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Chlorophyll - Healer or Humbug?

What is chlorophyll?

We know it's a photosynthetic pigment that absorbs red and blue-violet light thereby reflecting green light so plants, including wheatgrass and other cereals can display their characteristic green colour. It is of course, very important in the process of photosynthesis, nature's way of producing the oxygen we breathe.

The fresh juice squeezed from wheatgrass has been called by some, "liquid sunlight". Since around 1940, this sunlight has been attributed with a plethora of healing powers and properties, many of which I can vouch for and have personally observed using my wheatgrass extract.

Take any book about wheatgrass or the cereal grasses (there are many), and chlorophyll invariably takes pride of place at the head of the healing team. One such book claims therapeutic effectiveness for sinusitis, osteomyelitis, pyorrhea, peritonitis, gastric ulcers, anemia, arteriosclerosis and depression. And then there is the oft quoted American Journal of Surgery (1940) article that recorded 1,200 cases ranging from deep internal infections such as brain abscess, peritonitis and skin disorders had been treated with chlorophyll and were 'discharged as cured'.

Ann Wigmore (1909-94), the lay healer who led the wheatgrass juicing craze back in the 70's, even resorted to using wheatgrass enemas as a means of cleansing the body and her followers pursue the same "treatment" to this day. She also claimed cures for almost everything including cancer. In 1988, the Massachusetts Attorney General sued her for claiming that her "energy enzyme soup" could cure AIDS. She had earlier received a rap over the knuckles for claiming that fresh wheatgrass juice could reduce or eliminate the need for insulin in diabetics, and could obviate the need for routine immunization in children.

However, this article shows that Ann Wigmore's "soup" may well have been a valid therapy or palliative for some types of cancer. To quote: "the presence of chlorophyll in the human diet has been shown to have beneficial effects, specifically because it is not absorbed. Experiments using Chlorophyllin (CHL), a solubilized form of chlorophyll, have demonstrated that chlorophyll can help to prevent liver and colon cancers by binding carcinogens commonly associated with these cancers and preventing their absorption by the intestines. So, eating foods containing a lot chlorophyll should be part of a healthy diet, but not because the chlorophyll somehow alleviates anemia. In that chlorophyll, although not absorbed through the gut wall, can prevent some carcinogens entering the systemic circulation." 

There has been substantial scientific research into wheatgrass and other cereal grasses since the 1930s. Most if not all them have been comprehensively analysed, and of all the numerous components detected, chlorophyll led the therapeutic field. The magic molecule was an overnight success, appearing in everything from toothpaste to toilet paper. It became widely known as a miracle healing agent, a phenomenon that seemed to the layman like green magic and from one molecule, a huge industry developed. Yet, as shown in the above article, and another by messrs W.R. Bidlack and M.S. Meskin in "Nutritional quackery: selling health misinformation," Calif Pharmacist 1989;36:(8):34+, chlorophyll is not absorbed! That is, not through the gut wall and, it follows, much less likely through the skin. It therefore can not be chlorophyll that brings about the healing processes I describe on my website. Besides, the wheatgrass extract I use contains barely detectable levels of chlorophyll, and that which remains would have very little if any therapeutic value.

So I firmly believe that chlorophyll has very little to do with healing. After all, how could wheatgrass extract be as effective as the dark green, chlorophyll-rich juice from wheatgrass sprouts? Well, based on numerous clinical observations, I can assure you it is every bit as effective. Why?

Well, I believe it is because of the grass juice factor. This appears to be a very resilient molecule or group of molecules that is known to exist in many green plants including wheatgrass. It is a powerful, effective healing agent that somehow stimulates the immune system both topically and systemically. In other words, whereas chlorophyll degenerates after juicing and is not absorbed, the grass juice factor is both absorbed and retains its stability for years. In other words, although it seems obvious to the chlorophyll healing proponents, I believe they have got it wrong for the following reason.

Grass juice factor without chlorophyll will work well as a healing agent. However, because the two substances are inseparable except by degradation of chlorophyll, it is not possible to have chlorophyll without the grass juice factor also being present. i.e. the factor is always there. Therefore it is the grass juice factor that does the healing.

I don't expect to receive a lot of support from the other side of the green fence for this concept. But does it matter? Not really. Wheatgrass works whatever anyone says about it!

Dr. Chris Reynolds. M.B.,B.S.

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