Wheatgrass is a young plant of the genus Caroline, (especially Agropyron cristatum, a relative of wheat although some wheatgrass products are made from Triticum aestivum: common wheat). Fresh leaf buds of this plant can be pressed into juice or dried to a powder, both providing chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. The unprocessed plant contains fiber, which promotes colon health.
The consumption of wheatgrass in the occident began in the 1930s with the attempts of Charles F Schnabel to popularize the plant. Ann Wigmore continued to contribute to the popularization of wheatgrass in the 1940s. Believing that it contributed to the remission of her cancer, Wigmore wrote several books on the subject.
Template:Disputed The average dosage taken by consumers of wheatgrass is 3.5 grams (powder or tablets). Some also have a fresh squeezed 30ml shot once daily or for more therapeutic benefits a higher dose up to 2–4 oz taken 1-3 times per day on an empty stomach and before meals. For detoxification, some users may increase their intake to 3–4 times per day. It should be noted that consumers with a poor diet may experience nausea on high dosages of wheatgrass. Wheatgrass grown indoors does not have as many nutrients as wheatgrass grown outdoors under natural conditions. Fresh squeezed wheat grass juice is especially nutrient deficient because it is 95% water and only 5% dry matter, unlike the dehydrated forms.. Outdoor wheatgrass is only available for a few days each year from plants grown in regions renown for winter wheat, the "bread basket" regions of the US and Canada. Winter wheat requires more than 200 days of slow growth in cold temperatures to reach the peak nutritional content. Even after that long of time, the plant is only 7 to 10 inches high because it was allowed to grow during the cold winter months in climates like midwestern United States, which is natural to the plant. Compared to wheat grass grown outdoors in the proper climate, the leaves of tray-grown wheatgrass are very thin, pale and contain a much lower in nutritional content. Much higher nutritional benefit comes from wheatgrass grown under natural conditions and harvested at the one time of year when the nutritional value reaches its peak. Most people who seek such high nutritional content wheatgrass use dehydrated powders and tablets from reputable companies that grow the wheatgrass organically under natural conditions in an ideal climate such as the midwest of the United States and Canada. It is also important that the wheatgrass be harvested before the "jointing stage" which usually occurs for only a few days for winter wheat grown in breadbasket areas in the United States and Canada.
Proponents of wheatgrass use claims that regular ingestion of the plant can give more energy, alkalize the body, improve the digestive system, prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, cure constipation, detoxify heavy metals from the bloodstream, cleanse the liver, prevent hair loss and help to make menopause more manageable, and aiding in general well being.
"The claims [of wheatgrass proponents] include prevention of cancer, prevention of heart disease, prevention of diabetes, chelation or detoxification of heavy metals, cleansing, liver cleansing and prevention of hair loss and none of these claims have actually been substantiated in the scientific literature." ~ Dr Samir Samman
One of the most popular claims about wheatgrass, and one that is frequently made by both supporters and retailers, is that 1 serving of wheatgrass is as nutritionally valuable as a kilogram of green vegetables. This claim most likely originates from a statement commonly attributed to the "father of wheatgrass", Charles F. Schnabel, who is alleged to have said that "Fifteen pounds of wheatgrass is equivalent to 350 pounds of the choicest vegetables". Although it does seem to be quite an exaggerated statement, it was most probably coined due to Schnabel trying to express its unknown and seemingly miraculous health attributes.
Schnabel's research was with wheatgrass grown outdoors in Kansas. Schnabel's wheatgrass grew slowly through the cold of winter and was harvested at a very specific time in the early spring, which farmers refer to as the "jointing stage." It was then dehydrated and made into powders and tablets for human consumption. Schnabel's wheatgrass required 200 days of slow growth through the winter and early spring in Kansas to build those high nutritional levels. When wheatgrass is allowed to develop normally in its natural climate, a dense root structure combines with more than 200 days of sunlight to produce a plant with extremely high nutritional values. To use Schnabel's research to promote wheatgrass grown for ten days in a hot house is an obvious invalid comparison. Wheatgrass grown quickly and unnaturally in trays for ten days under artificial conditions contains considerably less nutrional content that wheatgrass grown outdoors in a climate like the midwestern United States and Canada, harvested at once-per-year jointing stage.
The nutritionally dense wheatgrass of the kind grown by Schnable is still available in tablet and powder form through natural food stores and online in the United States and most other countries. Seven tablets (3.5 grams) or a teaspoon of wheatgrass powder grown organically through the winter and harvested before the jointing state is equal in nutrition to a USDA serving of spinach or other dark green vegetables. Not all dehydrated wheatgrass is grown in accordance with Schnabel's research.
The chlorophyll molecule is structurally similar to hemoglobin, leading some to believe that wheatgrass helps blood flow, digestion and general detoxification of the body. Although no research exists that directly connects chlorophyll with blood building, many nutrients associated with dark green leafy vegetables have been shown to be important for healthy blood. It has been shown by comparative analysis that dehydrated wheatgras powder, if grown under natural conditions, has a much higher nutritional value than so-called "fresh juice" grown under unnatural hot-house conditions. Comparison: Artificial vs. Natural Ann Wigmore encouraged her students to dehydrate raw foods at low temperatures to preserve their nutrients. She inappropriately used the scientific findings of Schnable on dehydrated wheatgrass to support growing wheatgrass rapidly under artificial conditions.
In The Simpsons episode "When You Dish upon a Star", Homer invents a cocktail made of wheatgrass and vodka called a "lawnmower". Also appears in the episode "Make Room for Lisa" where Lisa is given a shot of wheatgrass juice by the owner of the New Age store who interprets Lisa's disgust at the taste as a sign of working taste buds.
Wheatgrass is referenced in Sex and the City when a character that Samantha is dating has 'funky tasting spunk.' Wheatgrass was referenced as a good way to change this.