As more and more diets turn "green" and we try to move back in the natural direction, it's been hard to ignore wheatgrass as the plant du jour. Whether blended, juiced, powdered, chewed or sipped, the health conscious cannot get enough of this plant that looks like you could've plucked it from your backyard.
Wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum) is a member of the Poaceae family and is also referred to as "couch grass." Similar to other wheat-like grasses, wheatgrass typically grows in temperate climates, either indoors or out, and the entire plant can be utilized for medicinal purposes. It's a common ingredient in green food supplements and drinks and is a staple of pressed juice shops.
Wheatgrass gained popularity in the United States in the 1980s when Ann Wigmore, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania, proclaimed her wheatgrass diet could cure illness. Wigmore wasn't a doctor and was ordered by the Massachusetts Attorney General to stop making such claims, but the nutritional value of wheatgrass was recognized as beneficial.
The different compounds and chemicals found within wheatgrass can serve as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents within the body. While wheatgrass isn't proven to be a cure, it does contribute to overall health like any other fruit, vegetable or green:
Vitamins -- Wheatgrass is rich in vitamins A, B, C, E and K that can provide antioxidant benefits, fighting off free radicals and boosting the immune system to prevent illness.
Minerals -- Iron, calcium and magnesium support circulatory health as well as strong bones and teeth.
Amino Acids -- Often called the building blocks of protein, these compounds help with digestion and metabolism and support tissue health.
Chlorophyll -- Wheatgrass is one of the most chlorophyll-rich plants available naturally. Chlorophyll gives plants their green color and acts as an antioxidant within the body as well.
According to the American Cancer Society and WebMD, wheatgrass has been credited with contributing to several conditions and bodily processes, including:
Digestion -- Wheatgrass is commonly recommended to help detox and cleanse the body, preventing constipation and other digestive issues. It's also been reported to help with the symptoms of ulcerative colitis in a 2002 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology.
Pain -- The anti-inflammatory properties of wheatgrass can help with chronic pain, like rheumatory arthritis.
Skin -- The antioxidants and antibacterial properties in this grass help to boost healing, reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
Immune System -- Consuming wheatgrass can help with respiratory conditions like cough, bronchitis and the common cold as well as fever by fighting bacteria and reducing inflammation of the throat and mouth. A 2007 study published in Nutrition and Cancer found wheatgrass juice reduced myelotoxicity (increased red blood cell production that weakens the immune system) in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Circulation -- Wheatgrass can help with blood-related conditions. It increases the production of hemoglobin for carrying oxygen in the blood and can reduce cholesterol, relieve anemia and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Weight -- This grass' high nutritional value can help you feel satiated, maintain healthy metabolism and meet your required produce intake to support healthy weight loss and control.
How to Take It
You can buy seeds to grow wheatgrass at home if you want to juice it or eat it. You can also find liquid supplements, capsules or tablets. The only reported side effects of wheatgrass are digestive issues like nausea, constipation and loss of appetite. Consult with your doctor before adding wheatgrass to your diet if you're already being treated for a condition and don't stop using medication without your doctor's permission.
Even if the word "grass" still makes you think of a lawnmower, it hopefully now also resonates with nutrition.
eVitamins recommends that you do not rely on the information presented in this article as diagnosis for treatment to any health claim. Content and information on this site is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for advice given by a physician, pharmacist, or other licensed health-care professional. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Contact your health-care provider immediately if you suspect that you have a medical problem. The information and statements in this article have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. eVitamins assumes no liability for inaccuracies or misstatements.