Grab your juicers and prepare to harness the power of one of nature’s greatest healers—wheatgrass. Frequently referred to as “Liquid Sunshine,” wheatgrass offers an incredible amount of health benefits from head to toe.
A Brief History
Although wheatgrass has been used for nutritional benefits for thousands of years, the wheatgrass movement we’ve come to know and practice began in the early 20th century. Most notably, the rise of the wheatgrass phenomenon started with Ann Wigmore, who had first learned holistic health practices and the benefits of eating raw foods from her grandmother during childhood. After moving from her home in Lithuania to the United States, Ann claimed to have cured herself of colon cancer by ingesting weeds from vacant lots in Boston. She then began to study the power of natural healing herself and found there were more than 4,700 varieties of grass on the planet; but even with all of the health benefits those specific species also provided, she recognized wheatgrass was king.
Ann, along with fellow Lithuanian native and holistic health practitioner Viktoras Kluvinskas, opened the Hippocrates Institute in Boston in 1961; for decades, this institute served as the face of the alternative healthcare movement in the United States. Here, Ann and Viktoras taught others about the healing power of raw foods and the ability to live a disease-free lifestyle.
Ample Health Benefits
Wheatgrass is derived from the stem and leaves of the plant. Although it looks similar to what we perceive as normal grass, this superfood commands a little more of our attention.
Researchers have discovered that wheatgrass contains more than 90 elements from the soil, and it’s one of nature’s highest sources of vitamins A and C. When grown organically, wheatgrass is said to contain a plethora of mineral elements and is filled with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sulfur, sodium, cobalt, and zinc—to name a few. It is reported that wheatgrass can actually turn gray hair back to its natural color, boost energy, and slow down the aging process by rejuvenating aging cells. Wheatgrass is also rich in vitamin B17, which is known to destroy cancer cells.
Wheatgrass doesn’t only heal from within. Applied topically, it can be used to heal cuts, burns, rashes, athlete’s foot, and insect bites. It will soothe sunburns, disinfect wounds, mend damaged hair, and alleviate dry and itchy scalp conditions.
Bad breath? Gargling wheatgrass will sweeten your breath and tighten your gums. Can’t sleep? Grab your tray of living wheatgrass and place it near the head of your bed. The grass will enhance the oxygen in the air and make healthful negative ions to get you to sleep better.
And if you’re worried about getting your recommended daily intake of vegetables, a 1 ounce shot of wheatgrass is projected to equal almost 2.5 pounds of leafy green veggies.
Perhaps what wheatgrass is most known for is its potent chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll helps suppress bacterial growth, counteract ingested toxins, purify the liver, raise the blood’s oxygen-carrying potential, and regulate digestion processes. Chlorophyll carries exceptionally high amounts of oxygen to the blood stream, and in a highly oxygenated environment, the brain and all other body tissues function at optimal levels.
Many describe wheatgrass to taste just as the name suggests—like grass. If you don’t find earthy flavors particularly offensive, consensus shows the distinct “sweet” grass flavor is quite mild and tolerable.
The most common way foodies consume wheatgrass is by juicing. You can take it as a shot of highly concentrated juice, or mix it with other fruit and vegetable juices to cut the grassy flavor.
Because of the superfood’s almost instant detoxifying action, newbies should start with just an ounce of wheatgrass juice per day to reduce the chance of nausea or headaches, which are natural reactions when the body eliminates toxins. If those symptoms persist, however, you may have an intolerance to the juice itself. Talk to your doctor or discontinue use of the juice altogether.
Also, be cautious if you have a wheat or gluten allergy—some don’t see symptoms, but others have reported hives and/or a swollen throat. If you face this type of reaction, discontinue use and see a medical professional immediately before symptoms become worse. Although wheatgrass is the same plant that drives celiac disease, the damaging gluten protein exists only in the kernals, which are not necessarily used in production of wheatgrass supplements. The FDA allows wheatgrass to be included in products labeled gluten-free as long as they remain under 20 parts per million. However, there are variations in the way wheatgrass is harvested and prepared, so caution is advised.
If your body responds well to wheatgrass and your tolerance level increases, work your way to drinking two ounces of the juice two or three times a day.
Wheatgrass can also be used via raw ingestion—chew on the plant, consume its juice, and discard the pulp—or through powder or capsule supplements. If you want to ensure a 100-percent natural and organic product, go to your local co-op or farmers’ market, or consider buying your own wheatgrass seeds to grow at home. Be sure to use the grass’ juice immediately (no more than 15 minutes after harvest) to ensure you get the highest-quality nutrients that wheatgrass has to offer. If enjoying your wheatgrass right away isn’t an option, the whole plant usually keeps for about a week after harvest in a clean container in the refrigerator. The wheatgrass juice, however, will not keep well.
If you struggle with just about any ailment, want to try out your green thumb, or simply seek a new way to lead a healthier lifestyle, wheatgrass might be for you. There are several holistic health companies in the United States and abroad that manufacture and sell natural wheatgrass products. Although scientific evidence doesn’t support the idea that wheatgrass can prevent or cure diseases, it’s worth noting that there is strong evidence that wheatgrass contains many essential vitamins and minerals. Mother Nature gave us this great nutritional powerhouse, so give her thanks and get to juicing.