PEP Topic 

Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant, and it is a source of vitamins A, E, and B12 and minerals, such as calcium, selenium, iron, and magnesium. Topical use of wheatgrass extract was examined for its effect on radiodermatitis. Wheatgrass extract appears to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Effectiveness Not Established

Research Evidence Summaries

Wheat, J., Currie, G., & Coulter, K. (2007). Management of acute radiation skin toxicity with wheatgrass extract in breast radiation therapy: pilot study. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, 19, 77–80.


Study Purpose:

To examine the potential benefits of wheatgrass extract in reducing severity and delaying the onset of acute radiation skin toxicity in breast irradiation.

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:

  • Agents:  wheatgrass extract (experimental) and sorbolene cream (control). Dosage, onset of application, frequency of application, and duration of application were not identified.
  • Time Periods:  four weeks and six months after completion of radiation therapy (RT). The authors did not specify whether the first time point was the fourth week during treatment or four weeks after the completion of RT.
  • Quality of life (QOL) was measured using the Spitzer Quality of Life Index (SQLI). The timing and frequency of SQLI administration was not identified. 
  • RT:  The type and dose of RT was not identified.

Sample Characteristics:

  • The sample was comprised of 20 women (10 in each treatment arm).
  • Mean age was 55.3 years in the control group and 55.0 years in the experimental group.
  • Patients had breast cancer and were treated with lumpectomy.


  • Single site
  • Australia

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:

Patients were undergoing the active treatment phase of care.

Study Design:

The study was a prospective, pilot, single-blind (patients), randomized, controlled clinical trial with two arms:  wheatgrass extract (experimental) and sorbolene cream (control).

Measurement Instruments/Methods:

  • ONS Radiation Dermatitis scale/NCI Common Toxicity Criteria v.2     
  • SQLI:  lower scores = better performance


No statistically significant difference existed between the wheatgrass group and the sorbolene group with regard to onset and peak radiodermatitis development. There was a significant difference in QOL between the wheatgrass (M = 9.5) and sorbolene (M = 9.8; p = 0.014) groups when all time periods were measured, with better QOL in the wheatgrass group.


The study design and results were not strong enough to include as evidence for or against wheatgrass as a deterrent to the development of radiodermatitis. 


  • The study had a small sample size, with less than 30 patients.
  • The study groups were unequal with regard to breast and body size.

Nursing Implications:

This potential intervention needs further study in a larger group. The findings are not valid for use as evidence at this stage of investigation.