Wheatgrass is the green, growing and processing plant that will eventually become a shaft of wheat, produce grain, die, and be harvested. It is a completely different animal when it is still in the grass stage. At only seven days, the wheatgrass is 6 to 9 inches tall and can be cut and juiced. The deep green juice is abundant with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll and vital life energy. It is intensely concentrated and benefits are seen with as little as one ounce a day.
Using grass poultices to heal wounds has been common in folk medicine for recorded centuries. And there is much anecdotal evidence. But many applications of "old wives' tales" have had little support from modern science. (No problem. We're all grown ups here.) That's not the case with wheatgrass. Its healthy properties have been the subject of much research.
In the 1950s, a lady named Ann Wigmore began to look at the healing properties of grasses. She remembered her mother using grasses to heal wounded soldiers in World War I. Wigmore contacted Dr. G.H. Earp-Thomas, an expert in grasses, plants and chlorophyll. Research and lab analysis showed wheatgrass to be the most vital and possessing a number of elements beneficial to human health. Wigmore founded the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston to further the work. Research by Dr. C. Schnabel found that wheatgrass was a valuable source of important nutrients. Schnabel wrote that 15 pounds of wheatgrass had more nutritional value than 350 pounds of fresh, whole vegetables.
Wigmore found her own experience was typical. Drinking fresh wheatgrass juice alleviated chronic gastro-intestinal problems for her and as a bonus, left her more energetic than ever. Proponents surmise that the mucopolysaccharides in wheatgrass help break up impacted intestinal debris and improve food absorption.
The main component in wheatgrass is chlorophyll. That alone would be enough to bring benefit. Presented in its holistic state, with appropriate enzymes and minerals, it is a powerful nutrient. Researcher Dr. Hans Fischer and his associates won the Nobel prize for their work investigating the properties of red blood cells. One of the key points of the research found that chlorophyll and hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding substance in red blood cells, (RBC) were nearly identical molecules.
Other researchers found that injections of chlorophyll caused an increase in hemoglobin levels and regeneration over 50% higher. When erythropoiesis, (the forming of red blood cells) is higher, oxygenation is higher and the system in general benefits in many ways.
Supporters of wheatgrass believe this research confirms what they already knew: drinking wheatgrass juice is good for you. In addition to the research that shows the increase in RBC, the high levels of enzymes in wheatgrass juice make it a powerful blood purifier. It clears and regenerates the liver, fights anemia and detoxifies the body. It stimulates body function and increases energy.
Because of its concentrated life force, most users suggest that one start with as little as an ounce and slowly increase from there. In addition to being available at juice bars and whole food restaurants, it is also available in tablet or powdered form. Wigmore, for one, suggests the whole food approach of grow it and "mow" it fresh. One shot (glass) and you'll know it.
Wigmore has published at least 2 books on the subject, The Wheatgrass Book, describing how to grow and juice it and The Hippocrates Diet and Health Plan. In addition, the Ann Wigmore Foundation in Boston shares information about wheatgrass use.