The chlorophyll myth
In the United States in the 1930s and 40s, wheatgrass (the juice extracted from wheat sprouts before the wheat seed begins to form) helped improve the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans. At the time, because chlorophyll appeared to be similar in structure to hemoglobin (the carrier of oxygen in human blood), it was claimed to complement the work of hemoglobin. In fact, their biochemical structures differ significantly, as do their functions. In fact, chlorophyll is neither capable of transporting oxygen, nor can it provide any therapeutic benefit.
Also, hemoglobin is a complex protein found in mammalian blood, whereas chlorophyll is a hydrocarbon found in the leaves of plants - its main function being to generate the energy required to produce the oxygen we breath. (Figure 1.)
Fig. 1. Chlorophyll can only assist oxygen production inside a live, biologically active plant cell in the same way that a mitochondrion can only produce energy inside a live human or animal cell. Therefore, damaging the plant cell e.g. by juicing, destroys chlorophyll's biochemical functionality making it unable to influence oxygen production.
How a "greeen" commercial product helped spread the chlorophyll myth
An important factor that helped embed the myth that chlorophyll "heals", was a product called "Chlorophyllin", that contained wheatgrass juice. Found to be effective for treating infected wounds, a copper salt was added to the mix to colour it green as a marketing ploy. The product is still available.
In 1947, US Army surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel Bowers reported remarkable recovery of infected wounds by applying Chlorophyllin. Mistakenly attributing his results to chlorophyll. He noted:
- Elimination of odour from wound infection.
- Acceleration of tissue recovery when used as a dressing, particularly for burns.
- A drying effect in cases of abscesses, sinus tracts, surface wounds and bone infection.Bowers also reported faster healing of anal fistulas, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, bedsores, bone fractures and gunshot wounds.
Laboratory evidence adds to our understanding of wheatgrass healing
In 1987, Rhone Poulenc Laboratories in Paris discovered that wheatgrass extract contained numerous ligands - molecules that bind to various cell receptors throughout the body (e.g. in skin, blood vessels, muscles), which signal to the brain various sensations such as pain, heat, cold and pressure.
For instance, if you burn your hand on a hot surface, pain receptors "report" instantaneously the severity and the location of the burn to the brain which instantaneously tells your hand to withdraw. When wheatgrass extract is applied immediately after the burn, it can rapidly block the passage of Substance P reaching the brain so that pain is relieved or prevented.
But Substance P is only one ligand of approximately twenty that exist in wheatgrass extract. For instance, applying a little to the back or the neck can reduce fever, sometimes in a few minutes. This response could be due to influence on the hypothalamus, the area in the brain that controls body temperature.
Figure 2 shows how wheatgrass extract may relieve pain.
For example, Substance P ligands in the extract bind to pain receptors in the affected region which then produce proteins in the cytoplasm of the cells that "notify" the brain of the affected area. The brain then responds, not only to pain receptors, but others in the vicinity such as receptors controlling blood circulation. I have witnessed numerous, rapid, sometimes instantaneous episodes of pain relief as well as acclerated tissue repair, elimination of surface infection and other "healing" phenomena.
Given the vastly complex physiological mechanisms required to bring about such responses and recoveries, it appears that the numerous ligands in the extract instigate a broad range of feedback signals to the brain which then responds to assist tissue recovery. Clinical and laboratory evidence e.g. positive influence on fertililty hormones, also suggests that the hormonal-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) may be involved.
Also, I have observed almost immediate pain relief of second-degree burns after applying a little wheatgrass extract to the burn area. Also, the burns heal rapidly, infection-free, if the extract is applied soon after injury.
There are many other examples of accelerated wheatgrass healing on this website.
For instance, conditions such as hemorrhage and wound infection generally respond well to wheatgrass extract. Such responses to complex wounds suggest accelerated "signaling" of tissue malfunction or damage, directly to the hypothalamus in the brain. Numerous clinical observations suggest influence from the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal (HPA) axis which controls the body's numerous hormonal activities, is most likely involved. For instance, oral ingestion of the extract has helped many infertile women conceive.
In a word, wheatgrass extract appears to assist whole body repair as well as relieve pain, by functionally restoring damaged cell receptors throughout and on the body surface, re-connecting them with the central nervous system.
For instance, in this case of severe psoriasis.
Two weeks after wheatgrass extract application, (Fig. 3.) note the remarkable improvement to the skin after just two applications. The large areas of thick plaque have almost disappeared, revealing normal skin underneath. This suggests there has been a rapid "re-connection" between the psoriatically damaged skin area and the brain. Given the complexity of the psoriatic rash, and it's normal resistance to medical treatment, it appears that wheatgrass extract has instigated a remarkable skin recovery.
This case (like numerous others on this site) also suggests that the CAUSE of psoriasis could well be due to a breakdown of afferent nerves from the brain to the "affected" area. This suggestion is supported by a number of skin disorders, hemorrhage, pain, pruritus etc. that frequently and rapidly respond to the extract.
The list of examples below (and many more on this site) suggest the activity of a similar therapeutic process:
- Second degree burns
- Spider bite heals after 9 years
- Molluscum contagiosum
- Split lip for one year heals in one week