Life as a Doula, Journey of a Woman

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Wheat Grass Juice, history and evidence for health in a shot glass.

Wheat grass is the early growth of the common wheat plant, sprouted, then grown on for a week before being juiced, or dried and powdered, and consumed. Many people believe the juice has various health-giving benefits, and indeed, some small studies confirm this. Either way, the juice is absolutely packed with good things, and is incredibly cheap, easy and satisfying to grow in your own kitchen in small trays.
The seeds are inexpensive and readily available online, and are no trouble to store until you’re ready to germinate and sprout them. I buy mine from Brow Farm
This is really easy and requires no special equipment, although there are some lovely sprouters, sprouting jars and growing trays on the market, and you can even buy everything you need in one hit with a wheat grass growing kit.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of growing your own wheat grass is that it takes only around a week for the seed to transform from dormant grains to a tray of lush emerald vitality.
If you’re not inclined to grow your own, then have a look online for companies that will deliver trays of growing grass, or packets of cut grass, straight to your door ready for juicing. If you don’t have a juicer then the powder is easy to come by on line or in your local health store.
A Boston lady named Ann Wigmore developed the wheatgrass diet after noticing that dogs and cats ate grass particularly when they were unwell. She made some bold, unsubstantiated claims for the curative properties of the grass which lead to her being sued not once but twice in the 1980s by the Massachusetts Attorney General. She has been dead for nearly two decades, but her wheat grass diet lives on!
Wheat grass juice is packed with chlorophyll, which is the ’blood’ of all green plants, and gives them their green colour. Like the haemoglobin in our blood, it is concerned with respiration, the delivery of oxygen to the cells. Like haemoglobin, it has a strong pigment, deep, rich green instead of ruby red.
Calcium, iron, magnesium phosphorus and potassium are all packed into this juice, as well as amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Antioxidants, and enzymes abound, as well as Vitamins A B C E and K.
As if that wasn’t fantastic enough, it might be wheat, but there’s NO GLUTEN!
An agricultural chemist called Charles Schnabel started the ball rolling in 1925 when he had the idea of feeding the freshly cut grass to his ailing hens. The hens not only recovered and thrived, but they began laying more prolifically than ever! In fact, found that hens whose diets were regularly boosted with the grass actually produced twice as many eggs as hens on a normal diet. Schnabel dried and powdered the grass, and fed it to his human friends as well as his feathered ones. He managed to gain investment for research and development and his powdered wheat grass, mixed with the powdered grass from other cereal grains, went on sale to the American public in 1940 under the name Cerophyl. CerophyI was prescribed by doctors to treat a wide variety of conditions, but was especially favoured for disorders and deficiencies of the blood.
 Why juice instead of eating the grass?
The simple answer is that, the same as any vegetable juice you drink, its much easier (and actually more efficient given our modern dentition) to leave the extraction of liquid nutrient from plant cellulose and fibre to a machine rather than munching your way through the vegetable or grass itself.
This isn’t to say that we don’t need to eat our raw vegetables and fruits in addition to drinking them, for the fibre they contain, but drinking the juice of vegetables, and of wheat grass ensures that all the nutrients contained therein are readily available in their freshest state for immediate and easy absorption by the body.
Either way, its good to consume wheat grass, but why?
A quick glance above at the by no means exhaustive list of nutrients contained in the grass should give you the clue. Not only is it really good for you but it makes you feel good too. Any food that contains all that goodness is going to boost energy levels and make you feel really good, especially when your body doesn’t have to work on digesting a huge meal to get the same nutrients from a 50ml glass of juice.
The body becomes less hungry when it's well nourished, so consumed over time as part of a healthy diet it can help you to lose weight, as well as strengthening the immune system and improving the body's chances of overcoming some serious illnesses.
But don’t rely on hearsay or empirical evidence, lets look at what scientific studies make of it.
Just like so many other easily available, holistic, cheap ‘home’ remedies, not a great deal of funding is available for research. Quite simply, pharmaceutical companies are the largest investors in medical and biological research, and there is not much incentive for them to prove that a very simple, home grown plant might be a very valuable support to the body’s own immunity and ability to fight the big threats to health today; cancer and heart disease.
Some small studies do exist, however, and they seem to support the actions of the physicians in the 1940s who favoured powdered wheat grass for a wide spectrum blood-related illnesses.
Specifically, a study in 2009 involving patients suffering myelodysplastic syndrome (a collection of symptoms and conditions arising from inefficient stem cells in the bone marrow resulting in poor and reduced manufacture of blood cells) found that they were able to go longer between blood transfusions when taking a small amount of wheat grass juice daily. There were similar findings for children with thalassemia (a type of anaemia which is inherited) A pilot study showed that half the children studied had a reduced need for transfusions after taking just 100ml of wheat grass juice per day.
Another pilot study found that breast cancer patients who drank wheat grass juice needed less blood and bone marrow-building medications during chemotherapy.
Another small study conducted in 2002 found that wheat grass helped ulcerative colitis patients to experience less pain, diarrhoea, and rectal bleeding.
An August 2005 study showed that increased chlorophyll in the diet reduces bowel cancer risk, and it has also been shown that wheat grass juice is toxic, in the test tube at least, to human acute promyelocystic leukaemia cells.
Any unwanted effects or cautions?
The side effects of consuming this juice seem to be limited to those who have an allergy to wheat, and they should avoid drinking wheat grass juice. This is NOT to be confused with an allergy to or intolerance of gluten, which is only present in the grain, or seed, from which the grass grows.
Some people might experience a mild allergic reaction to the mould which commonly affects home-grown trays of grass, but this is easily avoided by planting less seed in the tray, watering from a tray underneath, placing in a well-ventilated spot therefore allowing good air circulation around your crop, and washing the grass thoroughly before juicing.
There is a school of thought that as the grass is grown in soil (although it doesn’t have to be) and consumed raw, it is vulnerable to bacterial and other infections, so should not be consumed by pregnant or breast feeding mothers.
Enjoy your wheat grass
If you are taking wheat grass as part of a programme of detoxification, don’t forget that as the body rids itself of toxins you can experience all sorts of mild symptoms ranging from tiredness, to headaches and nausea. Be patient, and let your body adjust, you won’t look back!
Did I mention that it tastes…um…interesting? No? How remiss of me. Well the flavour is quite strong, and different, so you might like to consider taking it alongside or with a sweet juice drink to disguise its strong flavour until you get used to it!  I've written about juicing here, and there's and entire category devoted to juice recipes on this blog. You only need a shot glass size amount (50ml) every day, so that isn’t too onerous a way to intake all that lovely green goodness.
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