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Barley: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more


Barley is one of the oldest cultivated plants globally and has been the primary food of animals and humans. The scientific name of barley is Hordeum vulgare L. It is a cereal plant species in the Hordeum genus and Poaceae family.1 Hordeum vulgare, or cultivated barley, is primarily farmed for animal feed, particularly for pigs, malting and brewing in beer production, distillation in whisky production and food.2

barley benefits and side effects

Barley comes in several varieties, each having various grains per spike, ranging from summer to winter barley. Due to the poor quality of the grain, winter barley is mainly used in animal feed. The green barley essence is made by dehydrating fresh green barley juice at low temperatures, which keeps the enzymes active. Barley has additional importance as it may have potential properties that may be helpful in various health conditions. 1

Did you know?

  • Barley consumption is associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. source: Nutrients
  • Barley intake can lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. source: Nutrients
  • Barley has a low glycemic index, which helps with blood glucose and insulin management. source: Nutrients
  • Barley consumption promotes gut health and reduces visceral fat. source: Nutrients
  • Lifelong barley intake may have positive effects on healthy aging. source: Nutrients

Nutritional Value of Barley:

The nutritional value of barley is:

Carbohydrate (%)57.9  ± 5.1
Dietary fibre (%)29.5  ± 15.5
Protein (%)27.3  ± 4.3
Fat (%)4.57  ± 1.31
Vitamin A (mg/100 g)20.5  ± 4.7
Vitamin B1 (mg/100 g)0.61  ± 0.40
Vitamin B2 (mg/100 g)1.56  ± 0.65
Vitamin B3 (mg/100 g)7.18  ± 7.39
Vitamin B6 (mg/100 g)1.12  ± 0.97
Vitamin B12 (mg/100 g)1.16  ± 0.26
Vitamin C (mg/100 g)251.6  ± 239.1
Vitamin E (mg/100 g)15.0  ± 14.1
Sodium (mg/100 g)328.2  ± 288.4
Calcium (mg/100 g)479.4  ± 172.5
Phosphorus (mg/100 g)380.4  ± 60.7
Chromium (mg/100 g)0.14  ± 0.06
Copper (mg/100 g)1.66  ± 1.25
Sulphur (mg/100 g)305.5  ± 6.4
Iron (mg/100 g)23.3  ± 10.1
Magnesium (mg/100 g)183.2  ± 46.0
Manganese (mg/100 g)3.94  ± 1.56
Molybdenum (mg/100 g)0.048  ± 0.006
Potassium (mg/100 g)3384  ± 649
Zinc (mg/100 g)3.43  ± 1.36
Table 1: Nutrients found in Barley3

Also Read: Apricot: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Additionally, I recommend those who wish to increase their consumption of fibre do so gradually. This is due to the possibility that adding a lot of fibre from barley to the diet all at once may produce short-term digestive issues, such as bloating, while the body adjusts to the dietary change.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Properties of Barley:

Various potential properties of the barley plant are listed below.

  • It might be anti-anaemic
  • It might be anti-rheumatic
  • It might have an anti-diarrhoeal property
  • It might be an antidepressant
  • It may have anti-inflammatory property1
  • It may be an antidiabetic agent
  • It might have an anti-hypertensive (lowers blood pressure) potential
  • It might be immunity enhancing
  • It may be hepatoprotective (liver protective)
  • It may act as an anti-acne agent
  • It might have an anticancer potential
  • It may be an antioxidant
  • It might have hypolipidemic (lipid-lowering) property
  • It might be an anti-gout (a type of arthritis characterised by joint pain) agent
  • It may have an anti-hyperuricemia (high uric acid level in the blood) potential
  • It might act as an anti-fatigue (extreme tiredness) agent3

Potential Uses of Barley:

Barley might have the following potential uses.

Potential Use of Barley for Sleep:

Barley grass powder contains a high amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (a brain chemical), calcium, potassium, and tryptophan (amino acid). It is a very good functional food and might also be a sleep promoter. Barley grass powder has a higher gamma-aminobutyric acid, calcium, and potassium concentration than polished rice. Polished rice or wheat flour and barley and their products might be effective foods for better sleep in individuals.3 However, more research is required to prove it.

Potential Use of Barley for Diabetes:

Barley and its extract might scavenge oxygen free radicals and may be helpful for diabetes. Its dietary fibre might help lower fasting blood sugar and blood glucose levels. Flavonoids in barley might help people with diabetes with their post-meal blood glucose levels.3

Fasting blood sugar and glycated haemoglobin might be reduced by barley grass powder. Under stress, polyamines in barley cells may increase and might have an insulin-like effect.3 However, conditions like diabetes must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Kindly consult a doctor and do not self-medicate.

Potential Use of Barley for Blood Lipids:

Literature suggests that whole grains high in viscous soluble fibre, such as barley, are more successful than other grains in decreasing blood lipids. The delayed intestinal absorption of lipids is one of the proposed mechanisms of cholesterol reduction after eating barley. Additionally, cholesterol absorption and reabsorption might be inhibited. The capacity of barley to increase the viscosity of the intestinal contents might be the cause of its potential lipid-lowering effects.4

Total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels might be reduced by barley grass powder, whereas high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels might increase. Probably by lowering cholesterol production, hexacosanol in barley leaf may enhance cholesterol metabolism.3 Fat, polysaccharides, protein, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols are all found in barley sprouts, and they all might have a lipid-lowering effect.3

Green barley may help with atherosclerosis by potentially helping with lipid metabolism and resisting lipid peroxidation.3 However, further research is required to ascertain these statements.

Potential Use of Barley for Gout:

Barley grass might help lower blood uric acid and may have several health benefits for humans related to faeces metabolism, lipid metabolism, liver function, and antioxidant system. A fermented barley extract might help reduce the uric acid in the condition of gout (a form of arthritis). A fermented barley extract might boost urine excretion and may help lower the serum uric acid.3 However, these claims are yet to be proved by further research.

Potential Use of Barley for Immunity:

The polysaccharide content of young barley leaves may be helpful for immunomodulation as well as a macrophage (a type of white blood cell) stimulatory function.3 However, these effects need scientific backing. Therefore, kindly do not self-medicate.

Potential Use of Barley for the Liver:

The potential liver protective activity of barley sprouts containing abundant flavonoid was tested on an animal model that exhibited inhibition of inflammatory response. In in-vitro and in-vivo experiments, a flavonoid in barley sprouts showed potential liver protective and antioxidant effects against liver injury.3 However, conditions related to the liver must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Kindly consult a doctor.

Potential Use of Barley for the Brain:

The antidepressant potential of young barley leaf has been studied. It might help regulate the brain levels of nerve growth factors (insulin-like protein, which regulates the growth and development of neurons).

Barley contains vitamins and minerals that might help with stress-related psychiatric problems, maybe even depression. Barley green leaves, rich in vitamins and minerals might show memory-enhancing effects.3 More research is required to prove these effects.

Potential Use of Barley for Gastrointestinal Tract:

By activating the gut system and decreasing the pH, young barley leaf powder with water-insoluble dietary fibre may increase faecal volume and laxative activity. Barley may be helpful for ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis, and other gastrointestinal tract problems.3

By stimulating the growth of probiotics, a germinated barley foodstuff might help ulcerative colitis. According to animal studies, selenium-rich barley might have a positive effect on stomach ulcers.3 In drug-treated rats, the dietary fibre of germinated barley may help constipation by causing the proliferation of colonic crypts (glands in the colon).3 However, it needs more scientific backing.

Potential Use of Barley for Cancer:

The combined effects of high alkalinity, a powerful antioxidant, phytochemicals, flavonoids, and chlorophyll in barley might hinder cancer cell development. The phytochemical combinations of barley might be helpful against breast cancer.3

Green barley extract might exhibit anticancer potential due to its possible antiproliferative and cell-killing effects in human leukaemia (white blood cell cancer), lymphoma (lymphatic system cancer), and breast cancer cells.3 Further research is required in this field. Moreover, cancer must be properly diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Therefore, kindly consult a doctor.     

Potential Use of Barley as an Antioxidant:

Barley is one of the most stress-tolerant crops producing tocopherol, glutathione, and succinate in its flag leaf. Flavonoids found in barley grass have potent antioxidant properties that might help diseases induced by oxidative stress, such as inflammation, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.3

Barley leaves extracted with methanol and ethanol could be alternative synthetic antioxidants in the food industry.3

Potential Use of Barley on the Heart:

Antioxidants present in barley may help with cardiovascular ailments. Barley may help avoid thrombosis (blocking of blood vessels due to blood clots) and cardiovascular disease by improving blood viscosity and flow.3 Kindly consult a doctor as the diseases of the heart must be properly diagnosed and treated by a specialist.

Potential Use of Barley in Fatigue and Hypoxia:

Flavones found in barley might have anti-hypoxia (deficient oxygen supply to tissues) and anti-fatigue properties in humans. According to animal studies, the barley seedling might positively affect fatigue in mice, particularly during tiring swimming and anti-anoxic time (total oxygen level depletion), reducing blood glucose and stomach ulcers.3 More human research is required.

Potential Use of Barley for the Skin:

Fermented barley extract and gamma-aminobutyric acid combination may have some positive effects on atopic dermatitis (red and itchy skin). Possibly by regulating the lymphocyte balance in an animal model.3 However, more research is required.

Potential Use of Barley for the Bone:

In health and disease, calcium homeostasis is critical for physiological and pathophysiological reasons. Osteoporosis might be positively affected by barley due to its higher calcium content.3

Though there are studies that show the potential uses of barley in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of barley on human health. 

Also Read: Olive Oil: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Barley Grass is incredibly alkalizing, strong in vital vitamins and minerals, and a great source of chlorophyll, a substance that helps plants turn sunlight into energy. Chlorophyll has the potential to bind to and wash out hazardous compounds and heavy metals. When it is consumed, it may release a flow of oxygen into circulation, detoxifying the body of damaging poisons and impurities. With the ability to regenerate damaged cells and tissues, barley grass may protect against radiation and cellular harm. Since it is such a strong cleaner, I advise beginning gradually to avoid the side effects from the detox including headaches, rashes, and nausea. This is a typical occurence and brought on by the tissue’s and cell’s discharge of poisons.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Barley?

Barley can be used as:

  • Barley grass powder3
  • Biscuits
  • Breads
  • Barley water
  • Barley tea5
  • Barley flour
  • Broth6

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Side Effects of Barley:      

Barley might have side effects which need to be further explored by more research. Therefore, do not use it without an Ayurvedic physician’s advice.

Precautions to Take with Barley:

The safety of barley in pregnant and breastfeeding women has not been studied. Therefore, it should only be taken under the supervision and advice of a physician. Likewise, no research has been done on the safety of barley in children.

Interactions With Other Drugs:

There is not much information available on how barley interacts with other medications. Hence, one should consult a doctor before taking barley if they take any other drug or supplement.

Also Read: Coconut: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is barley good for people with diabetes?

It might be helpful for diabetes. The dietary fibre and flavonoids in barley might help lower the fasting blood sugar and blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.3 Please consult a doctor. Do not self-medicate.

How to eat barley?

Barley can be eaten in various forms like barley grass powder, barley biscuits, barley bread,barley water,barley tea, barley flour,and barley broth.5,6

Is barley good for weight loss?

Barley might be helpful for weight loss. Fats, polysaccharides, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols are all found in barley sprouts and it might have a lipid-lowering effect.3

What are the uses of barley?

Barley might be helpful for anaemia, cystitis, rheumatism, diarrhoea, cough, haemorrhoids, flu, depression, dermatological conditions, inflammation, nausea, mouth sores, digestive problems, elevated blood sugar levels, low immunity, acne, cancer, elevated lipid levels, gout, hyperuricemia, fatigue, hypoxia, and constipation.1,3 However, more research is required to prove the potential uses of barley for human health. Please consult a doctor before using it.

What is barley water?

Water is usually added to the barley grains, and the entire mixture is boiled at a high temperature. The water is collected from the combination when it has cooled. This is known as barley water.5

Does barley contain gluten?

No, gluten is a protein absent in barley.4

What is barley tea?

A by-product of the barley crop is barley tea. It comprises roasted kernels soaked in hot or cold beverages and then consumed as water with or without food. It has a delicious flavour and is very nutritious for humans.5

What are the benefits of barley grass?

Barley grass might have properties like sleep-promoting, antidiabetic, blood pressure- lowering, immunity enhancing, liver-protecting, anti-acne, antidepressant, improving gastrointestinal function, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, antigout, hypoxia preventing. It is also used for managing cardiovascular diseases, fatigue, constipation, atopic dermatitis, and improving cognition.3 However, more research is required. Therefore, kindly consult a doctor.

Also Read: Shilajit: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects


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