In the United States in the 1930s and 40s, wheatgrass ruled the natural health world. In those days, “green” stood for “good health”. So, millions of North Americans began consuming “green” versions of wheatgrass – in juice, powders etc., assuming, incorrectly, they were consuming chlorophyll. Nonetheless, many enjoyed significant improvement in health and wellbeing.
Chlorophyll was attributed with many health benefits – from improved health and wound healing to improved oxygen levels in the blood. Why? Because someone asserted that hemoglobin (a protein) and chlorohphyll (a hydrocarbon) had similar biochemical structures. This was simply untrue.
At the time, a product derived from wheatgrass sprouts called “Chlorophyllin”, was introduced for human consumption, wound healing and various other injuries because it supposedly contained chlorophyll. But, chlorophyll oxidises rapidly after juicing, losing its ability to generate energy for plants. So it must have been something else in the product that rapidly healed infected wounds – long before antibiotics were discovered.
So, apart from being green (thanks to the addition of a copper salt to the mixture, approved at the time by the FDA), what was it that played such a crucial role in the rapid healing of severe, infected wounds, saving many lives?
Chlorophyll declared as “Therapeutic”
In 1947, US Army Lieutenant-Colonel Bowers reported extraordinary therapeutic outcomes by applying “chlorophyll” to infected wounds.
- Elimination of odour
- Activation 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 were injured in battle). Even legs were saved from “inevitable amputation” supposedly by chlorophyll. But this was a myth.
Having successfully treated numerous patients with a wheatgrass extract for more than 25 years, I can vouch for many of Bowers’ observations, but the healing he reported was not due to chlorophyll. There were other processes (unknown at the time) at work that repaired the damage. Bowers though, was clearly an astute and courageous surgeon, prepared to trust his observations and put wheatgrass to use on many of his patients. He 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.”
Although I can vouch for his clinical observations, modern science provides far deeper insights into how wheatgrass appears to affect its healing ability.
Chlorophyllin is not chlorophyll
In the mid-20th century, chlorophyll research was performed using the commercial product, “Chlorophyllin”. which is still available commercially. The contents of Chlorophyllin were (and remain so) green, but the colour is not due to chlorophyll. Because chlorophyll oxidises rapidly and turns black, a copper salt was added (with US FDA approval) to keep the mixture green.
Even the Linus Pauling Institute, that has researched chlorophyll for decades, seems confused about this issue. According to their website, “Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of water-soluble sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll.” (View article offsite).
Wheatgrass heals without chlorophyll
In 1996 I discovered that my wheatgrass extract did not contain chlorophyll, but there were numerous health benefits regardless.
Twenty-five years on, wheatgrass continues helping numerous patients worldwide. It is an excellent healing agent for many conditions and injuries and wheatgrass is easily grown.
To summarise, including greens in your diet for the “benefits” of chlorophyll is a futile exercise. Instead, eat them for their nutritional value.
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.
How wheatgrass (probably) heals
I have used a wheatgrass sprout extract successfully for easing pain and hastening rcovery of burns and many other injuries, skin conditions etc. since 1995.
But how can wheatgrass achieve such therapeutic results?
Laboratory tests (Rhone Poulenc Laboratories in France), have revealed numerous ligands in wheatgrass sprout extract.
These ligands are known to attach to a large variety of cell receptors located throughout the body – for example, in the skin. When the skin suffers a burn or other injury, pain receptors in the affected area send a signal, via a neurotransmitter called “Substance P”, to the central nervous system (CNS) i.e. to the brain. Subsequently, pain is felt at the site of injury.
However, if wheatgrass extract is applied over the burn site soon after the incident, (e.g. on the skin), Substance P transmission is blocked and pain is either not felt or significantly reduced. (View results of second-degree burns study). This suggests that the Substance P pain transmitter has been blocked, so that pain can not be transmitted to the brain and is therefore not felt or significantly reduced. (See Burns)
I have on many occasions observed patients relieved of pain soon after application of wheatgrass. Also, wounds heal quickly, inflammation is reduced and infection avoided. Clearly the extract is a natural healing agent, and there are many biological processes at work for it to be able to achieve such remarkable healing outcomes.
Dr. Chris Reynolds.