Barley is a cereal grain. People often eat the grain as food. Some people also use the grain to make medicine.

Barley is most commonly used for heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also used for diabetes, obesity, cancer prevention, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these other uses.

In manufacturing, barley is used as a food grain, natural sweetener, and as an ingredient for brewing beer and making alcoholic beverages.
When taken by mouth: Barley is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth. It might cause gas, bloating, or feelings of fullness in some people. This usually lessens with continued use. Barley can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.

When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if barley is safe. In some people, barley can cause an allergic reaction after it has been applied to the skin. Symptoms may include skin rash and difficulty breathing.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy: Barley is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy in amounts commonly found in foods. Barley sprouts are POSSIBLY UNSAFE and should not be eaten in high amounts during pregnancy.

Breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if barley is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity: The gluten in barley can make celiac disease worse. Avoid using barley.

Allergies to cereal grains: Consuming barley might cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to other cereal grains, including rye, wheat, oat, corn and rice. An allergic reaction is also possible in people allergic to grass.


NatMed Pro rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
Likely effective Effectiveness definitions
  • Heart disease. Barley products contain high amounts of fiber. Foods high in soluble fiber can be used as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet to prevent heart disease. Research shows that a person must eat at least 3.6 grams of soluble fiber each day to reduce the risk for heart disease.
  • High cholesterol. Research shows that taking barley reduces total cholesterol and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The benefit might depend on the amount of barley taken.
Possibly effective Effectiveness definitions
Likely ineffective Effectiveness definitions
Possibly ineffective Effectiveness definitions
  • Colon cancer, rectal cancer. People who eat more fiber such as barley don't seem to have a lower risk of developing colon cancer.
Insufficient evidence Effectiveness definitions
  • Stomach cancer. People who eat more fiber such as barley as part of their diet seem to have a lower risk of getting stomach cancer.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Early research shows that eating food containing germinated barley daily for 4-24 weeks reduces the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Other research shows that taking a specific product (Profermin) containing barley and other ingredients for 8 weeks reduces symptoms of ulcerative colitis and increases the chance of disease remission.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Boils, when applied to the skin.
  • Increasing strength and energy.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate barley for these uses.

Dosing & administration

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For heart disease: Barley products that contain 3.6 grams of beta-glucan (soluble fiber) daily, as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
  • For high cholesterol: 3 grams of barley oil extract, 30 grams of barley bran flour, or up to 6 grams of soluble fiber from barley have been used. In some cases, barley has been added to a National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step I diet. Pearled barley, or barley flour, flakes, or powder in doses of 3-12 grams daily have also been used.

Interactions with pharmaceuticals

Triclabendazole (Egaten)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Barley seems to reduce the amount of triclabendazole that the body can absorb and use. However, it is not clear if this is a big concern. Until more is known, people taking triclabendazole should use barley with caution.

Interactions with herbs & supplements

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Interactions with foods

There are no known interactions with foods.


The fiber in barley might lower cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. Barley may also reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. Barley seems to slow stomach emptying. This could help keep blood sugar stable and create a sensation of being full, which might help to control appetite.
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This monograph was last reviewed on 29/06/2023 10:00:00 and last updated on 20/10/2020 01:03:51. Monographs are reviewed and/or updated multiple times per month and at least once per year.
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