Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich type of young grass belonging to the Poaceae family, according to the American Cancer Society. Poaceae consists of a wide variety of wheat-like grasses that are commonly grown in temperate regions of Europe and the United States. Sold in a variety of forms, proponents say wheatgrass has many health benefits. Wheatgrass supporters believe it aids in treatment of the common cold, coughs, bronchitis, fevers, infections and inflammation of the mouth and throat. However, currently no substantial scientific evidence supports these claims, and, therefore, researchers believe they are only myths.
Wheatgrass is available in many forms: tablets, capsules, liquid extract and tinctures. Wheatgrass is also available in planted trays of soil, where people buy seeds or kits to grow wheatgrass at home. Some people use wheatgrass as a dietary supplement for a day's worth of vegetables, according to the Mayo Clinic. Wheatgrass is commonly used in juices, smoothies and teas for dietary supplementation.
Wheatgrass contains an abundant amount of nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, chlorophyll and vitamins A, C and E. The Mayo Clinic reports wheatgrass consumers say its nutrient content boosts the immune system, kills harmful bacteria in the digestive system and rids the body of waste. In fact, some proponents claim a dietary program, termed “the wheatgrass diet,” can cause cancer to regress and can increase the longevity of people suffering from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. However, no clinical research studies in scientific literature support this claim.
The Wheatgrass Diet
Ann Wigmore, a Boston resident, developed the wheatgrass diet due to her strong belief in the healing power of nature. Wigmore proclaimed a fresh wheatgrass diet could cure diseases, especially cancer. The wheatgrass diet consists of “live food,” such as uncooked sprouts, raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Wheatgrass dieters avoid all meat and dairy products, as well as cooked foods. The claims associated with the wheatgrass diet have not been supported in clinical research.
Wheatgrass can treat anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, acne and migraines, claims Debra Harrigan, nutrition counselor, during an interview conducted by the Brain Research Institute of UCLA. According to Harrigan, wheatgrass and wheatgrass products protect every cell in the body from free radicals, thereby prohibiting infection. Harrigan also claims wheatgrass improves cognitive function, allowing the body to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s often synthesized for antidepressant drugs.
One small clinical research study in 2002 found wheatgrass juice and standard medical care seemed to help control symptoms of ulcerative colitis, according to the American Cancer Society. Ulcerative colitis is a condition in which the large intestine remains inflamed. In the study, two groups were given standard medical care for ulcerative colitis; however, one group was also given wheatgrass juice, while the other was given a placebo. The group that drank approximately 3 oz. of wheatgrass juice every day for a month had less pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding than the placebo group. However, not enough scientific evidence exists to support the idea that wheatgrass juice can cure or prevent diseases, including ulcerative colitis.