Some people will eat or drink almost anything to get that extra burst of energy and achieve long-term health. The positive effects of cereal grasses have been known since the 1930s, but it still seems a little strange to most people to drink juice made out of grass. It may be strange, but in most cases, it's also perfectly safe--and even good for you.
According to the The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, barley was the first cereal grain that people cultivated. Young wheat and barley grass were included in the diets of ancient Middle Eastern and Asian societies, and in 1611, barley was one of the first crops planted by colonists in what would become Virginia.
As of 2007, barley is the fourth-largest cereal grain in the world, both in the amount of acreage used to produce it and in the quantity being produced. It is used as an animal feed; in soups, stews, breads and health foods; and for the malting process in whiskey and beer.
Green barley grass refers to the tender green shoots as opposed to the grain itself.
Green barley grass is rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and C. It also contains beta-carotene, calcium, chlorophyll, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, pantothenic acid and folic acid. The antioxidant superoxide dismutase is also present. There is some evidence that barley can have a positive effect on some cancers, but many more studies are needed.
Barley sensitivity is well-documented. Symptoms include having an itchy, burning mouth and throat, and vomiting, though most people who have allergic reactions to barley have consumed the seed, not barley grass. Still, if you are allergic to barley, avoid barley grass to be safe.
Celiac disease is a digestive condition that is aggravated when you eat anything that contains gluten, which is a protein found in bread, cookies, pasta, pizza crust and most other foods that are made with barley, wheat or rye.
Eating gluten causes an allergic reaction in your small intestine, which prevents some people from absorbing vital nutrients. This can lead to serious problems with your brain, bones, liver, brain, nervous system and other organs. It can also retard growth in children.
Though many websites recommend green barley grass as a super juice that will heal digestive issues, the Mayo Clinic recommends that people who have Celiac disease avoid green barley grass.
Green barley grass is available as a juice, in powdered form, capsules and even in kits to grow your own. You can find green barley grass supplements in health food stores, vitamin stores, drugstores and anywhere else supplements are sold. Barley grass growing kits are available online. As with all supplements, read the label to make sure you aren't sensitive to anything else in the product.