Injuries: Don’t use ice, use wheatgrass

How can wheatgrass be more effective than ice?

How often we see athletes pressing plastic bags full of crushed ice against pulled muscles, bruises and other injuries - unfortunately, to little or no avail.

Aware that there is a better way to hasten soft tissue injury recovery and ease pain, I wonder why ice is used at all. After all, it has no effect on bleeding, be it from the skin, the nose or from deeper tissues.

Research has shown that ice actually causes inflammation and swelling in the deeper tissues, slowing recovery. (1)

There also seems to be little agreement about how long ice should be applied. (2) In my opinion, it shouldn't be used at all.

Ice, ethyl chloride spray and other coolants may numb the skin and perhaps relieve pain a little, but they do little if anything to assist or hasten tissue recovery.

If these rather primitive methods do little, if anything, to stop bleeding into the tissues and accelerate recovery, why use them at all?

By comparison, wheatgrass extract DOES influence the stopping of deep and surface bleeding and hastens the healing process of soft (and hard) tissue.

Given the substantial amount of lost time due to many sports injuries, wheatgrass extract can significantly assist the recovery process.

The young man in the pictures below was kicked on the right forehead during a game of Australian football, leaving him with a large hematoma (bruise). Immediately after I applied a small amount of wheatgrass cream over the injury, he ran back on the field.

Large hematoma following kick by football boot. Wheatgrass extract applied immediately.
Large hematoma following kick by football boot. Wheatgrass extract applied immediately.
Swelling (hematoma) has disappeared 12 hours after injury.
Swelling (hematoma) has disappeared 12 hours after injury.

The swelling was originally very tense and blue, but when the photo on the right was taken two hours later, it had already softened and the dark purple-blue discoloration was no longer visible. When I re-examined him the next morning, the swelling had disappeared leaving only a reddish kick mark.

This rapid recovery was nothing new to the club’s trainer who had already discovered that healing rates for soft tissue injuries such as muscular and groin strains, abrasions, blisters etc. had increased by at least 30 percent compared with using ice.

But how could such a large, tense, hematoma (bruise) “disappear” overnight? It would normally take several days for the bruise to flatten, not to mention substantial bruising around the point of contact.

This incident taught me to use wheatgrass as a first-aid application not only for sports injuries, but for pre-and post-operative wound management. falls in the elderly, in fact any minor injuries.

Now, whenever I see ice being used to treat a soft tissue injury, I wince. Why? Because ice does not stop bleeding under the skin, from the nose or from deeper tissues. In fact, it SLOWS the healing process by reducing the blood flow to the injured area.

A study [ref link] by the Cleveland Clinic in the US demonstrated that ice slows the release of a key healing substance, Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF1). This factor, an important mediator of the effects of growth hormone which helps instigate tissue repair, actually slows the healing process. To summarise, because ice inhibits and slows repair of injured muscle and other tissues it should be avoided.

The same rule applies to the treatment of second degree burns where wheatgrass is by far the best way to achieve rapid recovery and pain relief. [See burns]

Armed with this information, famed American sports injury specialist, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who formulated the RICE acronym many years ago – (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) no longer recommends the “Ice” component!

Swelling, pain, bleeding etc. simply should not be treated with ice, and ethyl chloride spray and other coolants, although they may numb the skin and perhaps relieve pain a little, do nothing to assist or hasten soft tissue injury recovery.

Perhaps “something needs to be seen to be done” - but if icing SLOWS the healing process, why do it at all? Many cultures use warm water compresses successfully for treating injuries simply because this aids blood circulation and accelerates recovery.

Any kind of injury can cause tissue damage. Blood vessels rupture and blood spreads into surrounding tissues causing swelling and pain. Pressure build-up eventually reduces blood flow to muscle, nerve and other tissues which does not assist tissue recovery.

Speaking as a doctor previously involved in sporting injury treatment, I have no doubt that wheatgrass applied prior to and after any sporting activity will not only help reduce soft tissue injury, but also accelerate recovery.

How does it work?

I don’t know for sure, but it appears that bioactives, such as ligands, in the extract, bind to sensory cells that signal the presence of injury to the brain.  The brain then responds appropriately to stop bleeding, ease pain and repair the damage.

How else could a large hematoma disappear overnight?

I have found that the sooner wheatgrass extract is applied over the injured area, the sooner the deep and/or surface bleeding ceases and the skin and underlying tissue heals.

Bloody noses, open wounds, bruises, sprained ankles, cuts, scratches, abrasions and deep tissue injuries such as corked, torn or pulled muscles all respond to wheatgrass extract treatment.

Finally, a summary of 22 scientific articles found almost no evidence that ice and compression hastened healing over the use of compression alone, although ice plus exercise may marginally help to heal ankle sprains (The American Journal of Sports Medicine, January, 2004;32(1):251-261).

Wheatgrass can do a better job, faster.

Any kind of injury can cause tissue damage. Blood vessels rupture and blood spreads into surrounding tissues causing inflammation and swelling. Pressure build-up then slows muscle, nerve and other tissue recovery.

It is widely known that the most important thing to do for any injury is to stop the bleeding!

Blood in the tissues can do a lot of damage and significantly slow the healing process. The sooner wheatgrass is applied, the sooner the deep and surface bleeding stops, swelling is reduced and blood supply is restored, with rapid recovery the usual outcome.

Too good to be true? I can assure you it's not.

Having used a wheatgrass extract for the recovery of sports and other injuries since 1995, I have no doubt it is a powerful hemostatic agent i.e. it stops bleeding quickly.  Blood noses, open wounds, bruises, sprained ankles, cuts, scratches, abrasions and deep tissue injuries such as corked, torn or pulled muscles - respond quickly to wheatgrass.

But how does it work?

Wheatgrass is an impressive healing agent, and soft tissue injury healing is just one of its benefits.

It's ability to activate the processes required to heal wounds quickly, to stop bleeding and accelerate absorption of blood clot are just a few of the benefits vital to the maintenance and repair of damaged tissues.

The large head bruise shown above illustrates how effectively and rapidly wheatgrass can work.

Read how wheatgrass works.

Some injuries that have responded well to wheatgrass

  • Pulled muscles (hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, loins, back)
  • Groin injuries (osteitis pubis, adductor tendinitis)
  • Blisters, abrasions, wounds, bruises, corks - can heal in a few days, not weeks. Perfectly safe to use on open wounds.
  • Muscle cramps
  • Blood rule - wheatgrass can stop bleeding quickly.
  • Shin splints
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Runners knee
  • Sprained ankle

Reference:

MacAuley, D. Do textbooks agree on their advice on ice? Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 11(2):67-72, April 2001.

Dr. Chris Reynolds.

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