Wheatgrass grows in the United States and Europe. Proponents of wheatgrass in the alternative medicine community claim that it has a number of health benefits, including antioxidant actions against free radicals, potentially harmful molecules that can destroy cellular DNA. No clinical studies have proven any benefit for wheatgrass in lowering cholesterol or treating hypertension in humans, although one animal study showed potential benefit in rabbits in lowering cholesterol.
Ann Wigmore brought wheatgrass to the attention of the American public in the 1960s. Wigmore's foundation, the Creative Health Institute, was sued several times for making unsubstantiated claims that wheatgrass could heal a number of diseases, including AIDS, before her death in 1998.
An animal study conducted by the Sharma University of Health Sciences in India published in the May 2010 issue of "Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology" looked at the effects of wheatgrass on rabbit with induced hypercholesterolemia. Thirty rabbits were divided into three groups: one on a normal diet, one on a high-fat diet and one on a high-fat diet with wheatgrass. The group receiving wheatgrass with the high-fat diet had reduced total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol. Human studies have not been done to show whether this benefit would extend to people.
Although wheatgrass has few proven benefits, it does have known risks. Because the grass is consumed raw, it can be contaminated with molds, bacteria and fungi. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take wheatgrass for this reason, the American Cancer Society advises. Nausea, headaches, hives, or throat swelling can occur shortly after digesting wheatgrass. These symptoms could occur as part of an allergic reaction, although wheatgrass advocates claims these reactions occur because wheatgrass is killing off toxins.
Do not substitute wheatgrass for prescribed medications to treat known health conditions such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Since no clinical proof exists for its effectiveness, you could develop worsening disease if you take wheatgrass instead to medications proven to work. Talk with your doctor before adding wheatgrass to your medication regimen if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure or any other health problems.
- American Cancer Society; Wheatgrass; November 2008
- National Council Against Health Fraud: Wheatgrass Therapy
- "Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology"; Antioxidant Effect of Triticum Aestivium (Wheat Grass) in High-Fat Diet-Induced Oxidative Stress in Rabbits; J. Sethy, et al.; May 2010
- City Farmer; Wheatgrass and Mold; 2008
- Columbia University; Is Wheatgrass As Groovy As They Say It Is?; December 2006