Can Barley Grass Juice Rev Up Your Health?

Barley grass
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Barley grass is the young leaf of the barley plant (Hordeum vulgare). Sometimes referred to as "barley leaves" or "barley green," barley grass contains chlorophyll, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (such as lutonarin and saponarin).

Overview

Barley grass is used as an ingredient at many juice bars. In addition, natural-food stores often sell bottled juice drinks that contain barley grass juice. Some stores also sell kits that allow you to grow your own barley grass for juicing purposes. In Japan, green juices made with ingredients like young barley grass juice are known as "aojiru."

Available for purchase online, barley grass powder (a dehydrated form of barley grass extract), barley grass capsules, and barley grass tablets are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements. 

Uses for Barley Grass

Proponents claim that barley grass can help certain chronic health conditions, including:

Additionally, barley grass is said to improve sleep, promote weight loss, enhance energy, reduce inflammation, stimulate the digestive system, and boost immunity.

Benefits of Barley Grass

So far, there is very little scientific support for any claims about the health effects of barley grass.

Barley grass contains hexacosanol, a compound that may improve cholesterol metabolism by decreasing cholesterol synthesis. A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2015 investigated the effects of a barley sprout extract on lipid metabolism in healthy people.

Participants received either a barley leaf extract (in capsule form) or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. At the study's conclusion, there was no difference in clinical or laboratory findings (including total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol) in the barley grass group compared to the placebo group.

Possible Side Effects

If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, avoid any barley grass product that isn't labeled gluten-free

Like other plants, the concentrations of metals such as mercury in barley grass can vary depending on the soil in which it was grown. Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and are largely unregulated. You can get tips on using supplements here.

The high levels of certain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin K, and phosphorus may not be appropriate for people with certain conditions (such as those on dialysis) or who are taking medication (such as warfarin or insulin). Barley grass may lower blood glucose levels. 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need to avoid barley grass.

Due to a lack of scientific research on the health effects of barley grass, little is known about the safety of consuming barley grass in the long term or in concentrated doses. If you're considering trying it, talk with your healthcare provider to weigh the pros and cons and discuss whether it's right for you.

The Takeaway

While drinking juices or smoothies containing barley grass may offer some nutritional benefits, barley grass should not be used as a substitute for standard treatment of any chronic condition.

If you're looking to increase your antioxidant intake, try follow a diet rich in vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables. Certain healthy beverages, such as green tea, are also antioxidant-rich. 

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