Barley water is a preparation made from barley, a grain commonly used for the production of distilled and fermented beverages like wine, beer and whiskey. The drink is prepared by simply boiling barley grains in appropriate amounts of water and drinking it strained or unstrained. Most people also like to add citrus, salty or sweet flavours to barley water to make it more palatable.

Just like barley, barley water is loaded with minerals and nutrients and has several benefits for health and well being. Barley water is known for promoting heart health, management of blood sugar levels and helping in weight loss. It is also said to help relieve the symptoms of a urinary tract infection. 

Unstrained barley water contains fiber, which is believed to add to the benefits of barley water in the form of better digestion and blood pressure. 

This article discusses the various benefits, methods of preparation and the possible side effects of barley water.

  1. Barley water nutrition facts
  2. How to make barley water
  3. Barley water health benefits
  4. Side effects of barley water

According to USDA, 100 g of barley contains the following values:

Nutrients Value per 100g 
Energy 354 kcal
Water 9.44 g
Carbohydrate 73.48 g
Protein 12.48 g
Fats 2.30 g
Fibres 17.3 g
Sugars 0.80 g
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamin A 1 ug
Vitamin B1 0.646 mg
Vitamin B2 0.285 mg
Vitamin B3 4.604 mg
Vitamin B6 0.318 mg
Vitamin B9 19 ug
Vitamin E 0.57 mg
Potassium 452 mg
Calcium 33 mg
Magnesium 133 mg
Phosphorus 264 mg
Sodium 12 mg
Iron 2.60 mg
Zinc 2.77 mg
Selenium 37.7 ug
Copper 0.498 mg
Manganese 1.943 mg
Fatty acids
Total 0.482 mg
Monounsaturated 0.295 mg
Polyunsaturated 1.108 mg

A step-by-step detailed procedure for preparing barley water has been described below.

  • Soak about a quarter cup of barley seeds in water overnight.
  • Heat the barley seeds in about 4 cups of water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
  • Add a pinch of salt into the mixture and let the barley simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Strain the water into a glass and allow it to cool down completely. You can also use it in unstrained form.
  • You can add like lemon juice, cinnamon, honey, and ginger to enhance the flavour or just drink the water plain.
  • Also, instead of discarding the barley seeds, you can grind or mash them and use them as a thickening agent for smoothies and curries.

The many health benefits of drinking barley water have been described in detail below.

Barley water for weight loss

Barley water can be of great aid when it comes to weight loss. Barley is high in protein and very low in fat, cholesterol, and sugar content. It is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals. These properties make it an ideal nutrient for weight loss.

(Read more: 15 Tried and tested tips to lose weight)

Drinking barley water has recently become a very popular way to burn calories. About 2 to 3 glasses of barley water can be consumed every day to speed up metabolism for effective weight loss.

If consumed regularly, barley water can significantly reduce the risk of obesity.

Barley water in combination with lemon and honey is a wonderful alternative to beverages high in calories.

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

Barley water for diabetes

Barley has a number of biologically active compounds which help in controlling hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar). Saponarin is one such component that can control blood glucose in case of diabetes.

Barley is also abundantly rich in both magnesium and calcium. A study was conducted on a group of African American women in the United States to test the association between eating a diet rich in magnesium and calcium and the risk of occurrence of Type 2 diabetes. The study kept track of the food frequency patterns of 41,186 women for 8 years and it was found that the daily consumption of magnesium-rich foods, especially whole grains, was linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes.

(Read more: What to eat and what not to eat in diabetes)

Barley water for cholesterol

Barley water on regularised consumption can help in reducing total cholesterol as it reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, but significantly increases the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. Hexacosanol, a bioactive compound present in barley can improve cholesterol metabolism by decreasing cholesterol synthesis.

A recent study was conducted on healthy and hypercholesterolemic men and women to determine and record any change in serum lipid and cholesterol levels on consumption of barley water. The duration of the study ranged from 4 to 12 weeks, and it concluded that barley significantly reduced the total cholesterol, along with LDL, and triglyceride levels in the body.

(Read more: High cholesterol treatment)

Barley water for blood pressure

The bioactive compound saponarin found in barley possesses blood pressure regulating potential. Barley water helps in the regulation of blood flow and digestion. It also aids in regularising the general toxification of the human body, due to the presence of superoxide dismutase, lutonarin as well as saponarin.

A study conducted in 2006, which was published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that increasing the intake of whole grains such as barley rich in insoluble fibre, helps to reduce blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.

(Read more: High blood pressure symptoms)

Barley water for digestion

Due to the presence of dietary fibre, unstrained barley water has a laxative action and help increase faecal volume. This, in turn, prevents constipation. Barley water is said to be effective in the management of ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis, and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. 

The insoluble fibre present in barley also benefit the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which aids bowel movement and digestion.

(Read more: How to improve digestion)

Furthermore, barley is rich in selenium, a mineral that is suggested to have an ameliorative effect on gastric ulcers. 

(Read more: Homeopathic remedies for peptic ulcer)

Barley water for the heart

Consumption of barley water can prevent thrombosis and cardiovascular diseases by improving blood viscosity and flow. The metabolites of an amino acid tryptophan present in barley are suggested to have a potential for developing appropriate therapies for patients with cardiovascular diseases.

Barley is also abundantly rich in potassium. An increase in potassium intake is associated with decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress, which can prevent the risk of a heart disease.

Furthermore, barley water is known to help reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, two of the major risk factors for heart diseases.

Barley water benefits for the skin

Drinking barley water can have immense benefits for skin health because it is rich in antioxidants and a host of other nutrients. The zinc present in barley may help to heal the skin and repair wounds. Drinking barley water may also help in the reduction of facial lesions or wounds over time.

The presence of large amounts of selenium in barley may aid in maintaining the elasticity of the skin and keeping it toned by preventing free radical damage. So if you want to get rid of that acne, start drinking barley water.

Barley water also helps to keep the skin hydrated. Evidence from a study suggests that barley water may help delay ageing. Participants were given barley and soybean as a dietary supplement for 8 weeks and the hydration effects were estimated. At the end of the study, a considerable increase in the skin hydration levels was noticed. This increase in skin hydration has been claimed to slow down ageing.

(Read more: Prevention of premature ageing)

Barley water as an anti-inflammatory

Barley water has the potential for reducing inflammation. The bioactive compound, saponarin is an important functional ingredient responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of barley water. 

Studies indicate that barley water with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can be used as a natural drug for the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is suggested to act by neutralising reactive oxygen species and downregulating tumour necrosis factor (a cell signalling protein triggering systemic inflammation) from peripheral blood and synovial fluid of patients.

(Read more: 5 Foods that help reduce inflammation)

Barley water for urinary tract infection

Barley water is a powerful diuretic and helps in clearing out toxins from kidneys. It is traditionally used for the management and prevention of urinary tract infections (UTI).

A qualitative study was conducted in 2012 with 151 Hispanic women. The participants had a wide variety of symptoms for UTI. Several interviews were conducted, where a large number of Hispanic men and women claimed that one of the best home remedies they relied on for curing UTI was barley water.

More research is, however, required to determine the exact components of barley that show such effects.

(Read more: Home remedies for UTI)

Barley water for fatigue

Drinking barley water can also help to fight fatigue. Lutonarin and saponarin comprise about 17% of the total constituents in barley. These are flavones that have antihypoxia (increases oxygen supply to tissues) and anti-fatigue effects on humans.

So, erase that fatigue away with a glass of barley water.

Barley water for bones

Barley is also extremely rich in calcium. Homeostasis of calcium is of paramount physiological and pathophysiological importance in bone health and diseases.

Drinking barley water may thus make sure that you get enough calcium which, in turn, reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

(Read more: Calcium-rich Indian foods)

Barley water for the immune system

Barley water contains high amounts of vitamins and antioxidants that can boost the immune system.

Consuming barley water on a regular basis also helps to speed up wound healing and help the body resist cold and flu.

Additionally, barley water, when taken along with antibiotics helps to promote the function and effectiveness of the medication.

(Read more: Immunity boosting foods)

Barley water for cancer

Barley inhibits the growth of cancer cells through the combined effects of high alkaline, strong antioxidative, phytochemicals, flavonoids, and chlorophyll. Phytochemical mixtures of barley have been found to show promising antitumour effects in breast cancer.

Green barley extract has also been found to have anticancer effect as it shows antiproliferative and proapoptotic functions on leukaemia, lymphoma along with human breast cancer cells.

A study conducted in 2014 examined the effects of β-d-glucans, bioactive components of plant cells on breast cancer cells. The study has found that drinking barley water helps to cease the rapid cell division of breast cancer cells.

(Read more: Diet for cancer patients)

We are familiar with the wide number of benefits of barley water by now. However, unmonitored and excess intake of barley water could lead to some serious side effects which have been discussed in detail below.

  • Over-consumption of barley water can lead to bloating, gas formation, and sometimes diarrhoea as well.
  • Another common side effect of barley water is allergies and other associated symptoms like rashes, inflammation, hives, irritation as well as swelling of eyes, eyelids, nose, arms, legs, and even anaphylaxis. In cases of hypersensitivity or allergy in the recent past, the daily consumption of barley water should be regulated. It is advisable to seek the opinion of your doctor before adding barley water to your daily regime.
  • Barley grain can cause a serious respiratory allergy called ‘bakers asthma’ in the people working in bakeries. While preparing barley water, one needs to be careful regarding the exposure to barley flour.
  • Barley water should not be consumed by people with celiac disease. Celiac disease is essentially wheat allergy caused due to gluten intolerance. Barley contains large amounts of gluten, which could make the condition even worse.
  • Barley water should be consumed during pregnancy only after proper consultation with your doctor.

References

  1. Zhigang Han et al. Association mapping for total polyphenol content, total flavonoid content and antioxidant activity in barley. BMC Genomics. 2018; 19: 81. PMID: 29370751
  2. Yawen Zeng et al. Preventive and Therapeutic Role of Functional Ingredients of Barley Grass for Chronic Diseases in Human Beings. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018; 2018: 3232080. PMID: 29849880
  3. Byun AR et al. Effects of a Dietary Supplement with Barley Sprout Extract on Blood Cholesterol Metabolism. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:473056. PMID: 26101533
  4. Hokazono H, Omori T, Yamamoto T, Akaoka I, Ono K. Effects of a fermented barley extract on subjects with slightly high serum uric acid or mild hyperuricemia. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74(4):828-34. Epub 2010 Apr 7. PMID: 20378966
  5. Kubatka P et al. Young Barley Indicates Antitumor Effects in Experimental Breast Cancer In Vivo and In Vitro. Nutr Cancer. 2016 May-Jun;68(4):611-21. PMID: 27042893
  6. Ikeguchi M et al. Effects of young barley leaf powder on gastrointestinal functions in rats and its efficacy-related physicochemical properties. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:974840. PMID: 25114709
  7. Bamba T et al. A new prebiotic from germinated barley for nutraceutical treatment of ulcerative colitis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2002 Aug;17(8):818-24. PMID: 12164955
  8. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Full Report (All Nutrients): 20004, Barley, hulled. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
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