Barley Grass

Barley grass is a nutritious food that is best known for its alkalising and antioxidant properties.  It is made from young nutrient dense shoots of barley, which are harvested above the ground ensuring that none of the grain is present.  Since the allergenic protein gluten is only present in the barley grain, barley grass is gluten free.

Barley grass is a rich source of chlorophyll and many essential and unique antioxidants.  It also contains a wide range of vitamins, mineral and amino acids. 

Nutritional properties:

Barley grass contains every vitamin except vitamin D, most minerals (especially calcium) and all essential and non-essential amino acids (1).  Although due to the lower dosage consumption of barley grass compared to other vegetables, these nutrients are not at exceptionally high levels, they are provided in their natural easily absorbable forms. 

Nineteen amino acids are found in barley grass including all eight of the essential amino acids1. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for continual cell building, and regeneration, as well as energy production, immune function and detoxification.  Barley grass is actually about 26% protein[2], which is approximately the same amount of protein found in the same quantity of lean beef[3].

 Barley grass also contains a number of living enzymes and flavonoids that function as potent free radical scavengers[4],[5].  These compounds make barley grass a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement[6].  In fact, some studies show that barley grass extract may be beneficial for the treatment of health problems including gastric ulcers[7], high cholesterol levels[8] and even some cancers[9].  These properties are covered in more detail below. 

Alkalising properties:

Barley grass is naturally alkaline and helps to neutralise excess acidity in the body.  It is also a rich source of chlorophyll1,12, the green pigment that is made by plants via photosynthesis.  Chlorophyll is one of the most potent alkalising plant nutrients needed to maintain an alkaline body.  Green barley also contains an array on alkalising minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. 

Antioxidant and detoxifying properties:

Green barley contains high concentrations of naturally occurring substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties1,15.  Britian’s Food Guru, Dr Gillian McKeith, in her book “Living Food For Health – 12 Natural Superfoods to transform your health” calls Green Barley the “Toxin Terminator”; which is a fitting name for such an amazing food.   

Barley grass contains antioxidant phytonutrients including the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), the flavonoid 2”-O-glucosylisovitexin (2”-O-GIV), protein fractions P4-D1 and D1-G1, as well as many other phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that are yet to be studied.

 Superoxide dismutase is an essential antioxidant enzyme.  The importance of SOD in the body is clearly demonstrated by a study which showed that mice lacking the gene coding for SOD died within the first ten days of life due to heart disease, fatty liver, acceleration of age-related muscle loss and metabolic acidosis[10].  A deficiency of SOD was shown in another study to lead to widespread free radical damage, leading to the development of liver cancer later in life[11]. 

However it is not just SOD that is responsible for green barley’s potent antioxidant and detoxifying effects.  One study showed that the complete green barley extract was found to be more efficient in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis than consumption of only the isolated SOD6.  This is most likely due to the synergistic actions of various phytonutrients in green barley, rather than just the SOD content.

Another important compound found in green barley is 2”-O-GIV.  2”-O-GIV was shown to inhibit superoxide and hydroxyl radicals by 97% and 91% respectively4.  These are two of the main damaging free radicals in the body.

Green barley also contains the protein fractions P4-D1 and D1-G1, which where shown to have an anti-inflammatory action better than aspirin when given intravenously[12]. 

Anti-cancer properties:

Barley grass has been shown to have anti-mutagenic properties, which means that components in barley grass are able to inhibit damage to the body by cancer causing compounds13,14,Error! Bookmark not defined..  Chlorophyll may be partly responsible for this action as recent studies have shown that it protects cells against radiation, supports blood cell production and inhibits cancer development[13],[14].  Furthermore, the antioxidant enzyme, SOD have been shown to inhibit cancers caused by free-radical damage11 

Suggested Use

Adults: Mix 1-2 teaspoons of Barley Grass Powder into juice, smoothie, salad dressing or other food; build up to twice daily. Children: ½ to 1 teaspoon daily. Green barley powder is best taken on an empty stomach to improve absorption.   

Potential side-effects and interactions:

Green barley is a natural food and is not linked to any significant adverse effects.  However, due to its detoxifying properties it is best to start at a low dosage and gradually increase the dosage to avoid any detoxification symptoms.  Common symptoms of detoxification include headache, fatigue and flatulence.  These symptoms should cease within 24-48 hours, however many people do not suffer any detoxification symptoms at all.  Ensure you drink plenty of filtered water and eat a healthy diet to support your body’s detoxification efforts. Barley grass is a rich source of vitamin K, which is an important vitamin for blood clotting.  Therefore it is important to discuss this with your doctor if you are taking blood thinning medication.   



[1] Simonsohn B (1999) Barley Grass Juice: Rejuvenation Elixir and Natural, Healthy Power Drink. Lotus Press Shangri-La, USA.

[2] Nutrient assay of Morlife™ Certified Organic Barley Grass independently conducted by Symbio Alliance laboratory, QLD on 02/08/07.

[3] Data sourced from Food Standards Australia New Zealand – Nutrition Panel Calculator on 17/05/08.

  [4] Arimoto T, Ichinose T, Yoshikawa, et al (2000) Effect of the natural antioxidant 2”-O-glycosylisovitexin on superoxide and hydroxyl radical generation. Food Chem. Toxicol.; 38(9): 849-852. 

[5] Benedet J, Umeda H, Sibamoto T (2007) Antioxidant activity of flavonoids isolated from young green barley leaves toward biological lipid samples.  J. Agric. Food Chem.; 55(14): 5499-5504.

  [6] Cremer L, Herold A, Avram D, et al (1998) A purified green barley extract with modulatory properties upon TNF alpha and ROS released by human specialised cells isolated from RA patients. Roum Arch Microbiol. Immunol.; 53(3-4): 231-242.  [7] Ohtake H, Yuasa H, Komura C, et al (1985) [Studies on the constituents of green juice from young barley leaves. Antiulcer activity of fractions from barley juice]. Yakugaku Zasshi; 105(11): 1046-1051 [article in Japanese]. 

[8] Ohtake H, Nonaka S, Sawada Y, et al (1985) [Studies of the constituents of green juice from young barley leaves. Effect on dietarily induced hypercholesterolemia in rats]. Yakugaku Zashi; 105(11): 1052-1057 [Article in Japanese].

  [9] Paulíčková I, Ehren bergerová, Fie dlerová V, et al (2006) Evaluation of Barley Grass as a potential source of some nutritional substances. Czech J. Food Sci.; 25(2): 65–72. 

[10] Li Y, Huang T, Carlson E, et al (1995) Dilated cardiomyopathy and neonatal lethality in mutant mice lacking manganese superoxide dismutase. Nat. Genet.; 11(4): 376-381.

  [11] Elchuri S, Oberley T, Wenbo Q, et al (2005) CuZnSOD deficiency leads to persistent and widespread oxidative damage and hepatocarcinogenesis later in life. Oncogene; 24: 367-380. 

[12] McKeith G (2000) Living Food for Health: 12 Natural Superfoods to transform your health. Piatkus, UK.

  [13] Ferruzzi M, Blakeslee J (2007) Digestion, absorption, and cancer preventative activity of dietary chlorophyll derivatives. Nutrition; 27(1): 1-12.  [14] Ferruzzi M, Bohm V, Courtney P, et al (2002) Antioxidant and Antimutagenic Activity of Dietary Chlorophyll Derivatives Determined by Radical Scavenging and Bacterial Reverse Mutagenesis Assays. J. Food Sci.; 67(7): 2589–2595.

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