Barley grass is the leaf of the barley plant (a type of whole grain). Sometimes referred to as "barley leaf" or "barley green," barley grass contains chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
What Is Barley Grass Juice?
Uses for Barley Grass
Proponents claim that barley grass can help treat or prevent many health problems, including:
Barley Grass Benefits
So far, there is very little scientific evidence to support the many health claims for barley grass. Still, some research suggests that following a specialized diet that includes barley grass may offer certain benefits.
A 2001 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, for instance, indicates that a vegetarian diet consisting of fruit, salads, carrot juice, tubers, grain products, nuts, seeds, and a dehydrated barley grass juice product may benefit people with fibromyalgia. Analyzing data on the 26 participants who followed the diet for two months, scientists found that the diet helped relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, reduce pain, and improve flexibility.
In a more recent study (published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2008), researchers found that following a diet that includes barley grass may help reduce cholesterol levels. For the study, 28 subjects completed a fruit-and-vegetable-rich nutritional program that involved several supplements made with barley grass powder. By the end of the 21-day program, participants showed significant reductions in total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
It's important to note that neither of these studies tested any potential health benefits specific to barley grass. Therefore, the degree to which barley grass may have contributed to any positive outcomes is unknown.
Barley Grass vs. Wheatgrass
Some proponents claim that barley grass is easier on the digestive system than wheatgrass. In addition, barley grass is said to contain an exceptionally high amount of "organic sodium" and therefore alleviate arthritis symptoms more effectively than wheatgrass juice.
However, there is no evidence that barley grass is superior to wheatgrass in terms of its likelihood of producing adverse effects, its nutritional properties, or its health effects.
Is Barley Grass Safe?
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.
Where to Find Barley Grass
Barley grass is used as an ingredient at many juice bars. In addition, natural-food stores often sell bottled juices that contain barley grass juice. Some stores also sell kits that allow you to grow your own barley grass for juicing purposes.
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.
Should You Use Barley Grass for Health Purposes?
There is currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of barley grass for any health problem. 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.
Donaldson MS, Speight N, Loomis S. "Fibromyalgia syndrome improved using a mostly raw vegetarian diet: an observational study." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2001;1:7.
Powell JP, Leonard JS. "A nutritional program improved lipid profiles and weight in 28 chiropractic patients: a retrospective case series." J Chiropr Med. 2008 Sep;7(3):94-100.