Wheatgrass juice, in all its grass-green glory, was one of the health fads that kicked off the juicing/smoothie revolution decades ago. But despite tasting a lot like its namesake (grass), the health habit has stuck around.
It’s partly because so many people think wheatgrass is a magical cure-all for any type of ailment, despite a troubling lack of research. But as it turns out, this vivid green concoction could play a pivotal role in changing the course of a cancer diagnosis…
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“The mother of living foods”
If you haven’t heard of her, Ann Wigmore was one of the main voices to popularize wheatgrass back in the 1960s. (Although studies on wheatgrass date back to the 1930s.)
Wigmore followed a strict health regime that consisted largely of raw foods, fruits, and nuts, and excluded all meat and dairy, along with cooked products. Wheatgrass was part of her plan, so Wigmore’s diet soon became known as “The Wheatgrass Diet.” Nowadays, you might recognize her diet as being very similar to a plant-based diet.
From a nutritional standpoint, wheatgrass is packed with the nine essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own, along with 12 other amino acids and 13 vitamins. It also contains iron, calcium, and magnesium. The combination of all these nutrients is said to give your immune system a massive boost.
If you’re a fan of the vivid green color of wheatgrass, you should know that’s another bonus. That color comes from the plant pigment chlorophyll, which works as a detoxifier within your body. Called “the blood of plant life,” it aids human blood with a cleansing process that improves the supply of oxygen to the circulatory system.
Rumor has it this stuff is better than great…
We know wheatgrass is widely used for a number of things — for body detoxification, to help with dental and hair problems, and as an antiseptic. Some people use it as a pain killer, a throat reliever, an acne and scar remover, and even as a deodorant (I don’t know what they do about the green stains).
But it’s the ability of wheatgrass to protect or possibly cure long-persisting disorders that is slowly catching the attention of the scientific community.
Notably, the many amino acids in wheatgrass are useful in rebuilding cells and muscle tissue within your body. If you’re facing cancer, and particularly if you’re undergoing a traditional chemotherapy or radiation routine, this could help with the rebuilding of healthy cells following the destruction of unhealthy cancer cells.
Sadly, and despite all its nutritional power, there haven’t been nearly enough scholarly studies on wheatgrass. Most of the claims come from anecdotal evidence and case histories. The Internet is full of them—stories like that of 74-year-old Danny McDonald who was diagnosed with stage four chronic stomach cancer and was told he had only a few weeks to live.
Mr. McDonald rejected the treatment regime laid out by his doctors and instead started drinking an ounce of wheatgrass a day, gradually upping his dose to seven ounces a day. He claimed his stomach pains disappeared after a week, and then the stomach cancer itself disappeared.
According to the respected Hippocrates Health Institute, “Two ounces of wheatgrass juice has the nutritional equivalent of five pounds of the best raw organic vegetables.” So it makes sense that those who are already nauseous from cancer treatment would prefer to drink a shot of wheatgrass instead of downing five pounds of vegetables a day, particularly if they’re going to reap the same benefit.
Barely-studied superfood impresses on a broad scale
I wish I could show you more evidence for this popular remedy. In the few studies published, largely through universities, wheatgrass as a cancer treatment and preventive aid looks promising.
For example, one pilot study from Nutrition and Cancer with 60 participants showed wheatgrass reduced the hematological [blood] toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Side effects were minimal.
Another study looked at how the enzymes in wheatgrass may play a pivotal role in thwarting or warding off cancer. Because wheatgrass juice is such an excellent source of chlorophyll, laetrile, and the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), it augments the oxygen supply to all body cells. That includes cancer cells, which tend to be vulnerable to high oxygen concentrations. The SOD within wheatgrass catalyzes the generation of hydrogen peroxide from superoxide radicals, which is fatal to cancer cells.
Wheatgrass contains the anticancer agent dormin, also known as the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA). That particular hormone is 40 times more potent when consumed within four hours after cutting the wheatgrass plant. This is key, because ABA can neutralize the effect of the hormone chorionic gonadotropin and a compound similar to this hormone has been found to be produced by cancer cells.
In addition, since cancer cells tend to succumb in a highly alkaline environment, it helps that the pH of wheatgrass juice is around 7.4 and contributes to alkalinity.
And finally, in a study published just last year in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, the methanol extract of wheatgrass showed anti-leukemic potential that is likely due to the presence of high levels of flavonoids and polyphenolics.
Green blood: Best when fresh
To make wheatgrass, you start with the new grass of the wheat plant. You can’t eat it raw like spinach though, so it has to be juiced or blended or altered in some way. The benefits appear to be highest when it’s pressed into a juice and consumed fresh.
Still, wheatgrass isn’t hard to come by. You can get the juice in many health food stores, juice bars, fitness clubs, cafés, and even bars. Wheatgrass is also available as a frozen juice, in tablet form, and as a powder. It has a long shelf life, which makes these forms ideal for physical stores.
Purists, however, grow their own wheatgrass – maybe in a sunny window – and juice it in their own juicer. It grows fast, and it’s consumed when the plants are young. So I guess it doesn’t take much space to grow all you need.
If you’re using it for a health regimen, I’d recommend opting for fresh, recently-squeezed juice. And like so many whole foods with amazing anti-cancer potential, this one certainly looks like it could only help.
“Ann Wigmore Wheatgrass Treatment For Cancer.” by Webster Kehr, Independent Cancer Research Foundation, Inc. | Last updated on February 08, 2016.
“Effect of wheat grass juice in supportive care of terminally ill cancer patients— A tertiary cancer centre experience from India.” By S. Dey, et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2006 ASCO Annual Meeting Proceedings (Post-Meeting Edition). Vol 24, No 18S (June 20 Supplement), 2006: 8634.
“Components of an Anticancer Diet: Dietary Recommendations, Restrictions, and Supplements of the Bill Henderson Protocol.” By Cynthia Mannion, et al. Nutrients. 2011 Jan; 3(1): 1–26. Published online 2010 Dec 30.