How Wheatgrass Works (and Chlorophyll Doesn’t)

Let's begin with chlorophyll

In the United States in the 1930s and 40s, wheatgrass was a leader in the world of "good health and wellbeing".

In those days it was widely thought that wheatgrass juices, extracts and powders promoted good health because of the "green chlorophyll" they contained.

It was also thought that because there was a similarity in biochemical structure between chlorophyll and hemoglobin, (they are actually substantially different - See Fig. 1.), one's good health might be sustained by taking wheatgrass juice regularly.

However, claims that the molecule was "similar" to hemoglobin and was therefore capable of transporting oxygen in the bloodstream were false.


Well, hemoglobin is a highly complex protein found in mammals such as humans. Chlorophyll on the other hand is a hydrocarbon found in plants, it's main function being to generate energy in plants for producing the oxygen we breath. (See Figure 1.)

chlorophyll oxygen-carrying myth

Fig. 1. Chlorophyll can only assist oxygen production inside a live, biologically active plant cell in the same way a mitochondrion can only produce energy inside a living human or animal cell. Therefore, damaging the plant cell e.g. by juicing, destroys chlorophyll's functionality. It is therefore unable to influence oxygen porduction, nor transport it in mammalian blood.

Commercial "Chlorophyllin" leads to further misconception surrounding chlorophyll

Further driving the myth that chlorophyll generates health benefits was the introduction of Chlorophyllin, a wheatgras-based commercial product that supposedly contained chlorophyll, and that was found to be highly effective for treating infected wounds, burns, and other injuries. Note that this was before the time of antibiotics; as such, the healing properties of Chlorophyllin gained considerable attention.

Interestingly, it was not because of chlorophyll that Chlorophyllin was effective in rapidly cleansing pus from infected wounds and accelerating their healing. Indeed, it was not even because of chlorophyll that Chlorophyllin was green. The product's green colour was due to the addition of a copper salt to the formulation during manufacture - a move approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

A surgeon (mistakenly) attributes healing to chlorophyll

In 1947, US Army surgeon, Lieutenant-Colonel Bowers, reported remarkable recovery of infected wounds through the use of Chlorophyllin. He mistakenly attributed the healing he observed to chlrophyll. His obervations included:

  1. Elimination of odour associated with infected wounds.
  2. Acceleration of tissue recovery when used as a dressing, particularly for burns.
  3. A drying effect in cases of abscesses, sinus tracts, surface wounds and bone infection, all of which continue to challenge surgeons.

Bowers also reported faster healing of anal fistulasCrohn's diseaseulcerative colitisbedsoresbone fractures and gunshot wounds (the majority of his patients were injured in battle). Even legs were saved from "inevitable amputation" thought (incorrectly) to be due to chlorophyll.

But if it's not chlorophyll that facilitates healing, how does wheatgrass heal?

Chlorophyll does not transport oxygen in circulating blood

For 80 years or more, chlorophyll has been attributed with not only imbuing humans with good health, but also transporting oxygen in circulating blood, as hemoglobin does.

But, neither claim is true because:

  1. Chlorophyll is a complex hydrocarbon molecule that exists inside chloroplasts in the cells of plants, but not in human cells. (Fig. 1) It's only, (but extremely important} function, is to accelerate oxygen generation by plants which then enables us all to breathe. Once a plant leaf (e.g. wheatgrass) is picked, chloroplast function ceases.
  2. Hemoglobin is a complex protein molecule that is responsible for transporting oxygen in the bloodstream of all mammals - including humans.

How Wheatgrass Heals

Since 1995, I have used wheatgrass extract in my medical practice to successfully treat many thousands of patients for a remarkably broad spectrum of medical conditions and injuries, some of which can be viewed on this site.

The way wheatgrass works in healing so many different illnesses and injuries is still not entirely clear, but an important clue comes form tests that were performed by Rhone Poulenc Laboratories in Paris, France in 1990. During these tests, it was discovered that numerous ligands exist in wheatgrass extract - ligands that appear to have a strong influence on gene expression (i.e. on cell DNA).

For instance, one ligand test resulted in 98 percent inhibition of cellular extpression of Substance P, the main neurotransmitter for pain in humans. This degree of inhibition is significant and could explain why wheatgrass extract, when applied to a wound or injury, is so often effective and prompt in relieveing pain.

More than 20 ligands were detected in a sample of wheatgrass extract. They all influenced gene expression via cell receptors to varying degrees.

Figure 2, (Steps 1 to 5) demonstrate the basics of how this "reporting to the brain" process possibly works and how the brain might respond by instigating repair of damaged tissues such as blood vessels, nerves, skin, glandular cells etc. at the injury site.


How wheatgrass influences the healing process
Fig. 2. How wheatgrass bioactives might initiate the healing process of wounds, skin conditions etc.

So, if wheatgrass extract is applied over a skin burn soon after the incident, pain can be significantly reduced or even eliminated. (View example). This suggests that the Substance P pain transmitter has been blocked, preventing pain sensation reaching the brain. The blockage most likely occurs where the sensory nerve enters the spinal chord via so-called ligand-gated ion channels. (Wikipedia). For examples, see Burns.

I have often observed almost immediate pain relief of second-degree burns after applying wheatgrass extract. Also, wounds heal quicker, inflammation is reduced and infection prevented or eliminated.

Since 1995, I have observed numerous "normalising" events by wheatgrass extract. The most dramatic example was a hemiplegic patient who had suffered stroke 7 years earlier. In this video you can actually see the patient's foot (hand and shoulder also) movement recover from being able to only walk on the side of his foot to the flat of his foot a few minutes after the application of wheatgrass extract. As no other therapeutic method was used at the time, wheatgrass extract must have re-established connection between the periphery and the relevant part of the patient's brain.

The Cases & Conditions page provides more examples of what appears to be wheatgrass extract's ability to "notify" the brain of "abnormalities" elsewhere in the body.

Dr. Chris Reynolds.

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