Can you eat grass to survive?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Can you eat grass to survive?” Also if it can be safe to eat grass during survival mode, and what are the possible side effects of eating grass.

Can you eat grass to survive?

Theoretically, yes, you can eat grass to survive. When we talk about grass, we mean plant species typically eaten by herbivores, like cattle. Marijuana (also known as grass or weed) is not covered here. However, some survivalists do not agree with this and think that it can only lead to worsening the situation (1).

Nutritional Value of Grass

One of the major reasons why grass cannot support human nutrition  is its poor nutritional value.

Grass largely consists of cellulose and other non-digestible fibers, like lignin and hemicellulose (collectively known as Neutral Detergent Fiber). Other components of good nutritional value, like protein, are minor in comparison (2). 

Cellulose is a compound that is found in the cell wall of plants and it can only be digested by cellulase-producing bacteria like those present in the digestive system of ruminants (3). nfortunately, humans do not have cellulase enzymes in their digestive tract. So, the digestion of cellulose is not possible in the human intestine.

Other components like protein or digestible fiber are in too low amounts in grass for l humans to be able to extract much nutritional content from it. Due to its poor digestibility,  it can cause sickness in humans, especially children (4).

Health Risks of Consuming Grass

Although you could eat grass, there are several species varying in digestibility, some may even contain upsetting or poisonous compounds like cyanide (5) and, on the whole, the human body is not adapted to extract nutrients from grass.

All in all, you may eat grass under survival conditions but it is unlikely to help you in the long run and it could cause health problems like abdominal pain (4) or, in the case of grasses like sorghum, death by poisoning (5). 

Alternatives to Grass Consumption

In a survival case, eating insects, and in particular grasshoppers, is probably a better option since their nutritive value is much higher (6).

There is an entry on this site on eating grasshoppers if you want to know more about it.

Is there any type of grass that could be edible by humans?

Several forms of grass are edible by humans. These varieties of grass include the sprouts of Allium spp. like onions, garlic or leek. 

Several other plant species could be considered grass too, like the lettuce, endives and escarole, since they belong to the Asteraceae family, like the dandelion, and the consumed portion are the aerial green parts of these plants.

Although most common grasses are of no nutritional value for humans, sprouts of wheat, oat and other grains are at times added to some recipes (7)


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “Can you eat grass to survive?” what is the nutritive be the consequences or eating grass, what types of grass are available in nature. 


1. Is Eating Grass in a Survival Situation a Good Idea? [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from:

2. Silva JC da, Véras AC, Carvalho FR de, Ferreira MA, Souza EO de, Barreto LG, et al. Nutritional value, performance, feeding behavior and serum biochemical profile of sheep fed with alfalfa hay replacing Bermuda grass ( Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.) hay. Chil J Agric Res. 2017;77(4):340–5.

3. Russell JB, Wilson DB. Why are ruminal cellulolytic bacteria unable to digest cellulose at low pH? J Dairy Sci. 1996 Aug;79(8):1503–9.

4. Abdominal pain – children under age 12: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from:

5. Fisheries A and. Toxic plant species and symptoms [Internet]. corporateName=The State of Queensland; 2012 [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from:

6. Paul A, Frédérich M, Uyttenbroeck R, Hatt S, Malik P, Lebecque S, et al. Grasshoppers as a food source? A review. BASE [Internet]. 2016 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Apr 12]; Available from:

7. Evans B. The Everything Sprouted Grains Book: A complete guide to the miracle of sprouted grains. Everything edition. Avon, Mass: Everything; 2012. 304 p.