Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Barley flour, barley malt, barley oil, beta-glucan, brewer's spent grain, dietary fiber, germinated barley, Gramineae (family), high-fiber barley, high-protein barley flour (HPF), hordenine, hordeum, Hordeum dislichon, Hordeum distichon, Hordeum distychum, Hordeum murinum, Hordeum vulgare ssp., lunasin, mai ya, miso (Japanese), mugimeshi (Japanese), 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 than barley supplements.
Barley is a cereal 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. Barley has high fiber content.
Recent data suggest that barley may be promising in reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol in patients with mildly elevated cholesterol and in reducing the risk of heart disease. Although not well studied in humans, barley may protect against cancer. Current evidence suggests that beta-glucan from barley may not improve appetite control.
Germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) may play a role in the management of ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, and mild constipation. High-fiber barley may be useful in the diets of patients with diabetes.
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.
Evidence suggests that barley may help lower mildly elevated cholesterol, especially when used with other cholesterol-lowering agents. Larger trials are needed to confirm these results.
Cardiovascular disease risk
Supplementation with different types of barley beta-glucans had small effects on cardiovascular disease markers in humans. Further research is necessary in this area.
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.
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.
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 conclusions can be drawn.
Increasing intake of 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.
There is limited evidence suggesting that consumption of beta-glucan from barley does not improve appetite control. Further research in this area is necessary.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. 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 health care professional.
Antimicrobial, antioxidant, asthma, blood circulation, boils, bronchitis, bronchodilation, cancer, colon cancer, diarrhea, flavoring agent (sweetener), gallstones, gastritis, gastrointestinal inflammation, hair growth stimulant, high blood pressure, immunomodulator, inflammatory bowel disorders, kidney disease, nutritional supplement, stamina/strength enhancer, stomach upset.
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)
As an appetite suppressant, a meal-replacement bar containing 0.9 grams of beta-glucan (from eight grams of barley) has been taken by mouth.
For cardiovascular disease risk, a six-gram daily dose of a concentrated barley beta-glucan blended into a beverage has been taken twice daily for six weeks.
For constipation, 9-18 grams of germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) has been taken by mouth daily for up to 14 days.
For high cholesterol, 1.5 grams of barley oil twice daily or 30 grams of barley bran flour daily have been taken by mouth. Three to five grams of low- or high-molecular-weight barley beta-glucan extract has been taken by mouth for 10 weeks in functional foods. A supplement containing 50% pearl barley and 50% rice has been taken by mouth daily for 12 weeks. A six-gram daily dose of a concentrated barley beta-glucan blended into a beverage has been taken twice daily for six weeks.
For ulcerative colitis (mild-to-moderate), 10 grams of germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) has been taken by mouth three times daily. Twenty to thirty grams of GBF has been taken by mouth daily for 4-24 weeks.
For weight loss, a six-gram daily dose of a concentrated barley beta-glucan blended into a beverage has been taken by mouth twice daily for six weeks. Two packages of a supplement containing 50% pearl barley (seven grams of beta-glucan) and 50% rice have been taken by mouth daily for 12 weeks.
Note: Most trials have used foods containing barley rather than barley oil or other forms of barley.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for barley in children.
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.
Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to barley flour or to beer made with barley, its constituents, or members of the Poaceae family. Life-threatening allergic reactions, hives, skin rashes, skin inflammation, tingling in the face, lip and tongue swelling, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, stuffy nose and runny eyes, cough, wheezing, and fainting have been reported from drinking beer made with malted barley. Patients with allergy or 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 (such as barley), there is a possibility that other grains may cause similar reactions.
In patients with celiac disease, barley may stimulate immune responses.
Side Effects and Warnings
Use cautiously in all patients, due to the possible risk of contamination with fungi.
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. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Barley may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Use cautiously in patients taking cholesterol-lowering agents, as barley may act additively with other cholesterol-lowering agents.
Use cautiously in patients taking sympathomimetics, due to possible additive effects.
Use cautiously, as fiber speeds the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract and may affect the absorption of various agents taken by mouth.
Use high doses cautiously in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Avoid use in patients with celiac disease, as barley may exacerbate this condition.
Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to barley flour or to beer made with barley, its constituents, or members of the Poaceae family. Life-threatening allergic reactions, occupational "bakers' asthma," contact dermatitis, hives, skin rashes, skin inflammation, tingling in the face, lip and tongue swelling, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, cough, wheezing, and fainting have been reported from drinking beer made with malted barley. Patients with allergy or hypersensitivity to grass pollens, rice, rye, oats, or wheat may also react to barley.
Barley may also cause malnutrition and anemia in infants; chest symptoms; feverish episodes; gastrointestinal upset; Kashin-Beck disease (bone and joint disorder that may be caused by fungal contamination); eye, nasal, and sinus irritation; bronchial irritation; or pneumonitis (lung inflammation).
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Use high doses cautiously in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Anecdotally, excessive consumption of barley sprouts is not advised during pregnancy.
Infants fed with a formula containing barley water, whole milk, and corn syrup developed malnutrition and anemia, possibly due to vitamin deficiencies.
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
Barley may lower blood sugar levels. 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, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Barley may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
Barley may also interact with cholesterol-lowering drugs, drugs taken by mouth, drugs that expel parasitic worms, drugs that stimulate the heart and blood flow, and gastrointestinal agents.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
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 may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Barley may also interact with brown rice, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, gastrointestinal agents, herbs and supplements taken by mouth, herbs and supplements that expel parasitic worms, herbs and supplements that stimulate the heart and blood flow, high-carbohydrate foods, and whole wheat.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
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 www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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
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
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.
Peters HP, Boers HM, Haddeman E, et al. No effect of added beta-glucan or of fructooligosaccharide on appetite or energy intake. Am J Clin Nutr 2009 Jan;89(1):58-63. View Abstract
Nilsson AC, Ostman EM, Granfeldt Y, et al. Effect of cereal test breakfasts differing in glycemic index and content of indigestible carbohydrates on daylong glucose tolerance in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(3):645-54. View Abstract
Nilsson AC, Ostman EM, Holst JJ, et al. Including indigestible carbohydrates in the evening meal of healthy subjects improves glucose tolerance, lowers inflammatory markers, and increases satiety after a subsequent standardized breakfast. J Nutr 2008;138(4):732-9. View Abstract
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
Smith KN, Queenan KM, Thomas W, et al. Physiological effects of concentrated barley beta-glucan in mildly hypercholesterolemic adults. J Am Coll Nutr 2008;27(3):434-40. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017