Microwaved water: Does it kill plants? (1)

It is a striking image but will water heated in a microwave oven really do this to a plant?

Almost 50 years after they first became widely available, the debate over microwave ovens bubbles on. How safe are they? For each report claiming the ovens, for example, damage the nutrient content of food, there is another showing they are actually better than steaming, boiling and other cooking methods. Being a nutrition geek, this is an area I have looked at in-depth – so far without finding a satisfactory answer…

In case you are wondering, I have a combination microwave, convection, grill oven. The mwave function doesn’t see a lot of use – though it is good for Winter defrosting ops – but like most people, I would just like a straight answer to how they affect food. So, I suddenly became very interested when the picture above came down my Facebook feed a few weeks ago.

If you haven’t seen it before, the photo claims to show the results of feeding one plant water boiled in a microwave oven and another water boiled conventionally on a stove. Things obviously didn’t go well for the plant fed microwaved water. You have to admit at first glance it seems pretty dramatic.

I am paraphrasing but according to the post, the plant died because the microwave oven super-agitated the water molecules, compromising their structure. It also states that this proves microwave ovens can corrupt the DNA in food, destroy vitamins, minerals and proteins and generate new elements called radiolytic compounds. I’ve saved the post on my Facebook page. Please read it for the full effect (need to be logged in).

Microwaved water experiment (article continues below)

These are the komatsuna (Japanese spinach mustard) plants on day 15. The pots are each receiving boiled filtered (left), straight filtered (center) or microwaved filtered (right) water at room temperature. I tried to plant eight seeds per pot but a few extra obviously went in. Nine sprouts came up in the boiled water pot, eight in the filtered and seven in the microwaved. All have survived and are growing strongly.
The patterns of the sprouts and extra ones in the boiled and filtered pots may make it look like they are doing better, but growth seems to be fairly even for all three at this point. So far, using water boiled in a microwave oven seems to be having no real effect on the sprouts. Let’s see how things are in a week.

While I’m no fan of microwave ovens, and the above being true would support my natural health agenda, there is a big jump in the “science.” Any heating will agitate molecules… and DNA in water? Unfortunately this hasn’t stopped thousands of people instantly sharing the photo, many with comments like “never using a microwave again” and “think about this next time you ‘nuke’ your food.”

This is disturbing because less than a minute of googling turns up an article on snopes.com completely rejecting the claim (link below). If you accept Snopes as a reliable source, their experiment looks very comprehensive but wanting my own answer, I naturally decided to try it for myself. I also wanted to know if there would be any long-term effects on the plants and how they would actually taste – points not mentioned on Snopes.

I am planning a couple of updates (click here for part two) and will write about the method in detail later. The key factor though has been to ensure all plants have the same conditions with the same level of care. The only difference has been the type of water they receive. I originally started with three komatsuna and three spinach pots. Unfortunately the spinach has failed to thrive; presumably due to bad seeds.

For the record, the boiled and filtered water pots only produced a couple of spinach sprouts each; the microwaved one had six come up. These sprouts lasted about a week in all three pots, with the exception of the microwaved one, where one guy is still growing very slowly. Not a great result farming-wise, but a qualified win for the microwaved water.

Other details and resources
Part two of Microwaved water: Does it kill plants?
Microwaved water plant experiment on snopes.com
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5 Responses to “Microwaved water: Does it kill plants? (1)”

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  1. Jeff says:

    Good on you for doing this but I think you need a couple more sets of plants. Well if they all survive, fine. But if the microwave ones die, it could just be somethng random and you wouldn’t have anything to judge by.

  2. Adrian S. says:

    LIke Jeff said its good your taking the time to do this but is there really a point. The idea is obviously just junk science. Water is water is water. If it did break down the structure the worst that would happen is it would turn to gas. H plus some 02. Its a microwave not Hiroshima!

  3. Kym says:

    Thanks for your comments Jeff and Adrian. You’ve raised some good points and I plan to address them in the next update. It will actually probably be the final update. The plants are all still growing well and it’s clear the microwave water is having no real effect.

    Adrian: I’ll write more about it in the post but water is a carrier medium containing a variety of substances we know about and maybe a few we don’t. It’s not just H2O.

  4. Chris says:

    Also important to annotate is the vessel used for boiling. Boiling in plastic vs glass in microwave or glass vs steel on oven may have different effects on ionization or leaching of aldehydes. Perhaps more important would be where the water was sourced and whether it has higher levels of spores like Cryptosporidium or Giardia and contaminants from detergents or pipes like inorganic chemicals Chlorines, Bromide, copper, Flouride, Barium, Mercury, Benzenes… etc.

  5. Kym says:

    Thanks for your input, Chris. All good points. I’ll go into more detail in the next update but all of the water was commercial filtered from the same company. So hopefully not much variation or contamination there. (I plan to get into these points about “raw” water in probably my next experiment.) Interestingly, I started out microwaving the water in a ceramic cup that had been used to brew tea, etc. The plants seemed to be growing a little more slowly than the other two sets so I switched to a new glass cup, after which they seemed to pick up. Anyhow, as I said, more detail in the next article.

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