Thalassemia in childhood (#1)

From: The Straits Times February 18, 2004

India develops wheatgrass treatment for thalassemia

CHANDIGARH (India) – A medical research institute in India has developed a technique using wheatgrass juice to treat patients suffering from the painful blood disease thalassaemia, a doctor said on Thursday.

‘Three years ago we came across a thalassaemic child whose transfusion requirement was on the decline,’ said Dr R.K. Marwaha, head of the haematology-oncology division of the Institute of Medicine and Research.
‘We were surprised and asked his parents about his diet and found he was drinking wheat grass juice every day. We decided to start therapy trials.’

He said the trials are being conducted on 16 children by orally administering them 100ml of the juice every day.

‘The result is a great success.┬áThe frequency of blood transfusion from once in a fortnight has gone down to once in three months and the blood requirement of 50 per cent of the children has decreased by 25 per cent.’
‘Their haemoglobin count has also remained above the normal mark,’ Dr Marwaha said. — AFP

Thalassemia major, which is what these children are suffering from, is a relatively common hereditary disorder, particularly in people of Mediterranean, African and South-East Asian ancestry. It is caused by defective hemoglobin synthesis which leads to severe anemia and numerous other symptoms and the need for frequent blood transfusions. It appears that Professor Marwaha has made an important medical breakthrough. Also, being a pediatrician, oncologist and hematologist, he may well expand his research into other areas where patients may benefit from this simple but frequently effective therapy. I have been in touch with his office in Bombay to let him know of my own interest in wheatgrass and that I may have something to contribute. Having to take 100ml of wheatgrass juice daily must have been quite an ordeal for some of those ill children. Although I am not sure, I have a feeling the wheatgrass extract I use, could achieve a similar result – and a much smaller amount only would, I believe, suffice.

The question arises of course as to how and why the wheatgrass helped these children with an hereditary disorder. I have seen (some) severely asthmatic children dispense with their nebulisers and steroids within a few days of commencing wheatgrass extract. This is supported to some extent by clinical trials that showed improvement in a significant number of asthmatic children taking a rye extract.

Dr.Chris Reynolds.