Walk into any health food shop and you will find an array of greens supplements to choose from. Some products have a plethora of ingredients claiming to keep you healthy and young but do we really need all those ingredients?
Why not take it back to basics with one of the 2 super grasses that have withstood the test of time. The super grasses I am referring to are Wheat Grass and Barley Grass of course. So let’s take a closer look at what these two super greens have to offer you.
What is Wheat Grass?
Wheat Grass is a complete food grown from sprouted wheat berries - the seed or kernel of the common wheat plant. It is a member of the cereal grass family, which also includes barely grass, oat grass and rye grass. Wheat Grass is harvested when the grass is at its nutritional peak and has an extremely high concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, living enzymes, chlorophyll and phytonutrients that can’t be found in the mature wheat plant. At this dark green leafy stage of growth, Wheat Grass looks similar to common lawn grass.
Why do people rave about Wheat Grass?
Wheat Grass is one of the richest sources of chlorophyll out there. Chlorophyll provides oxygen to your white blood cells and as a result, boosts your immune system. Wheat Grass also contains all minerals known, and is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin A, C, D, K, and B-Complex. Last but not least, it is extremely rich in protein, and contains 17 amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and all this from a humble grass, not bad.
What can wheat grass be used for?
• Improving digestion and decreasing constipation due to the enzyme content
• Removing toxic heavy metals like cadmium, nicotine, strontium and mercury from your body
• Increasing red blood-cell count and reducing blood pressure by dilating blood vessels
• Keeping you feeling fuller for longer after meals and between snacks
• Helping to regulate blood sugar levels
• Improving energy levels during the day and helping to ensure a restful night’s sleep
• Is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory
• Detoxifying your body and purifying the liver
• Improving blood circulation
• Helping to reduce incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
• Is soothing and healing for cuts, burns, scrapes, rashes, poison ivy, athlete’s foot, insect bites, boils, sores, open ulcers and so on. Use as a poultice and replace every two to four hours
• Reducing itchiness when applied directly to the skin
• It can also improve arthritis when used as a poultice and place on the affected area
Promising research for the use of Wheat Grass in ulcerative colitis
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study has been done to scientifically prove the effectiveness of Wheat Grass juice in ulcerative colitis. The April 2002 issue of Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology reports that patients who were clinically diagnosed with active distal ulcerative colitis were given either 100cc Wheat Grass juice or a placebo for a month.
Participants kept a diary, while clinicians examined the patients for any changes. Of the patients who fully completed the study, all of them showed a significant reduction in disease activity. Researchers surmised that this was due to the antioxidant properties contained in Wheat Grass juice. (1)
Preliminary research is underway using Wheat Grass to help prevent myelotoxicity in breast cancer patients. Myelotoxicity is bone marrow suppression, where the cells which are responsible for immunity, blood clotting, and delivering oxygen are decreased. Myelotoxicity is life-threatening condition and Wheat Grass is proving a potential benefit for preventing this condition. If this research proves positive Wheat Grass may prove beneficial in preventing myelotoxicity in other types of cancers too, exciting news indeed. (2)
How to take Wheat Grass
You could grow Wheat Grass and juice it fresh every day but this is not necessary as Wheat Grass can be found in powder, capsule or tablet form in your local health food shop. Personally I would recommend you choose a certified organic product and start on a low dose. If you have never taken a greens supplement before you may experience detox like symptoms in the first few days of taking the supplement so start slowly and build your dose up over a week. You can add Wheat Grass powder to smoothies or juices or simply take a tablet or capsule.
What is Barley Grass?
Barley Grass is the leaf of the barley plant. It is commonly referred to as barley green and has been described as the plant that contains the most prolific balanced supply of nutrients in a single source, that exist on earth/
The nutritional lowdown on Barley Grass
Barley Grass is renowned for its nutritional content. Did you know that Barley Grass is nearly a complete food?
Take a look as some of the nutrients Barley grass contains:(4)
• 20 amino acids, including the 8 essential ones for humans
• Vitamins A, B1, B2,B5 B6, B12, C, E, K and Biotin, Choline, Folic acid and Niacin
• The quality of Beta carotene twice the amount found in carrots
• Major minerals from Boron to Zinc, as well as 50 trace minerals
• Very high in Magnesium
• Sixteen identified enzymes all of which are recognised as being good for digestive health
Why people take Barley Grass
I love taking Barley Grass, apart from getting a nutritional boost it provides the main reason I take Barley Grass is to help alkalize my system. Out of all the greens, Barley Grass has the greatest ability to alkalise but more on that later. Barley Grass is a fabulous anti-oxidant, and will assist to reduce high cholesterol levels.
Other benefits include detoxification of pollutants, and boosting energy and immunity.So let explore some of the more noted uses of Barley Grass
Barley Grass is a fabulous alkalizer
Consuming Barley Grass has shown to balance the pH of the body. The average Western diet is fairly acidic especially when large quantities of processed foods are eaten.
Raised acidity in the body is linked to many diseases and general ill-health. Barley Grass is very alkalizing and useful for helping the cells in the body function optimally.
Barley Grass is a great anti-oxidant
Barley Grass acts as a free radical scavenger that also reduces inflammation and pain. Inflammation can be a big player in chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and the ageing process. (3)
Barley Grass for Cholesterol Reduction
Cholesterol lowering effects of Barley Grass has in part been attributed to the beta-sitosterol components. Beta-sitosterol is thought to act by inhibiting the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and accelerating its catabolism to bile acid.
Preliminary animal and clinical studies show that total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels were lowered. HDL (good) cholesterol levels were increased. More clinical studies are needed to be conclusive. (3)
Barley Grass may protect against cancer
Barley grass extracts protect human tissue cells against carcinogens. The mechanism of action is unknown but may be associated with the plant`s antioxidant activity or its chlorophyll content. It has been suggested that complexes may be formed between the carcinogen and the chlorophyll that may inactivate the carcinogen. In addition, antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase, found in high concentrations in green barley juice protect against radiation and free radicals. Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of barley grass for cancer-preventive properties. (3)
How to take Barley Grass
Barley Grass can be purchased from your local health food shop in either powder, capsule or tablet form. As with Wheat Grass if you haven’t taken green supplements before or it’s been a while since you have last taken it, start with a low dose and build up over a week. Personally, I like to add Barley Grass in powder form to my daily vegetable juice or smoothie.
Wheat Grass versus Barley Grass
There really isn’t a great deal of difference between Wheat Grass and Barley Grass. Nutritionally they are both loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and chlorophyll. I choose to take Barley Grass as it has the added benefit of alkalising. Whether you chose to add Wheat Grass or Barley Grass to your daily regime you are saturating your body with great nutrition whilst also helping ward off disease.
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1. Pubmed.gov. ‘Wheat Grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial,’ E. Ben-Arve, et al. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2002: 37(4): 444-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11989836
2. Pubmed.gov. ‘Wheat Grass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: a pilot study,’ G. Bar-Sela, et al. Nutrition and Cancer, 2007; 58(1): 43-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17571966
3. Dr. Gillian McKeith`s ‘Living Food for Health: 12 Natural Superfoods to Transform Your Health’; Gillian McKeith, M.D.; 2005
4. 4 Barley Grass. Review of natural products. Facts and comparisons 4.0 (online). 2005. Available from wolters kluwer health, Inc. accessed May 4 2014
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