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Can Humans Eat Grass?

What do you do if you become lost, or are stranded in the woods, for whatever reason, with no food?

What are you going to do? After thinking a bit you wonder if you can eat grass? At first, glance, chowing down on grass, plant leaves, seems reasonable. After all, cow deer, and other herbivore animals eat grass. So, it seems reasonable to believe that you should be able to digest grass just like other grass eating animals? Is this assumption correct? Is grass edible for humans? To find out this answer and more keep on reading.

To quickly answer the initial questions, No. The good news is that it won’t poison you. However, eating grass will not help you either for the following reasons :

  • Digestion Issues – Grass contains cellulose, which is a substance that a human digestive tract is not able to break down. As a result, if you eat grass, you will likely become sick to your stomach, vomit, and/or suffer diarrhea. (Personally, I can’t imagine anything much worse than being lost in the woods and having a bad case of diarrhea)
  • Not Teeth Friendly -In the short run, this won’t kill you. Eating grass though does damage human teeth as it contains silica, which is an abrasive substance that grinds down your teeth. A cow’s teeth are different from a man’s in that their teeth (other grazing animals also) are constantly growing. So, your friendly cow’s teeth will not be destroyed by a grass diet as they’ll grow new teeth.
  • Chew Differently- Ruminant, grazing animals chew differently, which results in less damage to their teeth.
  • Nutrition-Even if you could digest grass without having any of the following issues, you still would not want to eat it as grass and a plant leaf has minuscule nutritional value.
  • Too Few Calories -If grass did provide nutritional value, the amount you would have to eat would be tremendous. As an example, cows eat up to 30 pounds of hay and grass daily. The average cow weighs around 1,390 pounds. Per the CDC, the average male in North America weighed 202 pounds. 202 pounds divided by 1,390 is roughly 6 pounds. This means that the average person would have to eat at least six pounds of grass and edible leaves to survive. Even for the most rabid Vegan, eating six pounds of grass would be horrific.

Edible Grass- Some species of grass is quite nutritious. I.E., Humans can digest Wheat Grass, Oat Grass, Barley Grass, Alfalfa grass and other types of grass and leaves.

Why Can Cows Digest Grass And Humans Cannot?

Understanding the fundamentals of a ruminant animal’s stomach will help you better understand why cows, deers, etc. can live off grass and leaves. Cows deer, sheep, antelopes, giraffes, and other grass eating herbivore animals have ruminant digestive systems that differ greatly from humans.

It is a ruminant animal’s intestinal tract (most easily seen in their stomach) that allows them to eat and gain nutritional value from grass, leaves, and similar plant material. Ruminant animals have four stomach sections (human stomachs only have one chamber): the rumen, omasum, abomasum, and reticulum. All of the four sections of a cow are essential.

Cow's Digestive Tract

   Cow’s Digestive Tract

  1. Rumen – A cow’s rumen is the largest section and is located on the left side. The rumen holds eaten grass, leaves, etc. The food source interacts with microbes, which ferments food, which allows grass to digest. For cows, rumen can hold up to 25 gallons of nutrients. This fermentation is the main reason why ruminant animals can digest grass, and humans are not.
  2. Reticulum– The Reticulum looks like a pouch and is located in the front and is near the heart. Dense or heavy food and foreign substances drop into this area.
  3. Omasum-Is is shaped like a globe and has the primary job to help absorb water, fatty acids, and magnesium.
  4. Abomasum– The abomasum is often called the “true stomach” and is most like a non-ruminant stomach. The abomasum contains acids and enzymes that break down raw leaves and grasses for nutrition.

    Ruminants Animals Eating Habits

    After the food is eaten and digested, it is separated into solids and liquid foodstuffs. The solid food regurgitates back into the mouth and is then chewed again. The liquid foodstuff (water and other liquids) go from the reticulum straight into the omasum and the omasum help sugars, acids, and other types of protein with blood absorption.

    Can Humans Eat Cooked Grass?

    Unfortunately, the answer is no as cooked grass is as undigestible for humans as raw grass.

    Non-Toxic Grass and Leaves Alternatives

    There are plenty of articles that will help you to forage and gather nutritious plants in the wilderness. So, this is just a shortlist of nutritious plants that you can survive on.



    Yellow Dandelions


    Dandelions have a sour taste. But, they are edibles and also have useful for healing. Note-dandelions are high in vitamins. But, they have low calories. So, you will likely need more than dandelions to survive.


    Wild Green Nettles

    Nettles are extremely nutritious-TIP-attempt to eat only younger nettles and cook them.

    Wild Strawberries and Other Berries



    Cattails (Some Times Called Bristle Grass)

    cattails for survival


    They are common in wetlands and can be either cooked or munched on when raw.

    Miscellaneous Edible Plants

    Some of the other edible plants that are commonly found in the wilderness are listed below:







    Common Chicory,

    Click Here for an excellent article on edible plants that are found in the wilderness.

    Watch this video for more info on edible plants in the wilderness.

    Avoid the Following Plants

    The 2007 movie Into the Wild was based on a book by Jon Krakauer. It was about a twenty-something Christopher McCandless who left civilization to live in the wilds of Alaska. He wasn’t well prepared and tried to forage and ended up dying. The coroner’s report initially stated that he died of starvation. However, based upon a diary that listed the food he ate, Jon Krakauer thought that potato seeds could have poisoned him. This theory was never proven, and quite likely, he could have died from just starvation. Nonetheless, a lesson to learn from this is that you should never let hunger pangs override your sense of caution.


    Deadly Belladonna

    Poisonous Belladonna

    ● Sap-Milk-colored or otherwise discolored sap.

    ● Too Many Leaves-Stay away from plants that have three leaves

    ● Taste-Soapy or bitter taste.

    Click Here for more info on this vital point.

    Final Thoughts

    Unless you are in Antarctica, there is plenty of edible plants that are available in the wilderness. For example, if you know what you are doing, you can even eat tree bark. But, you will likely not have to go to those extremes as you should be able to find nuts, berries, etc., that will keep you full. Above all, be prepared, and if do run out of food, don’t panic. There are plentiful sources of edible plants that will hold you over until you can get back to civilization.