Is wheatgrass as groovy as they say it is?

Originally Published: January 24, 2003 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 1, 2006
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Dear Alice,

Is wheatgrass as good as it's claimed to be? I have headaches when I drink it. Why is that??? Thank you very much.

Dear Reader,

Wheatgrass, a relative of wheat, is grown mostly for hay or is planted for sheep, cattle, or horses to graze. Freshly sprouted leaves can be crushed to make wheatgrass juice or dried and made into tablets or capsules, often in combination with other herbs.

Supporters claim that wheatgrass is a good source of nutrients, provides antioxidant protection, supports of the immune system, and even reduces cholesterol. However, none of these claims have been scientifically proven. Only one small early study showed any benefit from wheatgrass (a reduction of symptoms in people with colitis, or inflammation of the colon). Wheatgrass juice may provide some vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals — but in miniscule amounts. In the lab, a few studies have shown antioxidant activity of some components of wheatgrass, but it's not certain if the results would hold up in humans.

Because wheatgrass is consumed raw, it can be contaminated with mold, bacteria, or other not-so-groovy substances, so it's important to wash it thoroughly. This contamination may be the cause of your headaches. If you wash the wheatgrass well, and it still makes your head pound, it might be a good idea to pass on the wheatgrass. People who show signs of an allergic reaction (e.g., hives or a swollen throat) should seek medical attention and avoid consuming wheatgrass again.

If you enjoy the taste of wheatgrass, and you're headache-free, then feel free to drink up. Wheatgrass isn't, however, a substitute for eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. There are other ways to get the nutrition you need. For more information, check out some of Alice's Q&As on Optimal Nutrition in the Fitness & Nutrition archive.

Alice