Skip to content

Barley (Hordeum vulgare)

Alternate Title

  • Hordeum vulgare

Related Terms

  • Barley flour, barley malt, barley oil, brewers spent grain, dietary fiber, germinated barley, high protein barley flour (HPBF), Gramineae (family), high fiber barley, hordenine, hordeum, Hordeum dislichon, Hordeum distychum, Hordeum murinum, Hordeum vulgare var Himalaya 292, Hordeum vulgare ssp spontaneium,
    Hordeum vulgare ssp spontaneum, lunasin, Mai Ya, pearl barley, Poaceae (family), pot barley, prowashonupana (Prowash), scotch barley, tocols, tocopherols, tocotrienols, vitamin E, wild barley, wild barley grass.
  • Note: Most scientific studies have used foods containing barley rather then barley supplements.

Background

  • Barley is a grain used as a staple food in many countries. It is commonly used as an ingredient in baked products and soup in Europe and the United States. Barley malt is used to make beer and as a natural sweetener called malt sugar or barley jelly sugar.
  • Recent data suggest that barley may be promising in reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) in mildly hyperlipidemic patients. Barley has a high fiber content.
  • Germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) may play a role in the management of ulcerative colitis and mild constipation.

Evidence Table

    Disclaimer

    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

    B Coronary heart disease (CHD)

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that whole grain barley and barley-containing products are allowed to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). To qualify for the health claim, the barley-containing foods must provide at least 0.75 gram of soluble fiber per serving of the food.

    C Constipation

    Barley has been used traditionally as a treatment for constipation, due to its high fiber content. However, there is limited scientific evidence in this area. Further research is necessary in order to establish safety and dosing recommendations.

    C High blood sugar/glucose intolerance

    Early evidence suggests that barley meal may improve glucose tolerance. Better research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

    C Ulcerative colitis

    Germinated barley foodstuff (GBF), which comes from maturing barley, may be helpful in patients with ulcerative colitis. Scientific evidence in this area is limited, and further research is needed before GBF can be recommended for ulcerative colitis.

    C Weight loss

    Increasing whole-grain foods containing high amounts of soluble or insoluble fiber may help to control weight. Barley has high fiber content but studies regarding whether barley promotes weight loss are limited.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

    Disclaimer

    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Dosing

    Disclaimer

    The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

  • Adults (18 years and older)

    • For constipation, limited research has used 9 grams of germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) daily for up to 20 days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows whole grain barley and barley-containing products to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). To qualify for the health claim, the barley-containing foods must provide at least 0.75 gram of soluble fiber per serving of the food.
    • For high cholesterol, 1.5 milliliters of barley oil twice daily or 30 grams of barley bran flour daily by mouth has been used in studies. Also, for ulcerative colitis (mild-to-moderate), germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) 10 grams taken three times daily has been studied and reported as well tolerated.
  • Children (younger than 18 years)

    • There is not enough scientific information to recommend barley for use in children.

Safety

    Disclaimer

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

  • Allergies

    • Individuals with known allergy or hypersensitivity to barley flour or beer should avoid barley products. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and skin rashes have been reported from drinking beer made with malted barley. Patients with allergy/hypersensitivity to grass pollens, rice, rye, oats, or wheat may also react to barley.
    • “Bakers’ asthma” is an allergic response from breathing in cereal flours among workers of the baking and milling industries and can occur due to barley flour exposure. If an individual is allergic to one grain (like barley), there is a possibility that other grains may cause similar symptoms.
  • Side Effects and Warnings

    • Barley appears to be well tolerated in non-allergic, healthy adults in recommended doses for short periods of time, as a grain or in the form of beer. Individuals with celiac disease (wheat allergy) may have a higher tendency to develop gastrointestinal (stomach) upset with barley products. Barley may cause a feeling of “fullness.”
    • Theoretically, eating large amounts of barley may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary. Hordenine, a chemical in the root of developing barley, may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. The effect of hordenine from barley on humans is not clear, although theoretically increased heart rate or wakefulness may occur.
    • Eye, nasal, and sinus irritation or asthmatic reactions can occur from exposure to barley dust. Some individuals may experience itching, inflammation, or irritation of the skin, eyelids, arms, or legs. Contact with the malt in beer may cause skin rash.
    • Fungal contamination of barley with Trichothecium roseum has occurred and may cause a serious condition in which bones break down. Another contaminant that has been found in barley is ochratoxin A.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

    • Traditionally, women have been advised against eating large amounts of barley sprouts during pregnancy. Infants fed with a formula containing barley water, whole milk, and corn syrup developed malnutrition and anemia, possibly due to vitamin deficiencies.

Interactions

    Disclaimer

    Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

  • Interactions with Drugs

    • Fiber in barley may decrease the absorption of medications taken by mouth and prevent full beneficial effects. In general, prescription drugs should be taken one hour before or two hours after barley because barley may reduce the effectiveness of many drugs, vitamins, and minerals.
    • Eating barley in large quantities may lower blood sugar concentrations. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
    • Barley has been associated with decreased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) concentrations, and may act additively with other cholesterol-lowering agents. Barley may also lower blood pressure and should be used with caution if blood pressure-lowering drugs are also taken. Hordenine, a chemical in the root of developing barley, may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. In theory, taking hordenine with stimulant drugs and over-the-counter cold remedies such as pseudoephedrine may result in additive effects such as increased heart rate or wakefulness.
    • Animal data suggest that consuming barley may interfere with the absorption of anthelmintics, which are drugs taken for parasitic worms.
  • Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

    • Fiber in barley may decrease the absorption of medications taken by mouth and prevent full beneficial effects. In general, prescription drugs should be taken one hour before or two hours after barley because barley may reduce the effectiveness of many drugs, vitamins, and minerals.
    • In theory, barley may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
    • Barley has been associated with decreased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) concentrations, and may add to the effects of cholesterol-lowering agents. Barley may also lower blood pressure and should be used with caution if taken with blood pressure-lowering herbs and supplements. Hordenine, a chemical in the root of developing barley, may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. In theory, taking hordenine with stimulant agents such as ephedra or caffeine may result in additive effects such as increased heart rate or wakefulness.
    • Animal data suggest that consuming barley may interfere with the absorption of anthelmintics, which are herbs taken to rid the body of parasitic worms.

Attribution

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().

Bibliography

    Disclaimer

    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

  • Armentia A, Rodriguez R, Callejo A, et al. Allergy after ingestion or inhalation of cereals involves similar allergens in different ages. Clin Exp Allergy 2002;32(8):1216-1222.
    View Abstract
  • Bamba T, Kanauchi O, Andoh A, et al. A new prebiotic from germinated barley for nutraceutical treatment of ulcerative colitis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2002;17(8):818-824.
    View Abstract
  • Behall KM, Scholfield DJ, Hallfrisch J. Diets containing barley significantly reduce lipids in mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80(5):1185-1193.
    View Abstract
  • Behall KM, Scholfield DJ, Hallfrisch J. Lipids significantly reduced by diets containing barley in moderately hypercholesterolemic men. J Am Coll Nutr 2004;23(1):55-62.
    View Abstract
  • Bonadonna P, Crivellaro M, Dama A, et al. Beer-induced anaphylaxis due to barley sensitization: two case reports. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 1999;9(4):268-270.
    View Abstract
  • Gabrovska D, Fiedlerova V, Holasova M, et al. The nutritional evaluation of underutilized cereals and buckwheat. Food Nutr Bull 2002;23(3 Suppl):246-249.
    View Abstract
  • Hanai H, Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, et al. Germinated barley foodstuff prolongs remission in patients with ulcerative colitis. Int J Mol Med 2004;13(5):643-647.
    View Abstract
  • Hogberg L, Laurin P, Falth-Magnusson K, et al. Oats to children with newly diagnosed coeliac disease: a randomised double blind study. Gut 2004;53(5):649-654.
    View Abstract
  • Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(3 Suppl):610S-616S.
    View Abstract
  • Keenan JM, Goulson M, Shamliyan T, et al. The effects of concentrated barley beta-glucan on blood lipids in a population of hypercholesterolaemic men and women. Br J Nutr 2007;97(6):1162-8.
    View Abstract
  • Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, Saiki T, et al. Germinated barley foodstuff increases fecal volume and butyrate production in humans. Int J Mol Med 1998;1(6):937-941.
    View Abstract
  • Lupton JR, Robinson MC, Morin JL. Cholesterol-lowering effect of barley bran flour and oil. J Am Diet Assoc 1994;94(1):65-70.
    View Abstract
  • Montbriand MJ. Herbs or natural products that protect against cancer growth part three of a four-part series. Oncol Nurs Forum 2004;31(6):E127-E146.
    View Abstract
  • Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Chief Editors: Ulbricht C, Basch E, Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference – Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews, USA: Elsevier/Mosby, 2005.
  • Rendell M, Vanderhoof J, Venn M, et al. Effect of a barley breakfast cereal on blood glucose and insulin response in normal and diabetic patients. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2005;60(2):63-67.
    View Abstract