Barley grass juice is a liquid pressed out of the barley grass plant, a young cereal grass. The juice is usually extracted with a mechanical juicer, but it often takes a lot of raw plants to pour a glass or even a shot of the juice; each shoot contains just a few drops of extractable liquid. Sometimes the grass is also dehydrated and ground into a powder that can be mixed with water or added to some other liquid in order to reconstitute. It has an often bitter, very earthy taste that many people find takes some getting used to. As far as nutritional profile goes, though, it’s formidable. The juice contains heavy concentrations of many important vitamins and minerals, and is also rich in antioxidant phytochemicals that can improve overall health.
Barley Grass Basics
Barley grass, known scientifically as Hordeum vulgare, is widely thought to be one of the earliest cereal grains cultivated intentionally by humans. It is native to much of Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and featured prominently in the diets of Ancient Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. European explorers brought it back to Europe and the Americas, where it continues to grow prolifically today.
The barley grain is used to make beer, and it is eaten in breads, soups, salads, and many other dishes. Young barley grass is more like a vegetable than a grain, however, and is often compared to leafy green vegetables. Shoots of very young plants often contain the highest concentrations of nutrients, which the plant would use to fuel its growth into maturity — and which humans can harness when eating or, in the case of juice, drinking it. One of the biggest benefits of juice is that it packs the vitamins and nutrients of so many shoots into such a small space. Eating as many grasses as go into a glass of juice could be very daunting.
Getting the juice out of the grass isn’t always easy. Like most plants, barley is made mostly of water. Accessing that water typically requires a professional juicer. Juicing machines use force to press, spin, or otherwise shred the solid material and expel the juice into a dedicated container. Solid materials like stocks and non-liquid fiber are usually compacted and discarded. Most juicers have the capacity to handle handfuls of the grass at once, and it can take a lot to make even just a bit of juice.
The powder form of barley grass is derived from dried young leaves of the barley plant. It is easily digested by the body when mixed with liquid, so the nutrients can be used quickly. When making the juice at home, it is recommended that the user mix the powder with cold or room temperature water, not hot, so as to avoid breaking down the vitamins and other nutrients.
Barley grass juice contains antioxidants, enzymes, and other phytochemicals that may help reduce damage from free radicals. Barley grass also contains amounts of beta carotene, folic acid, calcium, and many B vitamins, as well as vitamins C and E. It is also high in iron and certain other minerals.
One of the main elements in the juice that many people find beneficial is its high chlorophyll levels. Chlorophyll is an essential plant nutrient and is the main reason why plants are green; in general, the more chlorophyll a plant contains, the darker green its foliage will be. In humans, this same nutrient is believed to help stimulate tissue growth and maintain red blood cells. There is some suggestion that chlorophyll may also help patients with cancer, but definitive studies have yet been performed. Barley grass juice may also help to promote healthy cholesterol levels. It can also be used as a diet supplement for those trying to lose weight.
How It’s Used
Barley grass juice, along with the related wheatgrass juice, is often served in juice bars and health food stores. It is said to have a distinctive taste that may not be appreciated by all people, so it is often mixed with wheatgrass or other juices. Although fresh juice is thought to provide the most benefits, many users find the convenience of powered supplements to be more appealing. Powders also tend to have a longer shelf life, and won’t spoil when left sealed. Fresh juice usually needs to be consumed within a few days of its extraction.