Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke introduces some of the health benefits of barley grass
INTRODUCTION TO BARLEY GRASS
A self-pollinating member of the grass family, barley grass (Hordeum vulgare) grows abundantly in woodlands and grasslands throughout Europe, west Asia, northeast Africa and even Tibet.
Barley is thought to be one of the first grains ever cultivated and has been used as both food and medicine since around 7,000 BC. Used as animal feed and brewed into beer and distilled drinks over the years, it is still a popular ingredient today in both beer and whisky. Barley grain is also commonly made into malt.
These days the vibrant green powder made from the grass is widely sold in health stores, pharmacies and supermarkets and is popular in juices and smoothies. Nutrient rich, it contains good levels of magnesium, vitamin b6, iron, vitamin C and calcium as well as folic acid and vitamin K. However, its peculiar taste isn’t to everyone’s liking, so thankfully it’s also available in capsules.
Here are just some of the things it can protect against:
Barley grass is a great antioxidant and contains one of the highest natural sources of a substance called Superoxide dismutase (SOD), which protects cells from damaging free radicals.
Barley grass contains what are known as beta-sitosterol components, which appear to reduce the amount of dietary cholesterol being absorbed in the gut and accelerate its conversion into bile acid[i].
Studies show that the beta glucans in barley grass suppress appetite, increase metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity.
Barley grass may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes as it can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance[ii].
Barley grass may help treat skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, acne and eczema owing to its anti-inflammatory properties[iii].
Barley has been shown to help strengthen the immune system and protect against liver disease. It also has antidepressant activity and may even promote healthy sleep[iv].
Many people claim that a dose of barley grass before meals helps prevent acid reflux reducing the need to take standard antacids and PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors such as omeprazole). Although there is no current research study to support this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence.
DID YOU KNOW?
In the UK, barley grass is placed in mesh bags and floated in ponds and water gardens to prevent algae growing without harming plants or animals.