Researchers: Young green barley can keep colon cancer at bay
02/24/2020 // Ralph Flores // Views

A study from the Institute of Rural Health in Poland showed that green barley has anti-cancer potential, adding to its already long list of health benefits. In their paper, which appeared in the Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, the team reported that extracts from young green barley can prevent the spread of colon cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells. Colorectal cancer, which includes cancers that start in the colon or rectum, is among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 104,000 cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed this year alone.

Green barley refers to the leaves of the barley plant (Hordeum vulgare), which produce the eponymous grain. Barley is the first cereal grain cultivated by humans, with records of its use as both food and medicine dating back to 7000 B.C. Early Asian and Middle Eastern cultures also consumed young wheat and barley grass. Ancient Greeks used the mucilage from the cereal to treat inflammation, while Roman gladiators ate barley to boost their strength and stamina.

Recent studies have shown that barley leaf extract has antioxidant properties, which can be beneficial in the prevention of inflammatory diseases. One study by researchers from the University of California (UC), Davis noted that young green barley leaves contain saponarin, a flavonoid with strong antioxidant properties. In the present study, the Polish researchers looked at whether supplementing with young green barley has anti-cancer benefits.


“The presented study is an attempt to extend this knowledge with particular emphasis on the possibility of using green barley in colon cancer prevention,” the team wrote in their report.

For their study, the team used ground dried barley grass and young green barley (YGB) powder. They looked at whether the extracts can inhibit the proliferation of colon cancer cells and decrease their viability without adversely affecting healthy cells. The findings revealed that both extracts were not cytotoxic to healthy cells, affecting only colon cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner. However, the researchers found that while both promoted apoptosis in colon cancer cells, YGB had better anti-cancer activity than barley grass. (Related: Chemotherapy actually increases cancer growth, cancer cells becoming resistant to treatment: Study.)

“The study demonstrated that YGB extracts specifically inhibit proliferation of colon cancer cells without any undesirable effect on colon epithelial cells,” they concluded. “Obtained results will provide a [rationale] for the future development of dietary supplements which could be beneficial in colon cancer chemoprevention.”

Other health benefits of green barley

The young, soft green shoots of barley are linked to a number of health benefits, such as relieving inflammatory bowel syndrome, boosting immunity, maintaining healthy skin and improving overall health. Here are some more benefits that you can get by adding green barley to your diet. (h/t to

  • Protection against UV radiation. Green barley contains superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that helps repair cells damaged by harmful UV rays. Experts also claim that the chlorophyll in green barley protects against radiation and promotes the production of red blood cells.
  • Anti-aging properties. People looking to improve their skin could benefit from taking green barley. Aside from having essential skin nutrients such as B-vitamins, iron and chlorophyll, green barley also contains phycocyanin, a phenol that boosts white and red blood cell production.
  • Relief from ulcerative colitis. Aside from being a potent antioxidant, green barley balances fluidity in the bowel and flushes out toxins from the body. This greatly alleviates the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Barley grass is used in soups and stews in many regions around the world. While it is generally safe to consume, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should first consult a healthcare professional before adding green barley to their diet.

Looking for more studies about superfoods that help keep cancer at bay? has you covered.

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