In the United States in the 1930’s and 40’s, wheatgrass was “king” in the “natural health” world. Green represented “good health” so millions of Americans ingested wheatgrass juice, powders etc. in large quantities. Wheatgrass was even used as an enema to “cleanse” the body.
Marketing spin around wheatgrass was mainly about chlorophyll. Some thought it to be capable of almost anything – from carrying oxygen in the blood like hemoglobin to creating health and wellbeing. Some claimed that the two molecules even had similar structures even though hemoglobin is a complex protein and chlorophyll is a “simpler” hydrocarbon.
Chlorophyll was also reputed to “cleanse” the blood (whatever that may mean). Some even used wheatgrass as an enema to “help keep the colon healthy by destroying disease-causing bacteria.”
In fact, apart from being green and playing a key role in photosynthesis to produce oxygen, it appears chlorophyll has no influence on human physiology.
Chlorophyll declared as “Therapeutic”
In 1947, US Army Lieutenant-Colonel Bowers reported major therapeutic effects of chlorophyll such as cleansing wounds.
- Elimination of odour
- Stimulation of tissue recovery – when used as a dressing – particularly for burns
- A drying effect – in the case 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. (Most of his patients came from the military). In some cases, legs were saved from “inevitable amputation”.
The author was “convinced that chlorophyll is the best agent known for use in the treatment of suppurative diseases, indolent ulcers or wherever stimulation of tissue repair is desired.”
Instead of chlorophyll, think “gene expression”
But, I have found that my wheatgrass extract which does NOT contain chlorophyll, can heal numerous conditions such as burns, fractures, anal fistulas, bedsores, infected wounds and so on.
Modern science may one day provide some answers. For instance, laboratory studies show there are numerous bioactives in wheatgrass juice that bind to cell receptors then influence gene expression to produce bioactive proteins which are then released by the cell into surrounding tissue or plasma.
One such protein is Substance P, a ubiquitous molecule that accelerates transmission of pain sensation to the brain. Wheatgrass is a strong blocker of Substance P which probably explains wheatgrass’ ability to relieve pain of burns and other injuries – often rapidly i.e. in seconds or minutes.
Debunking the chlorophyll myth
Chlorophyll is a complex hydrocarbon molecule present in chloroplasts in plant leaves. (Fig. 1) If the chloroplast is damaged (for example, by juicing) it can no longer assist oxygen production. Chlorophyll is also difficult and expensive to synthesize, so that to produce a “real chlorophyll” product would cost a fortune. Figure 1. explains why it is not possible for chlorophyll to transport oxygen in human blood.
Chlorophyllin is not chlorophyll
In the mid-20th century, chlorophyll research was performed using a commercial product called “Chlorophyllin” which was “designed” for for cleansing infected wounds in hospital patients. Interestingly, the contents were (and still are because the product is still available) green. However, the colour is not due to chlorophyll. Because chlorophyll oxidises rapidly and turns black, a copper salt was added to keep the mixture green. At the time, this “amendment” was officially approved by the American Food and Drug Administration. Nowadays, it might be more difficult to obtain approval.
Even the Linus Pauling Institute that has researched chlorophyll for decades seems confused about this issue. Their website states: “Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of water-soluble sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll.” (View article offsite).
The sodium copper salts are additives, not chlorophyll derivatives.
In 1996 I first discovered that my wheatgrass extract did not contain chlorophyll. So wheatgrass doesn’t have to be green to be good for you. But you can certainly benefit from the numerous bioactives in wheatgrass juice!
Twenty five years on, wheatgrass is still helping thousands of patients worldwide, because it is an excellent healing agent for many conditions and injuries.
But, there’s no point in eating green to achieve the benefits of chlorophyll, because there are none.
Dr. Chris Reynolds.