By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN
Some websites even claim it cures cancer. But how much of this is true?
Is this young, green plant of wheat really as magical as some people are claiming? Let’s take a look.
Wheatgrass Doesn’t Replace VegetablesWheatgrass is rich in plant-based nutrients, like flavonoids and carotenoids. It’s a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. But one shot of it doesn’t equal a typical serving of vegetables, as some claim it does.
So don’t skip eating your vegetables. Remember, it’s important to eat a balanced diet containing several servings of fruits and vegetables. This remains the ideal method for getting all of your daily vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
But one thing that wheatgrass does supply better than your favorite veggie is chlorophyll. This green pigment is believed to be a powerful detoxifying agent and may even protect against abnormal cell growth, better known as cancer.
Cancer Cells Probably Don’t Like WheatgrassCancer is a complex disease. That’s why you should always be a little suspicious when health professionals claim they have a cure. Truth be told, wheatgrass looks promising as a treatment for some cancers, but it’s far from a cure.
For instance, a laboratory study showed that wheatgrass killed human leukemia cells.1 How this would actually play out in real life, in a real human, is yet to be seen.
In a another study, mice exposed to cancer-causing chemicals were less likely to develop skin cancer when wheatgrass was a part of their diets.2
Now, as we mentioned before, wheatgrass is rich in chlorophyll: a DNA protector and potential anticancer compound. Different studies indicate that it protects against DNA mutations, the initial step in cancer development.3
Also, chlorophyll binds to carcinogenic substances found in foods (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, and aflatoxin-B1) and prevents these compounds from reaching areas of the body where they might contribute to cancer development.4-6
Detoxify your Body with WheatgrassOkay, so there is some truth to this one. One study showed that wheatgrass reduced the toxicity of chemotherapy for breast cancer patients.7
Its detoxifying effects may be due to its chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll activates enzymes in your liver that help to detoxify and remove harmful substances from the body.8,9
Also, wheatgrass has been shown to boost levels of glutathione, the body’s primary antioxidant.10 Glutathione is used by the liver in all of its detox duties.
Try Wheatgrass if You’re AnemicThe molecular structure of chlorophyll, found abundantly in wheatgrass, is extremely similar to hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying compound in human blood. One theory is that the resemblance of chlorophyll to hemoglobin is the reason wheatgrass juice may seem to benefit anemia patients.11
Several studies have shown wheatgrass use may help to restore hemoglobin levels in patients with thalassemia, a special form of anemia that may require blood transfusions.
In one study, thalassemia patients taking wheatgrass tablets experienced increased levels of hemoglobin in their blood and required fewer blood transfusions.12
So as you can see, wheatgrass has several benefits especially related to its chlorophyll content. Based on the research, it’s probably worth the cost to add to your daily supplement regimen.
- Pak J Pharm Sci. 2011 Jul;24(3):243-50.
- Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2011;12(1):143-8.
- Environ Mol Mutagen. 1993;22(3):164-71.
- Mutat Res. 1994;308(2):191-203.
- Environ Mol Mutagen. 1996;27(3):211-8.
- Mutat Res. 2003;523-524:209-16.
- Nutr Cancer. 2007;58(1):43-8.
- Carcinogenesis. 2005 Jul;26(7):1247-55. Epub 2005 Mar 17.
- Nutr Cancer. 2003;46(2):212-21.
- Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2010 May;32(4):233-5.
- Indian Pediatr. 2006 Jan;43(1):79-80.
- Indian J Pediatr. 2010 Jan;77(1):90-1. Epub 2010 Feb 5.