Wheatgrass powder is a product obtained from dehydrating the extracted juice of wheatgrass and sold as a dietary supplement. For some health enthusiasts, it is valued for its nutritional benefits since it contains high levels of beta-carotene, amino acids, B vitamins, and fiber. It is also reputed to possess antibacterial and restorative properties that help to detoxify the body.
Generally, wheatgrass refers to bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), a type of grass cultivated in a greenhouse or under artificial lighting indoors. In fact, many people who hope to regularly enjoy the health benefits of wheatgrass choose to sprout it at home. After seven to ten days, the grass is processed in a small appliance to extract the juice, which is consumed for specific therapeutic purposes. Wheatgrass tablets and wheatgrass powder, on the other hand, are made from grass that has been allowed to grow naturally in the field for three months or more before it is dehydrated and consumed as a nutritional supplement.
Wheatgrass powder is taken by mixing it with water to make a nutritional drink. It can also be added to other foods. In addition to the list of nutrients preserved in the dehydrated product, the primary driver behind the health-giving properties of the powder is believed to be the concentrated chlorophyll content. One claim is that this substance promotes a plethora of biological actions ranging from increasing hemoglobin production to improving fertility and preventing hair from turning gray. In fact, these and numerous other claims were promoted for more than 30 years by author and holistic health advocate, Ann Wigmore.
However, there is a great deal of debate over whether or not wheatgrass can deliver such benefits. First, as many skeptics point out, Dr. Wigmore is a Doctor of Divinity, not a medical doctor. In fact, she was court-ordered to refrain from representing herself as a medical professional after being sued twice by the Massachusetts Attorney General — once for claiming that wheatgrass could replace insulin for diabetics and again for promoting it as a cure for AIDS. In addition, there is little, if any, evidence in the medical literature to substantiate any of the health claims made for wheatgrass products at all. Most of the limited number of studies that do exist are small, inconclusive, and date back to the 1930s.
There are several claims that can be immediately discounted, though. For instance, this powder is touted for containing high levels of chlorophyll, a carbohydrate that provides sustenance for plants. However, since human beings lack chloroplasts, they simply cannot initiate photosynthesis to convert this substance into proteins and sugars. Since the human body can’t absorb chlorophyll, it’s unlikely that it has any detoxification value.
Another claim for the powder that can be discounted is that it is a rich source of vitamin B12. First, people can’t benefit nutritionally from eating this or any other grass in the same way that a cow can, for example, due to differences in digestion. Secondly, vitamin B12 does not occur naturally in wheatgrass, but results as a byproduct of metabolism from microorganisms that reside on the surface of the plant. In fact, this very scenario is why all plants are considered inadequate sources of available vitamin B12.
Setting controversy aside, there is no evidence to suggest that supplementing with wheatgrass powder is harmful. In fact, many people report that they experience improved digestion, clearer skin, and increased energy from consuming it. In addition, wheatgrass powder is, in fact, a valid and significant source of vitamin C and iron, although not necessarily more than many other raw plants and vegetables.