Wheatgrass and cancer: A Short Essay
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Wheatgrass is generally perceived to be a nutritional supplement. True, it is loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and numerous other vital elements. It is widely taken as a health drink - green, nourishing, good for you - which it definitely is. Many enjoy the taste, while others feel a pleasant "rush" immediately after ingesting the fresh juice. For those who can tolerate the taste and the smell (many cannot), just one daily shot will do them the world of good. But is it because of the nutritional value of wheatgrass, or the chlorophyll it contains? Most likely neither.
Wheatgrass is without doubt a powerful healing agent - both for the body as a whole, and when applied to the skin. This is nothing new. History tells us that the grasses in general have been known to have healing properties going back several thousand years. Ann Wigmore in the 70's cured many with terminal cancer and other chronic illnesses using freshly juiced wheatgrass.
In the US in the 1930's, this simple herb enjoyed a massive resurgence of interest and became widely used as a health supplement. Scientists also demonstrated its therapeutic value in post-operative wound healing, the treatment of burns and numerous other conditions. Almost invariably, these therapeutic properties were put down to the effects of chlorophyll. Folk were attracted to the deep, rich green colour of the freshly juiced grass and, due to what I believe was a scientific oversight, were led to believe that the natural pigment that created this greenness, chlorophyll, was the molecule most likely responsible.
Chlorophyll appeared in numerous products including toothpaste, nappies and chewing gum. Green caught on but the greenness was actually due to the addition of copper to a cereal grass extract, not to chlorophyll.
The Grass Juice Factor
In the late 1930's, an agricultural scientist, Dr. George Kohler and his colleagues discovered there was something quite unexplainable about the cereal grasses. They had been comprehensively analysed and many of the components attributed with physiological properties. For example, vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting and protein synthesis in plasma, kidneys and bone.
But, Kohler and his team discovered something more important - something they could not explain. They found that cereal grasses greatly enhanced fertility, growth and the general health of laboratory animals. This could not be explained by any of the known bioactive substances in the grass, and, although they were able to determine some of its physical properties, to this day, it remains unidentified. They called it the "Grass Juice Factor" (GJF).
This Factor is known to exist not only in cereal grasses - wheat, rye, oats, barley etc., - but in green peas, cabbage and many other plants. However, the highest concentrations (determined by observing growth and fertility rates in hens and guinea pigs) appeared to be in the cereal grasses. It is the GJF that I believe accounts for the quite amazing, broad-spectrum healing properties of wheatgrass including anti-cancer effects.
What then is this "Factor"? What molecule or molecules could be responsible for such a broad spectrum of biological activity? Anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, blood regeneration, topical pain relief, moderation of auto-immune conditions, anti-cancer effects and so on.
Since 1995, I have used a wheatgrass extract successfully in thousands of patients for treatment of numerous ailments from eczema to wound healing to burns and skin cancers. Over the years I have duplicated many of the clinical findings described in the substantial wheatgrass literature. There is no chlorophyll in the extract, but it still works. Contrary to popular opinion, it is highly likely that chlorophyll has no healing role in nature.
How Does Wheatgrass Work for cancer?
The available evidence and my own clinical observations suggest a mechanism quite different to any other proposed in the literature. It is known that the cereal grasses stimulate the production of growth hormone in laboratory animals. It is likely humans respond in the same way. (A hormone is a chemical substance produced in the body that regulates the activity of cells or organs.)
Growth hormone in turn stimulates the production of Growth Factors e.g. Insulin Growth Factor-1. These are also hormones which affect the development of every cell in the body. Responsible for growth in children, they also lead to regeneration of damaged tissues and organs throughout life. We know that wheatgrass heals wounds and burns quickly, stimulates production of blood elements, removes many skin cancers and displays a plethora of healing phenomena most likely via Growth Factors.
Above all, Growth Factors control, stimulate and maintain the body's immunological status .
There is no doubt that the immune system is of paramount importance in preventing the development of cancer and ridding the body of cancer cells. In other words, if the immune system is strong and robust, it is less likely that one will develop cancer, or the onset of cancer can be delayed. (See National Insitute of Health study below under "Prevention").
This does not mean that wheatgrass cures cancer, (although there have been many reports of successful "cures") but in conjunction with other more orthodox treatments, one would expect the possibility of a better outcome by taking it every day.
Wheatgrass in cancer Prevention and Treatment
What follows is a very brief summary of some of the numerous medical studies into the anti-cancer effects of the cereal grasses.
In 2001, the National Institute of Health in the United States funded a large double blind trial of 180 individuals in Quidong, China. (Egner. A. et. al.) This province has the highest incidence of liver cancer in the world that is most often caused by an aflatoxin, a type of fungus. Using modern assay techniques, researchers were able to demonstrate a doubling of the induction period (the time taken for the cancer to develop) from twenty to forty years in participants who took a daily dose of freshly juiced wheatgrass. Astonishing results indeed, but the medical community remains silent.
Benzo (a) pyrene is a highly carcinogenic substance. In one study (Peryt. B. et al. 1992) wheatgrass extract significantly reduced the production of benzo-pyrene metabolites in rats. In other words, cell mutation was reduced causing a reduction in the likelihood of cancer developing. So wheatgrass appears to be a natural cancer prophylactic.
In 1978 (Chiu-Nan-Lai et.al.) showed strong inhibition of carcinogenic substances "at a reasonably low level of (wheat sprout) extract which is non-toxic even at high levels while most known inhibitors are toxic at medium to high levels." Unsprouted, soaked wheat seed did not demonstrate any inhibitory activity.
In 2005, a rye extract was shown to strongly inhibit growth by 55 to 89 percent in five different cancer cell lines using as little as 0.1 to 1 percent. These results, even though determined in a laboratory, are truly amazing.
Dr. M. Badamchian of the George Washington University Medical Centre showed that barley grass extract directly inhibited growth of three different human prostate cancer cells. The extract also killed human breast and melanoma cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. Human prostate and melanoma cancers were later grafted on to mice that grew into tumours. These were "significantly reduced" by the barley extract. So it doesn't really matter which kind of cereal grass you use - wheatgrass, barley, rye - they're all pretty similar. The important thing is to take some every day, and make sure you hold it in your mouth for a minute to allow sublingual absorption of bioactives (Grass Juice Factor) directly into the bloodstream.
This is one area where I have had exposure to a considerable number of patients and users of wheatgrass. Most undergoing chemotherapy have sailed through their treatment, have not required hospital admission, and side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and mouth ulcers have been virtually non-existent. Some have lost their hair, others have not, but that can not be attributable to wheatgrass other than by blocking the immunosuppressant effects of chemotherapy. Likewise, one might also expect a lesser degree of bone marrow suppression by the cytotoxic or cell killing drugs that are employed in chemotherapy.
Some Personal Experiences
I have used wheatgrass successfully on many occasions for the treatment of skin cancers such as solar keratoses (sunspots) and basal cell carcinomas which are usually slow-growing, non-malignant cancers. However, they can erode surrounding and deep tissues including bone, which can create extremely difficult treatment challenges.
One case of a squamous cell carcinoma (cancer) springs to mind. This is a highly malignant cancer that, if not adequately eradicated, can spread to other body organs and tissues via the lymphatic and blood vessels.
The patient was a middle-aged truck driver who developed one of these cancers on his right ear, the one most exposed to the sun in right-hand-drive countries like Australia. He was under the care of a plastic surgeon, and a time had not yet been arranged to remove the remaining three quarters of the patient's ear. The other quarter had been eroded away by the cancer leaving a weeping, bleeding mess that was covered by a dressing.
I gave the patient some of my wheatgrass extract and instructed him to apply some to the ear every day. One week later, the bleeding and weeping had completely ceased, and the cancer had obviously regressed raising the patient's (and my) realistic hopes for a non-surgical cure. I asked that patient at his next visit to the surgeon to point out this quite basic observation, which the patient did. When I saw him again about a month later, his ear had been completely removed!
Dr. Chris Reynolds.