Leg (venous) ulcers are very common and increasing as the aged population increases.
For instance, they affect approximately 1% of Australians. They can often be very difficult to heal and many never do.
There are a number of underlying causes of leg ulcers such as diabetes, poor circulation, varicose veins, trauma etc. The treatment of these ulcers varies from one doctor, hospital and nurse to another. Yet the huge and ever-growing global ulcer-healing ïndustry is yet to find a simple, effective and economical way to heal them. The cost to patients for dressings, domiciliary and hospital care etc. is unnecessarily excessive.
These patients often suffer pain as well as the unsightliness of wet dressings and malodour due to bacterial wound infection which can be embarrassing for them. Due to the generally slow-healing nature of ulcers, many patients often feel helpless and depressed, aggravating their plight even further.
But, there is hope.
In the 1930's, cereal grass extracts, including wheatgrass, were found to hasten the healing of skin ulcers, and, in 1995, I discovered how effective wheatgrass can actually be in helping to heal these wounds.
Here are two examples:
Case No. 1.
The skin of this 82 year old man’s lower legs had been breaking down for 6 months. As the skin thins with ageing, often a minor injury causes exudate (tissue fluid) to find its way through to the surface of the skin. This opens a small wound that can then develop into a venous ulcer. The skin scales and scabs form over the broken areas. If this process isn’t halted, ulcers can coalesce and deepen. This patient was well aware of the potential for further deterioration.
I explained how wheatgrass could work for him by helping to restore blood circulation to the area. This in turn would create new skin cells which can heal the several small ulcers that were present, strengthening the skin. He applied the wheatgrass extract twice weekly (experience since has shown that once every one or two weeks is ample), and kept the area covered with a dry dressing.
The photographs show that in just 9 days there has been significant improvement. The scale and overlying scabs have almost disappeared and the ulcerated areas have healed. The skin is smoother and regaining its natural strength and texture.
Case No. 2.
This is an inflamed, very painful ulcer over the shin in an 80 year old man who had been taking corticosteroid medication (prednisolone) for emphysema for nearly 8 years. One of the adverse side effects of steroids is atrophy or thinning of the skin. These patients bleed and bruise easily and the immune suppression caused by steroids can predispose wounds to infection and significantly inhibit the wound healing process.
This ulcer, caused by a minor injury, had been present for 5 months and was clearly not improving. By applying the wheatgrass spray, (twice weekly), in 13 weeks, the ulcer has healed completely. No antibiotics were required and the patient’s pain disappeared after the first month of treatment.
Note: Considerable experience since writing this presentation nearly 20 years ago, has shown me that "less is best" when using wheatgrass for treating leg (and other) ulcers. One application or less per week is preferable for healing to occur.
Which wheatgrass formulation should I use for leg ulcers?
Because the Skin Recovery Spray (Dr Wheatgrass brand) contains the least number of ingredients there is little chance of an allergic reaction which is rare anyway when using wheatgrass. Also, creams tend to block the passage of bioactives in wheatgrass through the skin which may slow the healing process. It is also advisable to avoid all other skin preparations such as moisturisers, petroleum jelly, soap, zinc oxide etc. Use boiled water to cleanse the wound.
In most cases, we are dealing with very fragile skin, so it is best to hasten slowly. Therefore, apply just a little spray AROUND the ulcer(s) (it doesn’t matter if the wound is sprayed as well) once a week only - or less – and persevere.
The reason for this is that the microcirculation on the floor of the ulcer usually recovers quite quickly due to restoration of blood circulation by wheatgrass. New granulation tissue (connective tissue cells and tiny blood vessels etc.) then forms during the healing process. If one overtreats, this can lead to an increase in exudate (fluid containing protein and cellular debris) that can break down the surrounding skin, particularly if the skin is thin which is often the case. Always bear in mind that when using wheatgrass, "less is best".
If healing stagnates or exudate (fluid) increases, stop wheatgrass altogether for a month. By then the exudate should have subsided, so you can revert to the once weekly application.
Concurrently, the skin surrounding the ulcer(s) tends to strengthen within several weeks which helps prevent skin damage from adhesive dressings, tape etc. and further degeneration of the ulcer edges.
Responses can vary considerably, so a watchful and careful eye is needed. When in doubt, stop the wheatgrass for a month, then re-commence treatment. This process can be readily achieved by non-medically trained individuals at home, but regular check-ups by the patients doctor are essential.
Prevention is better than cure
Although wheatgrass can facilitate leg ulcer healing, it is much better to prevent ulcers forming in the first place. This can be achieved simply by applying just a small amount of wheatgrass once weekly to the vulnerable shin/ankle areas.
Dr. Chris Reynolds.