My sister had some questions for me about herbal supplements and the benefits vs. cons of them. Are they really worth the money? Will they really benefit me? Here is my low down on three of the new “superfoods.” Disclaimer: I always recommend that if you are on multiple prescription medications that you consult with your MD and/or pharmacist before taking any herbal/dietary supplements, a lot of these products have negative interactions with prescription drugs that could be fatal to your health or cause your medication to not work properly.
Wheatgrass: From the research that I have reviewed it shows that wheatgrass does contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to general health, for example, wheatgrass contains – vitamins C, E and K, niacin, biotin, choline, lutein, copper, folic acid, and calcium as well as small amounts of fiber. There are tons of research articles about wheatgrass possibly helping with fighting cancer especially during chemotherapy or other cancer treatment or even preventing your risk of cancer, but none of those studies have conclusive evidence to show a direct link or correlation. It seems like if you are getting enough fruits and vegetables daily, especially green leafy vegetables that contain chlorophyll (which is a plant pigment with proven health benefits and aids the body in normal metabolic processes) you won’t necessarily be getting any benefit from the wheatgrass supplements. Key point – if you are already eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, adding the wheatgrass shot might be pointless due to your body already being trained to excrete extra vitamins/minerals that it already has enough of. If you already have enough of these vitamins and minerals in your diet then I would recommend avoiding the wheatgrass so your kidneys don’t have to go through excess work to filter and excrete the unneeded vitamins and minerals.
Other quotes that I read when reviewing RD blogs that discuss wheatgrass- “Although there is a lack of evidence, wheat grass may be beneficial in treating fatigue, aging and circulation disorders. It may also improve energy, boost the immune system and detoxify the liver.“ Additional uses include the treatment of arthritis, allergies, cancer and diabetes, although there is no indication that the herb produces any beneficial effects in treating these conditions. “Wheat grass juice has a very strong and well, grassy taste. The herb is generally safe, but it may cause side effects in some, including headache, nausea and throat swelling. Do not consume wheatgrass if you have a grass allergy or a wheat allergy, and do not take the herb if you are pregnant or nursing.”
Maca Root: Adaptogenic root vegetable grown in Peru, known for its claim to help with balancing hormones and increasing libido. I personally used this powder by adding it to smoothies to help with normalizing my hormones when I was having issues with irregular periods but no changes were seen or could be attributed to the addition of maca root in my diet. Can I also add that it tastes/smells TERRIBLE (to me at least), some people claim that it adds a nice nutty flavor to some recipes. Studies claim that maca root can help with other things like energy, anemia, stamina, and fertility but further research needs to be done to prove these claims. Maca root is considered a “superfood” due to its high mineral and vitamin content. I did do some research on drug/medication interacts for maca root and I saw quite a few disclaimers for interactions between blood clotting medications and maca root but I believe that may only occur if maca root is taken in dosages greater than recommended or in excess amounts. As long as you are only adding small amounts of maca root to your diet I don’t believe you should have any side effects or issues, that being said, is it worth the money and will you see benefits from it? I can’t tell you an absolute yes but you can always try it!
Spirulina: And our third “superfood” of the day is Spirulina! Considered a cyanobacteria/algae that is closely related to other sea vegetables like kelp. Like the above two superfoods, it is also chock-full of vitamins and minerals but an extra bonus is it is considered a high protein food. it’s 50 to 70 percent protein by weight and contains all of the essential amino acids which makes it a “complete” protein. It has been advertised and proven to be a wonderful addition in the diet of Vegans and Vegetarians due to its high protein content and high iron content, it can help with iron deficiency anemia and other blood health related issues including pernicious anemia. Other claims that are being made regarding this superfood are benefits related to immune boosting effects as well as anti-cancer and oxidative protection capabilities (due to its antioxidant content) which once again have not been completely proven but research is leaning towards it being a pro and not a con when added to the diet. I would definitely recommend this supplement to vegans and vegetarians but I would not recommend taking this supplement if you are on any type of immunocompromising/immune suppression drugs after running across a research article that discusses that spirulina interacts with medications that aid in immune suppression like these listed below.
- Adalimumab (Humira)
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
- Cyclosporine (Neoral)
- Etanercept (Enbrel)
- Infliximab (Remicade)
- Leflunomide (Arava)
- Mycophenolate (CellCept)
Long story short, I wouldn’t add any of these supplements to your diet, I believe that you are probably getting enough of the minerals/vitamins from food sources which have a greater absorption capacity and bioavailability than pill/powder forms anyways. I would definitely steer clear of the spirulina though or discuss with a MD/pharmacist about the potential drug interactions before consuming.