Scientific Name(S): Hordeum vulgare L. Family: Gramineae
Common Name(S): Barley, Hordeum
Barley ( Hordeum vulgare ) is a major food and animal feed crop, a member of the grass family Poaceae. Barley has served as a food staple in most cultures. The use of Barley for food and medicinal purposes dates to antiquity. Agronomists place this ancient cereal grass as being cultivated as early as 7000 BC. Roman gladiators ate barley for strength and stamina. In the West, it was first known for the Barley grain it produces.
Botany: Barley is a well-known cereal grain that is cultivated throughout the world.
History: The use of barley for food and medicinal purposes dates to antiquity. The Roman physician Pliny noted that if a person affected with a boil took nine grains of barley, traced a circle around the boil three times with each grain, and then threw the barley into a fire with his left hand, the boil would be immediately cured. The mucilage derived from the cereal (known as ptisane by the ancient Greeks) was used to treat gastrointestinal inflammation. Barley has served as a food staple in most cultures. Gladiators ate barley for strength and stamina and were called hordearii from the Latin word for barley, hordeum. Although supplanted by wheat and rye in the baking process, barley is now used extensively in soups, cereals, animal feeds, and beer making. Roasted seeds are used in coffees and seeds are fermented into miso. “Covered” barley is used for animal feed and malting. For human consumption, the barley hull is removed by abrasions producing “pear'” barley.
Uses of Barley
Barley is a food staple also brewed to make beer, fermented to make miso, and processed to yield malt sugar. Studies indicate it may protect against colon cancer, reduce cholesterol and control hyperglycemia.
Malting barley is a key ingredient in beer and whiskey production
Side Effects of Barley
None of significant known, except that those with celiac disease should be cautioned about its low levels of gluten.
Toxicology: Because barley contains low levels of gluten, it should be ingested with caution by persons with celiac disease. No other significant side effects have been associated with dietary ingestion of barley.
Summary: Barley is a widely cultivated grain used as a food and in the brewing process. Interest has focused on the ability of components in the bran to reduce cholesterol levels and more extensive investigations into this effect are warranted.