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Wheatgrass refers to freshly sprouted grass or leaves of the wheat plant. Due to its diverse nutritional content, wheatgrass is considered to be a superfood. This plant can survive both indoors and outdoors. Most people like to plant and grow their own wheatgrass due to the simple process, which is putting the wheat seeds into water and then harvesting. The first sprouted leaves called wheatgrass are used in various combinations like food, drinks and dietary supplements. It can be served fresh or is dried and frozen for long-term use. It is consumed in the form of juice, pills or supplements for reaping its health benefits, which will be discussed ahead.

Some basic facts of wheatgrass

  • Scientific name: Triticum aestivum
  • Family: Poaceae
  • Common name: Wheat, common wheat, gehun kanak
  • Sanskrit name: Gohuna
  • Native region and geographic distribution: Although wheatgrass is found all over, it is best grown in thicker soils with a good water holding capacity
  • Parts used: Sprouts or grass
  1. Nutrition Facts of Wheatgrass
  2. Wheatgrass benefits for health
  3. How to use wheatgrass
  4. Side Effects of wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Like many other plants, wheatgrass consists of amino acids, chlorophyll, minerals and several enzymes, which are responsible for health benefits.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of wheatgrass powder contains the following values:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Energy 286 kCal
Protein 28.57 g
Carbohydrate 57.14 g
Fibre 28.6 g
Minerals Value per 100 g
Iron 20.57 mg
Potassium 3000 mg
Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin C 171.4 mg
Vitamin B9 914 µg

Wheatgrass is crammed with a strong combination of nutrients and minerals that are exceptionally proficient to your health. It has a number of remedial and restorative advantages. It possesses antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is basically one of the “superfoods” which will help in improving your immune function and keeping you away from diseases and infections. Let’s have a look at some of the evidential benefits of wheatgrass and its juice.

Wheatgrass contains antioxidants

Wheatgrass is a wonderful host to numerous vitamins and minerals. It is especially rich in Vitamin A, C, and E, which are rich sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that shield the body against cellular damage and oxidative stress. Research proves that wheatgrass minimized oxidative stress and reduced organ damage, which will be explored ahead.

Wheatgrass for weight loss

Wheatgrass is a rich source of fibre, the consumption of which is associated with a better satiety index. This implies that the inclusion of wheatgrass in the diet will help you feel full for a longer duration allowing you to eat less. This mechanism may aid in the process of weight loss.

Further, wheatgrass has a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential, which helps in improving the overall body functioning and metabolism allowing you to lose weight. Further, it has been evidenced that wheatgrass helps in regulating blood sugar levels, so, it will help to avoid obesity caused due to insulin resistance.

Wheatgrass for cholesterol control

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the body cells. It is essential for the synthesis of hormones but too much cholesterol can lead to the blockage of arteries increasing the risk of cardiovascular disorders.

Animal studies showed that wheatgrass can help in the normalisation of cholesterol levels. But the evidence is not limited to that. Scientists have suggested that regular consumption of wheatgrass juice helps in lowering blood cholesterol. It is said to have a cholesterol sweeping effect from the body.

A 2010 study conducted on animal models found that wheatgrass helps in lowering of low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol and the subsequent raising of high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol. This helped in improving the overall lipid profile.

 (Read more: High cholesterol symptoms)

Wheatgrass for blood sugar control

Diabetes is a chronic condition characterised by high blood sugar levels due to the impairment of glucose metabolism by the body. Since diabetics often find it difficult to manage normal blood sugar levels, they are commonly looking for alternatives.

Wheatgrass is one such option. When consumed as a health drink, wheatgrass has a glucose lowering effect.

Animal studies prove that wheatgrass juice can normalise blood sugar levels and raise the levels of the hormone insulin, which may be reduced in diabetics. This was achievable due to an increase in the activity of glucose oxidative enzyme leading to better utilisation of glucose by the body.

However, sufficient human researches are not available for its anti-hyperglycemic effect.

Wheatgrass for digestion

Wheatgrass aids in the better digestion of food. This is because it is rich in several enzymes like protease, amylase and lipase, which are essential for the digestion of proteins, amino acids and fats. These enzymes help in improving bowel movements.

Moreover, wheatgrass has a high fibre content which aids the process of digestion.

So, wheatgrass may be helpful in providing relief from bloating, constipation and other digestive problems. However, an excessive intake may be counterintuitive.

Wheatgrass for inflammation

Inflammation refers to a localised area of swelling, redness, pain and increased temperature. It can occur internally or externally and is often discomforting to the bearer. Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for several disorders. 

Scientists have found that wheatgrass possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help in relieving inflammation.

One specific use of wheatgrass is its effectiveness against ulcerative colitis, which refers to long-standing inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Indubitably, it is a painful condition to the sufferer. To get relief from this condition, you may have a glass of fresh wheatgrass juice. Rich in several vitamins, antioxidants and chlorophyll, wheatgrass helps in significantly reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Researchers say that this is possible due to the presence of the compound apigenin. When compared with the control group who was not given wheatgrass juice, the treatment group exhibited significant improvement in symptoms, which was evident in 78% of the participants. One of the major improvements was that it led to a reduction in the symptom of rectal bleeding.

Consumption of 100 ml of wheatgrass juice for a month decreased the intensity and severity of the rectal bleeding in patients with ulcerative colitis. Chlorophyll, a compound in wheatgrass helps fight against the inflammation.

However, more research has to be done to measure its full potential as an anti-inflammatory effect on the general population.

Wheatgrass for cancer prevention

Due to its incredible antioxidant property, several studies have found that wheatgrass can help to destroy some types of cancer cells. It possesses strong components like chlorophyll and is also rich in several flavonoids, polyphenols and other agents which may be responsible for this action. Wheatgrass juice helps when combined with the traditional cancer treatment helps to the adverse effects. Several studies have supported these claims.

The methanol extract of wheatgrass has been demonstrated to have anti-leukemic effects. Methanol extract derived from the commercially available wheatgrass powder was found to be safe and effective against leukaemia (a type of blood cancer). However, these involved animal studies and the dosage and safety is yet to be studied for humans.

Laboratory tests have also confirmed the anticancer potential of wheatgrass extract by the possible mechanism of apoptosis (programmed cell death). This study reported the use of wheatgrass for cancer prevention and as an adjunct to medicinal treatment due to its potential to reduce oxidative stress.

Further, the use of wheatgrass juice and powder catered to improve the immune response, which is generally compromised in cancer patients. The addition of wheatgrass also helped to reduce the side effects of the treatment process.

Such high anticancer potential may be attributable to the presence of chlorophyll and plant hormones in wheat grass, which have immense anticancer properties independently.

Wheatgrass for thalassaemia management

Thalassaemia refers to the blood disorders, in which the body is unable to synthesise sufficient levels of normal haemoglobin in the body. This may occur due to a defect in either alpha or beta chains of haemoglobin. Wheatgrass is considered to be an adjuvant to the treatment of thalassaemia in infants.

A clinical study on thalassemia patients randomised them into two groups, wherein one was given wheatgrass tablets and the other was not. Improvement in serum ferritin levels and haemoglobin levels was observed in the group receiving wheatgrass supplements. Further, it aided to improve the quality of life of those affected and was considered to be an absolutely safe supplement. However, there was no reduction in the frequency and requirements of blood transfusion.

Wheatgrass for Alzheimer’s disease

Wheatgrass is a powerful antioxidant. This means that it helps in protecting you and your body cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. One of the most potentially affected organs by this damage is the brain. Free radicals can cause neuronal damage leading to the onset of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Researches on animal models have found that wheatgrass possesses good antioxidant properties and may be utilised as a key in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Due to lack of human studies, these results cannot be satisfactorily claimed.

Wheatgrass is easily available in the form of powder, juice and capsules. It can be found at health stores and food shops.

Wheatgrass can be even grown at home and a juicer can be used to make homemade wheatgrass juice.

Other than consuming wheatgrass juice, one can use wheatgrass to enhance the nutritional content of green smoothies and other beverages. Wheatgrass can also be mixed with teas and salad dressings.

It can be consumed in numerous ways and is an easy and healthy addition to the diet. However, dilution with other beverages and sources is recommended.

Since most of the studies involving wheatgrass involve laboratory and animal studies, a safe dosage cannot be established. So, it is best that you visit your doctor before taking wheatgrass supplements or drinking wheatgrass juice.

  • Headache is one of the most common side effects of wheatgrass juice, which researchers say could be an indication of intolerance to the plant. It is recommended to stop consuming the juice in such cases and visit a doctor.
  • Wheatgrass can cause allergies especially when they are taken in the form of juice or a pill. This can lead to nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhoea. Swelling, inflammation or hives could also be seen.
  • Some may also exhibit an anaphylaxis reaction in response to wheatgrass manifested by shortness of breath, congestion, wheezing and tachycardia. So, you must not begin consuming wheatgrass in any form, unless so prescribed and ruled out for allergies.
  • Since it is a weight loss promoting agent, having it in copious amounts can lead to a severe loss in appetite and weight, which can further be a cause of fatigue and tiredness.
  • Since it is freshly grown in the soil, it may contain pathogenic microorganisms, so, digestive symptoms like stomach upset, diarrhoea, abdominal pain may be experienced. Sterilisation and cleanliness of the growing site may help in avoiding this side effect.

Medicines / Products that contain Wheatgrass

References

  1. Bar-Sela G et al. The Medical Use of Wheatgrass: Review of the Gap Between Basic and Clinical Applications. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2015;15(12):1002-10. PMID: 26156538
  2. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Full Report (All Nutrients): 45376373, PINES, WHEAT GRASS POWDER. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  3. Saroj Kothari et al. Effect of fresh Triticum aestivum grass juice on lipid profile of normal rats . Indian J Pharmacol. 2008 Oct; 40(5): 235–236. PMID: 20040964
  4. Sethi J et al. Antioxidant effect of Triticum aestivium (wheat grass) in high-fat diet-induced oxidative stress in rabbits. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2010 May;32(4):233-5. PMID: 20508870
  5. Shakya G et al. Hypoglycaemic role of wheatgrass and its effect on carbohydrate metabolic enzymes in type II diabetic rats. Toxicol Ind Health. 2016 Jun;32(6):1026-32. PMID: 25116122
  6. Nepali S et al. Wheatgrass-Derived Polysaccharide Has Antiinflammatory, Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Apoptotic Effects on LPS-Induced Hepatic Injury in Mice. Phytother Res. 2017 Jul;31(7):1107-1116. PMID: 28543910
  7. Shinil Shah et al. Dietary Factors in the Modulation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Activity . MedGenMed. 2007; 9(1): 60. PMID: 17435660
  8. Neelofar Khan et al. Immunoprophylactic potential of wheat grass extract on benzene-induced leukemia: An in vivo study on murine model . Indian J Pharmacol. 2015 Jul-Aug; 47(4): 394–397. PMID: 26288471
  9. Bar-Sela G et al. The Medical Use of Wheatgrass: Review of the Gap Between Basic and Clinical Applications. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2015;15(12):1002-10. PMID: 26156538
  10. Amit S Mutha et al. Efficacy and Safety of Wheat Grass in Thalassemic Children on Regular Blood Transfusion. Cureus. 2018 Mar; 10(3): e2306. PMID: 29755902
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