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 is rich in chlorophyll and antioxidants (such as lutonarin and saponarin), and also contains gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), ferulic acid, vitamins, and minerals.

Overview

Barley grass is used as an ingredient at many juice bars. In addition, natural-food stores often sell bottled juice drinks containing 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," and are widely consumed to enhance health.

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.

Barley grass juice is sometimes compared to wheatgrass juice. According to one study, participants sampling a variety of grass drinks found that the taste of a wheatgrass drink was neither liked or disliked, but barley grass drink was disliked.

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 adults.

Participants received either a barley leaf extract (in capsule form) or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. At the study's end, 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.

A small study published in Diabetes & Metabolism in 2002 assessed the effects of a young barley leaf extract supplement and/or vitamins C and E on LDL oxidation and antioxidant activity in people with type 2 diabetes.

A factor in the development of cardiovascular disease, LDL oxidation occurs when LDL cholesterol reacts with free radicals. The results of the study suggested that barley extract supplementation may help to fight free radicals and inhibit LDL oxidation.

Possible Side Effects

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

In an animal study, barley leaf powder was found to increase stool volume and have a laxative effect.

Like other plants, the concentration 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 should avoid barley grass due to the lack of research on safety.

Due to a lack of scientific research on the health effects of barley grass, little is known about the safety of consuming barley grass 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 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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