either 50 cc of wheat grass juice daily during the first three cycles of chemotherapy, or to receive only regular supportive therapy. Side effects related to wheat grass juice were minimal, but it did make nausea worse in six patients, who then stopped taking the wheat grass juice. Overall, patients who consumed wheat grass juice had a reduced need for blood- and bone-marrow-building medications during chemotherapy while having no negative impact on the efficacy of chemotherapy. (Bar-Sela 2007)
Wheat grass juice may also be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Researchers induced high cholesterol in rats that were then administered either 5 mL/kg or 10 mL/kg of wheat grass juice or the drug atorvastatin for 14 days. An evaluation of blood samples collected from all the rats showed that those who were given wheat grassjuice had a significant declein in total cholesterol, triglycercides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol levels. At the 10 mL/kg dose, the wheat grass juice reduced all four levels comparable to that seen with atorvastatin. (Kothari 2011)
Wheat grass juice was also shown to benefit patients with thalassemia, an inherited blood disease in which the body makes an abnormal for of hemoglobin and one for which patients frequently need transfusions. In the study, the families of patients raised their own wheat grass at home. Each of the 16 patients consumed about 100 mL of wheat grass juice per day, and each acted as his or her own control. The researchers compared variables from one year preceding the study with those during intake of wheat grass juice. They observed that blood transfusion requirement declined by more than 25 percent in half (8) patients, and that three of these patients had a decrease of greater than 40 percent. No adverse effects were noted. (Marawaha 2004)
How to Use Wheat Grass
Wheat grass is available as a liquid that can be used alone or mixed into fruit or vegetable drinks. It is also available as fresh produce, powder, and tablets. A typical dose of wheat grass juice is 100 to 300 mL daily. Consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional before taking wheat grass juice or other form.
Bar-Sela G et al. Wheat grass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: a pilot study. Nutr Cancer 2007; 58(1): 43-48
Ben-Arye E et al. Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol 2002 Apr; 37(4): 444-49
Kothari S et al. Hypolipidemic effect of fresh Triticum aestivum (wheat) grass juice in hypercholesterolemic rats. Acta Pol Pharm 2011 Mar-Apr; 68(2): 291-94
Marawaha RK et al. Wheat grass juice reduces transfusion requirement in patients in thalassemia major: a pilot study. Indian Pediatr 2004 Jul 41(7): 716-29