Barley Grass: Benefits, Uses, and Tips

Barley Grass: Benefits, Uses, and Tips

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A popular product in health stores and juice bars, barley grass powder has recently taken the world by storm. As a popular superfood for immune health and weight loss (among many other things) it is often added to smoothies – and pudding too.

If you’re looking to try barley grass juice powder, then you’ll be glad to know that you have come to the right place. Here, you’ll learn more about barley grass benefits, its many uses, plus the many delicious recipe tips you can try at home.

What is Barley Grass Powder?

Barley grass powder is obtained from the leaves of the same-named grass, which is usually grown in high and cold areas. Also known as barley greens, Hordeum vulgare or Hordeum distichon is known to be the fourth most important crop in the world.

Its popularity is not surprising since barley grass is said to be the first cereal grain ever cultivated by humans. Reports show that it has been cultivated since 2400 BC, with the Chinese utilizing it as early as 2000 BC for traditional medicine. It was even mentioned in biblical accounts as a food staple of ancient Asians and Middle Easterners. 

What’s in Barley Grass Powder?

The benefits of barley grass powder are often attributed to its high nutritive content. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, 3 teaspoons or 5 grams of the powder contains the following nutrients:

  • Protein – 5 grams
  • Vitamin A – 950 IU (20% RDA)
  • Riboflavin – 0.12 mg (7% RDA)
  • Iron – 1.05 mg (6% RDA)
  • Magnesium – 25 mg (6% RDA)
  • Potassium – 168 mg (4% RDA)
  • Sodium – 60 mg (3% RDA)
  • Calcium – 26.7 mg (2% RDA)

Barley grass juice powder also contains:

  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12
  • Folic Acid
  • Pantothenic Acid

What are the Health Benefits of Barley Grass?

The benefits of barley grass have long been recognized, with the early people using it to treat blood, gut, liver, and skin conditions. For one, ancient Greeks used barley cereal-derived mucilage to manage digestive conditions, while its prominent gladiators consumed it to boost their stamina and strength. The Roman physician Pliny, on the other hand, used it to treat boils.

Following the steps of these innovative ancients are the Japanese, who take barley grass juice powder (aojiru) for overall health. As more and more people jump into the barley grass juice powder craze, scientists continue to unlock the many barley grass benefits for the body:

The Health Benefits of Barley Grass

1. Fights Free Radical Damage, Inflammation, and Liver Disease

Barley’s anti-oxidative effects are showcased in the study of Yu et al. Results showed that patients who were supplemented with barley leaf extract were able to scavenge free radicals more efficiently.

Obtained through exposure to UV rays, smoking, and other harmful elements, these free radicals trigger the production of inflammatory cytokines. If left unchecked, these substances can bring about certain diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and gout.

Barley’s anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects are attributed to its polyphenols, flavonoids, and superoxide dismutase. Additionally, these barley nutrients help protect the liver from alcohol-induced damage, thus making it a protective supplement for liver disease and cancer as well.

2. Helps Prevent Cancer

Barley grass juice powder may help fight carcinogens or cancer-causing substances in the body. This benefit is said to be the result of its high chlorophyll content and high antioxidant content.

Superoxide dismutase, which is also known to fight free radicals, may help protect the body from the cancer-causing effects of radiation. Barley is also rich in flavonoids, which are associated with the lower stomach cancer risk seen in Europeans.

 3. Lowers Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, and the Risk of Heart Disease

Barley grass juice powder contains beta-sitosterol, which may help inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. Such a positive effect was seen in the study of Yu et al., where white male rabbits were fed with a high-cholesterol diet. They were then supplemented with either barley leaf extract or a placebo.

Results show that barley helped decrease plasma lipids. As a result, the rabbits’ risk of developing atherosclerosis – or the build-up of fats and cholesterol on the arteries was decreased by 30%. 90% of the non-supplemented rabbits had arterial surface covered by plaques, compared to only 60% in the barley leaf group.

Apart from having cholesterol-lowering effects, the saponarin in barley grass is deemed useful in regulating blood pressure as well. With these combined effects, regular powder intake may lower a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke.

4. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Barley grass juice powder is said to be good for diabetics due to its high insoluble fibre content. Taking high amounts of fibre may improve insulin sensitivity, thus making it easier for the body to use it effectively. This, in turn, can lead to the reduction of blood sugar levels – which is beneficial for diabetics and those who are on the verge of developing the condition.

5. Promotes Better Digestion – and Immunity

As mentioned, barley grass powder is a rich source of two types of fibre that are good for the gut. Soluble fibre, helps move material from your stomach – making both digestion and bowel movements easier.

Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, sustains the good bacteria that maintain digestion and optimum intestinal health. This, in turn, helps in the regulation of the immune system – keeping you safe from infections and whatnot.

6. Reduces Depressive Symptoms – and Improves Cognition

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 7.8% of UK residents suffer from depression and anxiety, making it the most common mental health conditions in the country. Apart from bringing about increased healthcare costs and cases of self-injury, depression has also been linked with dementia, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, to name a few.

As such, prompt treatment is key – which may be aided with regular barley intake. According to a study by Zeng et al., barley may help regulate the hippocampus, which then results in reduced depressive symptoms. Add to that, barley vitamins and minerals may also play a role in the prevention of stress-related depression.

More than just alleviating depressive symptoms, barley may help improve brain health too. According to the same study, the GABA and potassium in barley may help improve mental cognition as well.

7. Facilitates Sleep

According to the Zeng et al. study, Barley grass powder contains nutrients that help promote sleep:

  • GABA, which has inhibitory effects that promote mind and body relaxation
  • Tryptophan, which increases melatonin – a hormone that induces sleep
  • Calcium, which helps the brain use Tryptophan to produce melatonin
  • Potassium, which may help promote deeper sleep

8. Promotes Skin Health

Inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis affect a great deal of UK residents. According to a study, approximately 11-20% of children and 5-10% of adults suffer from the condition. With its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties, GABA-rich barley may help alleviate the symptoms of related skin diseases. 

Barley helps improve skin barrier function too, as documented in the study by Lee et al. The supplement, which was combined with soybean extract, enhanced skin hydration – thus making the skin barrier more effective in warding off UV rays and other harmful elements.

9. Hastens Hair Growth

Barley contains procyanidin B3, which promotes hair growth by as much as 140% compared to controls. According to a study, it does so by increasing the number of follicles in the anagen stage, which is the growth phase of hair. At the same time, it may also help neutralize TGF-beta 1, a substance that inhibits hair growth.

Barley Grass Powder vs Barley Grass Juice Powder: Which is Better?

Barley Grass Powder vs Barley Grass Juice Powder

Barley grass powder and barley grass juice powder are similar in one way (they’re obtained from the same plant), but they’re completely different.

Barley grass powder, which is lighter in colour, contains cellulose that can be hard for the stomach to digest. It is made from young barley grass leaves, which are dehydrated and ground into powder.

Barley grass juice powder, on the other hand, is finer and doesn’t contain cellulose. It is made from the tender stalks of the grass, which are cut during the peak harvest – when the leaves are about 12 inches tall. Also known as the first joint stage, it is the time when the grass gets the most nutrients from the soil.

After harvesting the leaves, they are juiced to remove the cellulose fibre. The extract is then freeze-dried, thus preserving all the nutrients in the barley grass juice powder.

Apart from its lack of cellulose, this product is devoid of insoluble fibre as well. As such, it is easier to dilute in juices, water, or smoothies.

Barley Grass Powder: How to Use

In terms of dosage, it usually depends on the pre-existing condition:

  • Diabetes – 1.2 grams a day in 2 months
  • Heart disease – 3.6 grams a day
  • High cholesterol levels – 15 to 30 grams a day

While Barley grass is usually available in powder form, you can meet the above-mentioned dosages by taking barley tablets, gummies, or juices.

No matter what product you choose, it’s important to follow these buying tips:

  • Obtain a product from a reputable store
  • Get a product made from young grass (lighter in colour) since it contains more nutrients
  • Check the product to see if it has undergone third-party testing
  • Opt for organic barley grass powder that is free of additives, artificial colours, and fillers

Best Time to Drink Barley Grass

While barley grass juice powder can be taken 1-3 times a day, it’s best consumed in the morning. This helps jumpstart your digestive process, thus allowing you to flush out more toxins from the body.

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What are the Side Effects of Barley Grass?

While barley grass doesn’t have harmful side effects, its high fibre content can lead to gas, stomach cramps, and bloating.

Since it also contains a high amount of micronutrients, it should be used cautiously by the following people:

  • Those taking blood thinners, as the Vitamin K in barley can decrease the medication’s effects
  • Those with kidney disease, as barley is rich in potassium that can spike the blood potassium level
  • Those taking blood-sugar-lowering medications, as barley can magnify this effect and lead to very low blood sugar levels

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid using barley grass powder for the time being due to the lack of studies concerning the childbearing phase.

Barley Grass Powder Recipes

Despite its mild, slightly bitter taste, barley grass juice powder recipes can turn out good. Here are some of the most popular examples:

Barley Grass Powder Recipes

1. Barley Grass Juice Powder Recipe with Basil and Citrus

Enjoy the many barley grass benefits with this refreshing beverage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon barley grass juice powder
  • 6-10 pieces orange
  • 2 pieces calamansi
  • 1 cup packed spinach
  • Optional: 2-4 basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Wash the oranges and spinach.
  2. Cut the oranges in half.
  3. Juice the calamansi and oranges.
  4. Blend the juice with the remaining ingredients until you get a smooth and frothy consistency.

2. Barley Grass Kiwi Chia Pudding

Satisfy your sweet tooth with this healthy and nutritious snack.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons organic barley grass powder
  • 425 ml sweetened organic almond milk
  • 100 grams organic white chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 pieces kiwi
  • 250 grams plant-based organic yoghurt

Directions:

  1. Combine and warm the chia seeds, almond milk, maple syrup, and barley grass powder in a pan.
  2. Peel the kiwi and make 2 slices. Press each slice to the inner part of the glass. Make sure the glass is dry so that the fruit sticks better.
  3. Cool the chia mixture down, making sure to stir it consistently.
  4. Once the mixture thickens, pour it onto the glass.
  5. Chill the pudding for an hour (or overnight if you have more time).
  6. Top the mixture with yoghurt.
  7. Cut the other kiwi to make cubes. Place them on top of the pudding before serving.

3. Barley Grass Power Balls

This energy-rich pick-me-upper is a great option for snack time – not only for you – but for the kids as well!

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 tablespoons barley grass powder
  • 4 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons milled pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons milled sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons light tahini
  • 1-2 tablespoons runny honey
  • Optional: goji berries

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients until you get a doughy mixture.
  2. Take a teaspoon full of dough and roll it to form a ball.
  3. Chill before several minutes before taking a bite!

Frequently Asked Questions About Barley Grass Powder

Frequently Asked Questions About Barley Grass Powder

1. Is Barley Grass Gluten-Free?

Technically, barley leaves and shoots gluten-free. However, there is gluten found in the barley seed that can contaminate the product and cause symptoms. As this can trigger hypersensitivity, individuals with coeliac disease are discouraged from taking barley grass powder.

That being said, this shouldn’t hamper a coeliac patient’s dream of taking barley. To avoid the unpleasant symptoms, it’s best to go for gluten-free barley grass juice powder. 

2. Does Barley Grass Help with Weight Loss?

With its low caloric and high fibre content, barley grass juice powder is a good way to lose weight (apart from eating a healthy diet.) Since the fibre in barley travels in the body slowly, it can keep you fuller for longer. This can help decrease hunger and appease your cravings, which are pivotal for weight loss.

Barley grass weight loss benefits were documented in a rat study by Thatiparthi et al. After feeding the subjects with a high-fat diet for 60 days, they were supplemented with barley grass juice for another 60 days. Results showed that those who received barley had lower body weights and body mass indices. Add to that, they had lower cholesterol levels – apart from having improved liver function.

Although barley grass powder helps in weight loss, excessive use can result in weight gain. Each serving is high in calories, which can be worsened with the addition of sweeteners or fruit juices into the mix. As such, you should limit your intake to the recommended amount to avoid unintended weight gain.

3. Is Barley Good for Detox?

Yes, thanks to the beta-glucans found in Barley grass cell walls.  Apart from helping flush out the excess water, they also help remove the toxins that compromise the immune system. If left untended, these toxins can make a person more susceptible to infections and auto-immune diseases.

According to a study, beta-glucans may help fight aflatoxins, which are substances that bring about liver cirrhosis and subsequent cancer. Additionally, it also helps reverse the effects of mercury on the immune system – as well as uranium on the cells.

Additional results also show that it may help minimize the hearing loss (ototoxicity) that comes with excessive intake of the antibiotic Amikacin.

To cleanse your digestive system, liver, or kidney, make sure to try these barley grass juice powder recipes:

a) Barley Detox Water

Drink your way to a cleansing detox by following this green barley recipe.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup whole pot barley
  • 5 cups of water
  • ¼ piece of cinnamon stick
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • Grated ginger for taste

Directions:

  1. Add whole barley, water, cinnamon stick, and grated ginger to the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Cool the mixture and strain. Mix the liquid with lemon juice.

b) Barley Grass Powder Smoothie Recipe for Detox

This green recipe is packed with detox-inducing superfoods.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon barley grass juice powder
  • 1 large baby spinach
  • 1/3 piece of cucumber
  • ½ piece of apple
  • ½ piece of persimmon
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon hulled hemp seeds
  • 1 cup of rice water or apple juice

Directions:

  1. Chop the apple, persimmon, and cucumber into mid-sized cubes.
  2. Blend these fruits together with the other ingredients until you achieve a creamy smoothie texture.

4. What are the Advantages of Buying Barley Grass Powder?

Apart from having plenty of health benefits, barley grass powder comes with these advantages as well:

  • It’s very healthy. It is packed in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep your body in tiptop shape.
  • It’s easy to take. No need to ground the powder yourself – all you need to do is add the powder to your recipes and that’s it!
  • It makes for healthy instant recipes. Just add a few tablespoons of the powder to your recipes and you can make a healthy snack or beverage right away.
  • It’s vegan. If you’re conscious of everything you eat, then barley is perfect for you. Not only is it 100% vegan, but it’s a sustainable product as well.

While barley grass powder comes with a lot of benefits, you should be wary of some of its cons as well:

  • It’s an acquired taste. You may not like the taste of barley at first, but you’ll grow accustomed to it in the days (or weeks) to come. If you can’t seem to shake the taste off, you can always add the powder to your favourite recipes.
  • It can be hard to dissolve in liquids. To make this easier, opt for barley grass juice powder instead of the traditional product.
  • It’s quite expensive. Although you may new to pay a few additional pounds for barley grass juice powder, it provides the best value for money with its long list of health benefits.
  • Side effects can plague your first intake. While you may experience stomach discomfort at first, this will pass as your body gets used to the barley.

Conclusion

Barley grass (or barley greens) is the fourth-most important crop in the world. Its leaves and shoots are used to make barley grass powder or barley grass juice powder, with the latter being gluten- and cellulose-free. Both of these products are rich in protein, Vitamin A, riboflavin, potassium, calcium, among many other nutrients.

With the help of these vitamins and minerals, barley grass powder can help you fight free radical damage (and reduce cancer risk). At the same time, it can also help lower your cholesterol levels and improve your insulin sensitivity.

Barley grass can also help facilitate digestion, boost immunity, and reduce depressive symptoms. It’s also a good supplement for sleep – as well as skin and hair health. Lastly, barley grass can also be taken for weight loss and detox.

Barley grass powder is best mixed with beverages, which can be taken 1-3 times a day. As it helps promote digestion, it is best consumed first thing in the morning.

While barley grass powder is relatively safe to use, its high fibre content can lead to stomach upset. It may also trigger hypersensitivity, which is why people with coeliac disease should take cellulose-free barley grass juice powder instead.

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