Drug information of Barley grass

Barley grass

Drug group: medicinal herbs

Barley grass consists of the young green leaves of the barley plant, as opposed to the grain (for barley grain, refer to the Barley monograph). Barley plants can grow under a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. However, superior soil conditions are reflected in plants with higher nutritional content, and commercial suppliers of barley grass strive for optimal soil conditions for the crop. Favorable results have been achieved with crops grown in California. Barley grass is at its nutritional peak before the plant begins to produce flowers and seeds; harvesting takes place approximately 2 weeks after seeding.
At this stage of development, the young grass contains vitamins and minerals similar to those of dark green vegetables. Barley grass is available commercially in dried and powdered form prepared from the whole leaves or juice obtained by milling the leaves
A wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes have been isolated from barley grass. It is particularly rich in beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and vitamin C, and contains abundant chlorophyll. Other vitamins, electrolytes (eg, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium), and minerals isolated from the plant in substantial quantities include vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. Also of note are enzymes, particularly the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, and nitrogen reductase.Balch 1997, Margen 1992 A number of C-glycosylflavones with documented antioxidant effects have been isolated from the plant; saponarin is the major flavone

Mechanism of effect

Cholesterol-lowering effects have been attributed to the hexacosyl alcohol and beta-sitosterol fractions of barley leaf extract. beta-sitosterol is thought to act by inhibiting the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and accelerating its catabolism to bile acid. The mechanism of action of hexacosyl alcohol remains unclear

Reactive oxygen species have been shown to play an important part in mediating the production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and can be instrumental in the pathogenesis of diseases such as rheumatoid synovitis, arthritis, and gout. The ability of barley leaf extract to scavenge free radicals is thought to derive from the presence of polyphenolic compounds; free radicals are rendered less reactive by donation of hydrogen ions from the phenolic moiety with the formation of less reactive phenoxyl radicals. Green barley extracts, in particular a purified extract containing substances less than 1 kDa, have shown in vitro inhibitory actions on TNF-α isolated from blood and spinal fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Barley grass extracts protect human fibroblasts against carcinogens. The mechanism of action is unknown but may be associated with the plant's antioxidant activity or its chlorophyll content. The antimutagenic effects of chlorophyll and its metabolites have been demonstrated in vitro and in vivo; it has been suggested that complexes may be formed between the carcinogen and the chlorophyll that may inactivate the carcinogen.Chernomorsky 1999 In addition, antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase, found in high concentrations in green barley juice protect against radiation and free radicals

Drug indications

Barley grass is rich in vitamins and minerals, has antioxidant properties, and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Use as a cancer preventive or treatment has been suggested; however, this remains to be substantiated.

Many claims have been made regarding the health benefits of barley grass supplements. Suggested benefits include prevention and cure of cancer, treatment of HIV infection, cholesterol lowering, detoxification of pollutants, protection against solar and other forms of radiation, and boosting energy and immunity. However, objective evidence supporting many of these claims is lacking


A dose of 15 g/day dried barley leaf extract has been used for cholesterol lowering. This dosage provided 40 to 45 mg total phenols, 3,500 to 4,000 units beta-carotene, and 15 to 20 mg vitamin C

Drug contraindications

None identified

Side effects

Although hypersensitivity to barley products typically is associated with the seed and not the green leaves or shoots, patients with celiac disease or other sensitivities to barley probably should avoid use of barley grass

Pregnancy level


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking

Breast feeding warning

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking

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