How Green Foods Heal – Questions, answers, and observations
By David Sandoval
With the increased attention being given to alternative healing methods, natural remedies such as green foods (once only used by holistic practitioners and nutritionists) have come under the microscope of scientific double-blind validation. This intersection of herbology and science is not new. For years pharmaceutical researchers have scoured the forests, oceans, and mountains searching for some compound with promise in treating human suffering. In many cases, traditional remedies once inspired the medicines we take for granted; white willow bark, which became what we now call aspirin, is only one example.
Inspired by the work of Ann Wigmore, Charles Schnabel, and other green food pioneers who in their own way “proved” that green foods heal, modern studies are being funded by universities and government research institutes interested in food source phytochemicals that may help an ailing and aging population deal with an ever increasing list of ailments. Now doctors and government researchers are increasingly of the belief that green foods are potent disease preventors, and furthermore it is possible that sufficient daily consumption may provide a plethora of benefits ranging from improved digestion to cancer prevention!
Now I know that if you were to ask anyone who listens to the news, picks up a magazine, or reads a headline, they will tell you that they know that green foods are healthy. So with all of this agreement on their benefits, it seems that everyone would be rushing off to get their daily dose of healthy delicious healing green foods, correct?
Regrettably, the answer is no. In fact one survey showed that residents of San Francisco greatly exaggerated their estimated annual vegetable consumption. This is a sign that we want to eat more, we know we should eat more, but unfortunately I believe we still do not come close to eating enough. Why? Because while the general statement that ‘green foods heal’ is true, people have not connected specific green foods to specific benefits! That is why I wanted to present an overview of the variety of green foods available, their potential to heal, and the growing body of scientific evidence that may prove once and for all that green foods are the closest thing to a cure-all that exists in the world today.
WHAT ARE GREEN FOODS?
Green foods are those edible shoots, leaves, or cells of land and water plants that contain a natural green pigment called chlorophyll, the “blood of plants”. This vital element is not a vitamin, mineral, or even an antioxidant- no, it’s purpose is to perform photosynthesis; a complex series of biological transmutations that transforms sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, into ozone, oxygen, and the energy for plants to grow and be nourished. Green foods are without question the basis of life on earth as we know it and without them we could not exist. The fact that green foods contain chlorophyll is perhaps linked to their healing potential. One theory proposes that since chlorophyll “digests” light that it must somehow provide itself with natural protection from the damaging ultraviolet light and intense heat of the sun. We have learned that wherever you find green pigment in plants you also find blocking, suppressing, and repairing agents that humans can benefit from, including enzymes, antioxidants, and bioflavonoids.
So we need to ask, is there a correlation between the chlorophyll content of a food and it’s value to the body?
Many studies dating back as early as the late 1700’s and through today have shown something special about green foods and have given us clues as to the tremendous power of chlorophyll. It all started with a mouse, a candle, and a glass dome- plus one curious scientist named Joseph Priestly (inventor of soda pop and nitrous oxide). He found that a candle or mouse under a dome quickly used the available oxygen and “expired”.
The scientist observed that the inclusion of a single mint plant forestalled this, photosynthesis was discovered, and the rush to understand all things green was on! Since then thousands of useful bits of information has surfaced from researchers around the world.
Below you will find a list of 6 foods and their chlorophyll content by percentage, when you examine the evidence- the answer to the aforementioned question appears to be a resounding “yes.”
Foods and their typical chlorophyll content:
Iceberg lettuce 0.1%
Romaine lettuce 0.25%
One area of green foods research that has the most promise is cancer treatment and prevention. Since several studies show a direct correlation between the poor quality of one’s diet, exposure to environmental toxins, and the consumption of red meat as major risk factors for several types of cancer, scientists investigated whether certain green foods might somehow assist the body in dealing the underlying mechanism that leads to prostate, colon, and liver cancer, as well as malignant tumors. Several studies show that chlorophyll-rich foods may hold the answer to cancer prevention (Arbogast in ’95; Chernomorsky in ’99; Walker in ’05; Johan de Vogel ’05). 2
Below I have cited several of the potential benefits of consuming green foods along with compelling scientific evidence to support the claims.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
- dark leafy legume that can live to be over 100 years old and its roots can reach down to over 40 feet.
- found growing in hot arid regions and is often confused with grasses, but it is actually a legume.
- Typically used for horse and cattle food, it is also the source of liquid chlorophyll products. It has perhaps the highest chlorophyll content of all edible land plants.
- It has been suggested that alfalfa helps with the pain of arthritis and now researchers have identified an anti-inflammatory protein that may be responsible for this “herbal” remedy.
- Schnabel and Kohler, working for the USDA, proved that cattle deprived of alfalfa hay were far more likely to get sick and have reduced milk production. They also went on to show how guinea pigs fed a processed food diet performed poorly on all metabolic markers when compared to the control group fed a green diet of alfalfa and cereal grasses.2
Barley leaf juice (Hordeum vulgare)
- One of the few grains that resist crossbreeding and hybriding. Many heirloom strains still exist.
- It can grow in almost any region, even Antarctica, but dies not grow well in extremely hot temperatures. It is the most widely cultivated grain in Asia (where wheat is not used).
- Most early studies on barley greens were conducted by Japanese researcher Dr. Hagiwara, who believed that S.O.D. (Super Oxide Dismutase) and 2-0 GIU were important factors because of their ability to heal.
- It has been purported to help prevent or even treat damaged cells. Dr. Yasuo Hotta of UCSD has shown in-vitro studies that cells exposed to radiation equal to dozens of x-rays, reversed the damage done to its DNA after being bathed in an extract of green barley juice.
- The use of young tender barley leaf juice is also said to help with diabetes, energy levels and to keep organs healthy.3
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea Botrytis cymosa)
- Has been shown to contain tumor-suppressing compounds that protect against malignancies—these sulphur compounds can also be found in other cruciferous vegetables. One study showed sulforaphane as being effective at suppressing prostate cancer.4
- Most broccoli sold today is a highly selected and hybrid version with an emphasis on, or increasing the size of, the tender florets that are prized by restaurants and consumers. However, the influence of Asian culture has resurrected the use of original strains with long stalks and several smaller “heads.” Whichever you choose, broccoli florets are the most nutritious part of the broccoli and are prized for their phyto-chemical properties.
Spirulina (Spirulina platensis)
- Unique among sea plants; there are thousands of algae growing in the 70% of the Earth covered in water but perhaps none is more digestable or charged with beneficial phyto-nutrients.
- Spirulina has a glycogen cell wall that dissolves in gastric juices and contain both green and blue pigments, which process light through photosynthesis, allowing a wide spectrum of sunlight to be utilized.
- Adding spirulina to cultured immune system cells significantly increases the production of infection-fighting cytokines, according to immunologists at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center, Sacramento, Calif. Their findings, published in the fall issue of the Journal of Medicinal Foods, showed that oral administration of Spirulina greatly increased gamma interferon and interleukins 1 and 4.5
Chlorella (Chlorella pyrensoida)
- A two billion year old single- celled organism that replicates faster than nearly every plant species studied according to Bernard Jensen, Ph.D. (Jensen, Bernard, Ph.D. Chlorella: The Jewel of the Far East. Bernard Jensen International, Escondido, CA. 1992)
- Showing the extreme resilency of its’ genetic material, it’s evolution since Precambien times is miniscule.
- Chlorella has been shown to have a negative effect on cancer cells and tumor growth.
- Researchers in Japan have also discovered a ribonucleic acid in chlorella that actually regulates cell growth and may have anti-tumor potential.6
Sea kelp (Laminaria)
- contains carrageenan, which has shown anti-herpetic activity according to studies on HPV and AIDS.8
Wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum)
- The juice was shown to be effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis in studies done by Scandinavian researchers.9
- Green Kamut, a form of wheatgrass, is an ancient heirloom grain originated in the Fertile Crescent and was used in biblical times to make bread.
- Today it stands among a handful of cereal grains used to grow young grasses that are sold as powders in nutrition shops worldwide.
- One study from Rutgers University shows that Kamut grass juice powder contains significant staying power as an antioxidant. (Rutgers University, Center for Advanced Food Technology. Irvine Analytical- Lab Report #s: 30533-C, 30535-C, 30536-C, 30537-C. AAA Labs- Lab Report #s: A1620, A1621, A1622, A1623, A1624.)
- Some say that the grain was “rediscovered” after 2000 years after being stolen from an ancient crypt in Egypt by a scientist who then left the seeds with a shopkeeper in Europe who was then persuaded to sell them to a US airman prior to WWII. The US airman then sent them home to Montana to his father to grow. (Kamen, Betty, Ph.D. Kamut: An Ancient Food For A Healthy Future. Nutrition Encounter. 1995. 1-4)
Chlorophyll has the ability to bond to tumor tissue and occupy the receptor sites needed to attract food and attack cancer cells (Chernomorsky ’95, Sarkas ‘94). Yet another study shows that derivatives of chlorophyll have a cytotoxic and cytostatic affect to reduce tumor activity.10
According to the research papers we have reviewed, several mechanisms in green food act to positively block the damaging effects of our modern lifestyle. For example, a diet high in red meat but lacking green vegetables creates an increased risk of colon cancer. However, the colonocytes that grow as a result of the cytotoxicity were inhibited greatly when green foods were consumed in the same meal or general time line. In contrast to papers published by the Linus Pauling Institute, chlorophyll from plants affected this benefit while liquid chlorophyllin complex (a synthetic version) did not. 10 In general, green foods are also shown to inhibit the absorption of dioxins into the system that cause cancer, including those from red meat, in research done by de Vogal.2
Those noted here are only a few of the hundreds of studies and research papers that can be found in support of green foods as healing miracles of nature. There are many reasons why green foods heal. Many people believe that the true healing power of green foods is not due to any vitamin, mineral, or even chlorophyll, instead, one school of thought believes it is the amazing abundance of enzymes that living green foods and young tender leaves contain.
The Schnabel studies confirm that this “life force” within the plant is derived from its connection to the earth, plus the biological activity of living food. It is also proven that excessive heat or oxidation destroys the nutrient value of the plant. Other studies show how enzyme rich foods contribute to increased longevity and reduced risk of disease.
While many of the claims made about green foods still lack widespread acceptance, one sign that people are accepting these basic truths are the slow food, organic, and raw food movements gaining momentum worldwide.2 Experience has shown that our “gut feeling” about green foods has proven correct and the body of scientific evidence is only growing. I believe it is only a matter of time before green foods are seen as being just as vital as essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
- Organic By Nature, Inc. Laboratory Analysis 1999.
- deVogel J, et al, “Green vegetables, red meat and colon cancer: chlorophyll prevents the cytotoxic and hyperproliferative effects in rat colon,” Carcinogenesis 2005 Feb; 26(2): 387-93; 2005 “Natural Chlorophyll but Not Chlorophyllin Prevents Heme-Induced Cytotoxic and Hyperproliferative Effects in Rat Colon”. The American Journal for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 135:1995-2000, August 2005.
- Graham, W., Kohler, G. and Schnabel, C. 1940. “Grass As A Food: Vitamin Content”. Paper presented April 10, 1940, at the 99th meeting of The American Chemical Society.
- Fahey and Yuesheng Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. “Discovery of sulforaphane’s chemoprotective properties” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1992; Asai, A., M. Terasaki, and A. Nagao, An epoxide-furanoid rearrangement of spinach neoxanthin occurs in the gastrointestinal tract of mice and in vitro: formation and cytostatic activity of neochrome sterisomers. J Nutr, 2004. 134(9): 2237-43; Wang, L., et al., Targeting cell cycle machinery as a molecular mechanism of sulforaphane in prostate cancer prevention. Int J Oncol, 2004. 24(1): 187-92.; Walker M, Aronson KJ, King W, et al. Dietary Patterns and risk prostate cancer in Ontario, Canada. International Journal of Cancer, Sept. 10, 2005., 116: 592-598
- Hotta, Y. 1984. “Stimulation of DNA Repair-synthesis by P4-D I, One of the Novel Components of Barley Extracts.” Lecture given in Honolulu, Hawaii
- Tanaka K, Tomita Y, Tsuruta M, et al, “Oral administration of Chlorella vulgaris augments concomitant anti-tumor immunity,” Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol 1990;12(2):277-91
- William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor, pediatrics and immunology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Christopher Randolph, M.D., associate clinical professor, allergy and immunology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; Frank Edward Myers III, M.A., C.I.C., epidemiologist, Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego; November 2003 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
- Carrageenan Is a Potent Inhibitor of Papillomavirus Infection (PLoS Pathogens 2 (7): e69. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0020069); Carrageenan induces interleukin-8 production through distinct Bcl10 pathway in normal human colonic epithelial cells (Borthakur A. et al. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol (2007) 292:G829-G838).
- Ben-Arye E, et al, “Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis,” Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 2002;37(4):444-449.
- Ainge, G. McGhie, T. Color in Fruit of the Genus Actinidia: Carotenoid and Chlorophyll Compositions. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry., 50: 117-121, 2002; Arbogast, D., Bailey, G., Breinholt, V. Hendricks, J. and Pereira, C. Dietary Chlorophyllin Is a Potent Inhibitor of Aflatoxin B1 Hepatocarcinogenesis in Rainbow Trout. Cancer Research., 55: 57-62, 1995; Chernomorsky, S., Poretz, R., and Segelman, A. Effect of Dietary Chlorophyll Derivatives on mutagenesis and Tumor Cell Growth. Teratogenesis, Carcinogenesis, and Mutagenesis., 79: 313-322, 1999;Hortensteiner, S., Ougham, H., and Thomas, H. Ring in the new, Ring out the old. IGER Innovations., Taiz, L., and Zeigner, E. Plant Physiology. The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company Inc. Redwood City, CA. :179-218, 1991.; Jane Higdon, Ph.D., Linus Pauling Institute., Oregon State University., Copyright 2004-2008 Linus Pauling Institute.