- Family Gramineae
- Hordeum distichon (Pearl Barley, Scotch Barley, Pot Barley)
- Hordeum vulgare (Six-row Barley)
- Those with celiac disease, should avoid this grain as it does contain gluten, although not nearly as much as wheat.
It is an annual grass growing to about three feet producing erect, hollow stems, lance-shaped leaves, and ears bearing two to six rows of seeds and long bristles. It is cultivated in temperate regions worldwide and harvested when seeds are mature.
Barley has been used as a food since Neolithic times.
Dioscorides, in the 1st century CE, recommended it “to weaken and restrain sharp and subtle humours and sore and ulcerated throats.”
According to Culpeper, “barley flour, white salt, honey, and vinegar mingled together taketh away the itch speedily and certainly.”
- clears mucus
- B vitamins
- alkaloids (hordenine and gramine in young seedlings)
- Barley contains beta glucan, a type of fiber that may help lower blood cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
Given as a porridge or barley water, it is an excellent food for the convalescent, infants, and the infirm. It is easily assimilated, and can be taken to clear stagnant mucous and soothe an inflamed digestive tract or urinary tract.
When given to babies, it helps with the digestion of milk, preventing the development of curds within the stomach.
It is commonly given to children suffering from minor infections or diarrhea, and is especially recommended for fevers.
Chinese research suggests that barley may be helpful in treating hepatitis. Since it is so easily digested, it would give the liver a much needed rest while making the easily digested nutrients available to strengthen the body.
Trials undertaken in the 1990s, suggest that barley may be helpful in controlling blood-sugar levels in diabetics.
Barley bran may have an effect in lowering cholesterol and in preventing bowel cancer.
Six-rowed barley is used in Chinese herbal medicine to strengthen digestion. It is also thought to reduce breast-milk production, helpful during weaning.
Cool barley water is used in drinks for fevers and to soothe and heal stomach or digestive upsets, irritable bowels, dry coughs, diarrhea, cystits, or irritable bladders.
Strong barley water soothes sore throats and makes an excellent wash for raw, itchy skin. Barley water is made by soaking the grain for several hours or left after cooking. It is high in starches and soluble fiber.
Barley grass, a popular ingredient in juice supplements, is rich in cholorophyll and antioxidants. German researchers have also found that sprouted barley seed contains alkaloids that may have some therapeutic value.
Made into a poultice, barley is helpful in soothing and reducing inflammation in sores and swellings. Barley poultices are used to draw the poison out of boils, abscesses, stings, and bites, as well as to clear up weeping eczema.
To Make a Barley Poultice: Use a coffee or seed grinder to make a fine powder from flaked barley. Add sufficient water to make a paste. Wrap in a piece of clean cloth or a paper towel, and apply either hot or cold. A hot poultice will ease stiff and painful joints and draw poisons from abscesses and infected cuts. A cold poultice will relieve swellings. Adding herbs in equal amounts will give added benefits: chamomile for any deep pain and stomach aches; sage for aching joints; onion for boils, abscesses, and infected cuts. Adding honey is suitable for weeping eczema and other itchy skin conditions.