Barley grass is often referred to as a green food, or a young cereal grass harvested early in a plant’s life that has significant amounts of chlorophyll. Many people include barley grass in their diet because they believe in a wide variety of barley grass benefits, such as prevention of cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and an expedited immune system response. This nutrient-rich plant has been used for medicinal and dietary purposes for thousands of years. The understanding of barley grass benefits has evolved and can now be found in several forms.
Barley grass, which contains many vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, protein and fiber, may help treat existing health issues. High concentrations of chlorophyll—the green pigment found in some plants that gives the green food group its name—acts much like human blood’s oxygen carrier, hemoglobin. Chlorophyll inhibits the growth of disease bacteria when introduced into the diet, and this effect may create a wide array of barley grass benefits. Barley grass eliminates free radicals, or atoms with an odd number of electrons created through normal body functions that can cause damage to healthy cells. Barley grass may aid in the reduction of inflammation, so those with arthritis sometimes eat green foods to ease the pain that can come from inflammation of the joints.
The protein, fiber and B12 found in barley grass benefits energy levels, some say. Barley grass benefits can also include the prevention of potential dangerous health problems. By protecting cells against carcinogens, barley grass is thought to prevent certain cancers. This green food can impede the body’s absorption of cholesterol and, while no conclusive data has been reached, many studies show that patients ingesting barley grass had lower cholesterol levels than patients who did not take barley grass. Some nutritionists and doctors even suggest that protection against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may be one health benefit of supplementing the diet with green foods.
The use of barley grass for medicinal purposes dates back to 7,000 BC, when records first show that the grass was grown as a crop. It was then used to treat a variety of sicknesses, including blood and liver problems; it is said that ancient gladiators chewed on the grass to boost energy and stamina before fights. Today, barley grass can be found in a concentrated pill form or at juice bars and health food stores in liquid form. Freshly juiced barley grass includes enzymes that dried powders made into pills may not have, as well as higher doses of the crop’s vitamins and minerals.