Wheatgrass comes from Triticum aestivum – wheat plant. It is the young grass of the wheat plant (of the family Poaceae) and can be consumed by humans as juice, powder form or tablets.
It is a popular ‘superfood’ that is found in health food stores. Various forms of wheatgrass like juice and smoothies are said to offer us therapeutic and nutritional benefits.
This plant is found in the US and Europe. Wheatgrass can also be cultivated indoors. The stems and roots of the wheatgrass plant are used for making dietary supplements.
The popularity of wheatgrass was promoted by Charles F. Schnabel a nutritionist and agricultural chemist in the 1930s. He conducted various experiments on wheatgrass. One experiment was conducted on dying hens. Dr Schnabel treated these hens with wheatgrass and soon they became healthy again.
Hens given wheatgrass supplements also started doubling their production of eggs. Dr. Schnabel started to vigorously campaign for wheatgrass among fellow chemists and industrialists.
Through his initiatives, Quaker Oats was one corporation to invest several millions in further study and development of wheatgrass as a health food for humans and animals.
Dr. Schnabel began by growing wheatgrass outdoors. It usually grows slowly from winter to early spring for about 200 days. Harvesting is done during the jointing stage when the plant is said to have maximum nutritional value. It is then dried and powdered to be used in various forms.
Wheatgrass can also be grown indoors on large trays. This growing period is only 10 days after which wheatgrass attain the same nutritional content as the plant grown outdoors. Once harvested indoor wheatgrass is dried at low temperatures, ground and sold in powdered or table forms.
After Dr. Schnabel’s efforts, for sometime, wheatgrass was forgotten for awhile until Ann Wigmore a holistic practitioner brought it into prominence again as a natural way to fight colon cancer.
Although her claims were not substantiated and she was even sued for making false claims, the idea of wheatgrass being a powerful health food caught on from then.
Nutritional Content in Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is rich in potassium, vitamins C and A, sodium, sulfur, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, protein, cobalt, amino acids, active enzymes, chlorophyll and many other nutrients. Consuming 3.5g / 30ml wheatgrass in tablet or juice form can provide the required quantities of the above nutrients.
As a detoxifying agent, we need to take wheatgrass supplements 3-4 times daily.
Benefits of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass has been touted as a treatment for cancer, diabetes, anemia, infections, constipation, skin condition, ulcerative colitis, colon cleansing and relief from joint pain. It is also said to be able to kill harmful bacteria found in the digestive system and boost immunity due to its rich nutritional content.
Many people suggest that wheatgrass provides the daily required target of vegetables for humans. There are no real studies to back these claims. However, since wheatgrass is not known to produce any serious side effects, consuming this cannot be harmful.
Wheatgrass is also said to combat everyday ailments like fever, coughs and colds and digestive problems. It can also be used to treat more serious conditions like AIDS.
Some studies claim that a diet of wheatgrass can shrink malignant tumors and improve survival rates. The high chlorophyll content in wheatgrass is said to improve oxygen levels in the body by acting like hemoglobin.
You can replace one ounce fresh vegetables with one ounce wheatgrass juice. Both provide you with the same vitamin and mineral content.
Gout, cystitis, rheumatoid arthritis and many chronic skin conditions can be treated with wheatgrass. It can also prevent graying of hair and improve digestion.
How to use wheatgrass
Wheatgrass cannot be consumed fresh since it is tough to digest. The grass (leaves) is usy
ually crushed and juice is extracted from it. This is one form of receiving the benefits of wheatgrass. The leaves can also be dehydrated and powdered to make capsules or tablets.
Wheatgrass powder mixed with water can be used as an enema to ease symptoms of constipation.
Many people go on a strict ‘wheatgrass diet’ believing it is very healthy and can detoxify their body. During this diet, they stay off cooked foods, milk and other dairy products and meat.
Wheatgrass juice, smoothies and tea are also popular. Many juice bars use wheatgrass as an ingredient in making various juices. Apart from this, food stores have bottled wheatgrass juice too.
Wheatgrass is not meant to replace regular medical treatment and is not a miracle cure for various ailments. Used sensibly and in moderation, it can provide many health benefits.
Although there is no strong scientific evidence backing the theories that wheatgrass detoxifies the body and cures diseases, using the right daily quantities does not harm the body.
Pregnant and nursing women and children should avoid using wheatgrass.