Orthodox wound management
In a moist environment exudate provides the cells involved in wound repair with nutrients, infection control and provides the best environment for healing. (1)
Exudate contains a high concentration of protein and cellular debris which helps prevent infection and facilitates wound healing. For instance, it contains growth factors without which no wound could heal and, if exudate is loaded with essential healing properties, why do we wash the wound clean every time we change dressings, and why should the wound be kept moist when it slows the the healing process?
Simply because exudate is sticky and adheres to dressings making them difficult to remove.
Healing wounds with wheatgrass
The orthodox approach to wound healing is rather mechanical in that keeping the wound moist is an old concept based mainly on clinical experience, the idea that “moist is good” and knowledge that cells grow faster in wet rather than dry environments.
If there was such a thing as an ideal wound-healing facilitator, it would need to be able to:
- Seal the wound surface to retain exudate
- Prevent dressings from adhering to the wound surface
- Prevent infection
- Reduce inflammation
- Hasten healing
- Prevent or reduce pain
- Reduce scarring
Since 1995 when I began using wheatgrass extract on wounds, I have achieved considerably faster healing rates without infection, compared with standard methods of wound healing. Not by keeping the wound moist, but by keeping it dry. Wheatgrass achieves this by “sealing” the wound surface which reduces exudate damage to surrounding skin and protects it from infection.
Wheatgrass may also stimulate production of growth factors for instance fibroblast growth factor (FGF) which causes epithelial cells to divide and help re-cover wound surfaces. Numerous other factors help to reduce inflammation and pain, prevent infection and reduce scarring, but if we wash these factors away with wet dressings, healing rates can be compromised.
How wheatgrass may facilitate the wound healing process
Since the 1930’s, wheatgrass (and other cereal grasses) were thought to contain “growth factors” long before they were “officially” described by scientists. (2) In those days growth factors stimulated macroscopic growth in laboratory animals that were capable of stimulating rapid re-epithelialisation of acute wounds and burns. (3, 6-10) Wheatgrass was also used for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Standard method of wound management (Fig. 1)
The dressing absorbs exudate and adheres to the wound surface. Removal of the dressing is often painful for the patient and time consuming because it requires intensive effort to remove it by soaking and bathing.
By comparison, removal of a wheatgrass-treated wound renders the wound surface dry and non-adherent, thereby simplifying and accelerating dressing changes.
Wheatgrass method of wound management (Fig. 2)
An important attribute of wheatgrass is its ability to generate a layer of new epithelial cells across an open wound (or burn) surface about 24-hours after application. Clinically, the wound surface is completely sealed off and prevents the exudate spreading over the surrounding skin, eroding it.
Recovery of the wound is undisturbed and the wound dressing is easily removed without disturbing the surface or slowing recovery.
Wheatgrass appears also to generate rapid re-vascularisation and re-epithelialisation and exudate is preserved, assisting the healing process. Also, the wound surface remains dry which facilitates pain-free dressing removal.
In summary, wheatgrass assists wound healing by:
- Allowing growth factor activity to remain undisturbed by frequent dressing changes.
- Protecting infection by sealing the wound surface.
- Rendering the wound dry and clean providing a “non-stick” surface that enables easy, painless removal of dressings required only every 2 or 3 days..
- Significantly reducing inflammation, pain and scarring.
Note: These healing phenomena can also be important for the treatment of burns because the “sealed” wound prevents fluid loss and infection and pain is often rapidly relieved (4)
How Does Wheatgrass Work?
This is not understood, but in the 1930’s cereal grass juice rapidly healed wounds and increased fertility rates up to 85% in laboratory animals, and another study (5) showed increased production of growth hormone in rats fed green barley (cereal) juice.
The following two cases demonstrate accelerated wound healing by wheatgrass.
Case No. 1 – Split lip, one year
This 20 y.o. male suffered from a very painful split lower lip for 12 months. Treatments included steroid creams, anti-fungals, antibiotics and emollient creams to no avail, yet the wound healed completely just 2 weeks after applying wheatgrass extract daily.
How could this chronic wound have healed so rapidly?
Case No. 2 – Slow healing skin graft
A 50 y.o. businessman suffered a deep dog bite to the lower leg. A split skin-graft was applied and orthodox wound management with antibiotic dressings commenced. 6 weeks later the graft had failed to “take”. Note the depressed, rough surface of the grafted skin, and the poor, irregularly contoured attachment to surrounding normal skin. The wound was cleaned, wheatgrass extract (4% solution) applied and covered with a light, non-stick dressing. (Melolin). The patient changed the dressing daily.
Two days later there is marked improvement. Note the dry surface over the yellow granulation areas where re-epithelialisation has already sealed the wound surface. The depressed areas have now filled in‚ the grafted skin is looking homogeneous and healthy and has blended seamlessly with the surrounding normal skin. (arrows) The dressing was easily removed with no adherence to the wound surface.
20 days after the first wheatgrass extract application, the wound has healed completely.
This series of photographs clearly shows tissue revitalisation and acceleration of the surface wound healing process.
In summary, wheatgrass extract is an effective, safe and economical wound-healing facilitator promoting:-
- Rapid healing.
- A dry, non-adherent surface.
- Ease of self-management.
- Minimal (if any) antibiotic requirement.
- Significant cost and time saving for the patient.
- Safety for use in children, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and in sensitive areas e.g. periorbital.
Dr. Chris Reynolds.
- Jones, V. & Harding, K. (2001) Moist wound healing . In D. L. Krasner et. al. (Eds.). Chronic wound care. A clinical source book for healthcare professionals. (3rd. ed.) (pp. 245-252). Wayne, PA. HMP Communications.)
- Kohler G, Elvehjem C, Hart E. Growth stimulating properties of grass juice Science. 1936. 445
- Gruskin B. Chlorophyll – its therapeutic place in acute and suppurative disease. Preliminary report of clinical use and rationale. Am. J. Surg. Jul 1940;49-55.
- Badamchian M, Spangelo B, Hagiwara Y, Hagiwara H, Ueyama H, Goldstein A. Alpha-tocopherol succinate but not alpha-tocopherol or other vitamin E analogs stimulates prolactin release from rat anterior pituitary cells in vitro. J. Nutr. Biochem. 1995;6:340-344.
- Hawton H. Chlorophyll: a preliminary report of its use in two cases of second and third degree burns. Med. J. Australia 1950; 337-340.
- Smith L, Livingston A. Chlorophyll. An experimental study of its water soluble derivatives in wound healing. Am. J. Surg. 1943. 62:358-369.
- Bowers W. Chlorophyll in wound healing and suppurative disease. Am. J. Surg. 1947;73:37-50.
- Brett D. Chlorophyllin — a healer? A hypothesis for its activity. Wounds. 2005;17(7):190-195
- Chernomorsky S, Segelman A. Review article: Biological activities of chlorophyll derivatives New Jersey Med. 1988;Vol85, 8:669-673.
- Lam C, Brush, B. Chlorophyll and wound healing. Experimental and clinical study. Am.J.Surg. 1950; 8:204-210.