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Health Benefits of Barley Tea

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 24, 2020

Barley tea is an immensely popular drink in Korea, China and Japan. Enthusiasts of the drink enjoy it both hot and cold and tend to drink it on a regular basis. Barley tea is called boricha in Korea, damai cha in China, and mugicha in Japan.

Roasted barley is the primary ingredient in barley tea. Barley's scientific name is Hordeum vulgare. Strictly speaking, the drink isn't a true tea because it isn't brewed from tea leaves, which come from the Camellia sinensis plant.  

Because the barley is roasted, barley tea has a woody, nutty flavor. Sometimes it produces a slightly bitter aftertaste. People often drink barley tea without anything else in it, but some add fruit juice or other mild sweeteners to it.

People often rave about the health benefits of barley tea, saying it can do everything from preventing cancer to treating acne. Unfortunately, not all of the health claims have been studied through scientific research. 

Still, it's likely that barley tea comes with some of the same health benefits obtained from eating barley. Also, there aren't many risks to drinking barley tea, unless you have celiac disease. Like wheat, barley contains gluten, so those on a gluten-free diet should avoid barley tea.

Health Benefits

Barley tea is rich in antioxidants, which are known to have many health benefits. Antioxidants protect against cancer, heart attacks, and other diseases. Unfortunately, researchers haven't studied barley tea drinking in relation to these health issues. 

Barley also contains significant levels of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the body, and is known for promoting quality sleep. Although researchers have not studied the effect of barley tea on sleep, the presence of melatonin suggests that the tea might be effective as a sleep aid.

The following are research-proven benefits of drinking barley tea: 

Oral Health

In one study, regular barley tea drinkers had less plaque on their teeth and lower levels of "bad" bacteria in their saliva than people who do not drink the tea. Specifically, they have lower levels of streptococci and lactobacilli. 

Nutrients per Serving

The nutrient content of barley tea varies depending on how much barley is in the tea. A half-cup of cooked barley contains: 

Barley is also a source of iron and, to a lesser extent, calcium. Both iron and calcium are essential minerals for overall health. 

How to Prepare Barley Tea

There are two ways to brew barley tea: using a tea bag that contains crushed roasted barley, and boiling roasted barley itself. These instructions are for preparing barley tea from roasted barley, since barley tea bags come with their own brewing instructions.

Barley is widely available in most grocery stores, so it shouldn't be difficult to find. Although there are many different forms of barley available {Whole Grains Council: "Types of Barley"}, roasted barley works best in barley tea. Other types of barley will not produce a beverage with the same nutty flavor.

Once you've obtained roasted barley, creating the tea is easy. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Bring the desired amount of water to a boil.
  2. Drop roasted barley into the water either directly or inside of a tea strainer. Use a ratio of one tablespoon of barley per four cups of water.
  3. Reduce heat and allow the water to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, let cool, and enjoy!

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry: "Anti-Oxidative Compounds in Barley Tea"

Food and Nutrition Research: "Dietary Factors and Fluctuating Levels of Melatonin"

New Microbiology: "Differences in Microbiological Composition of Saliva and Dental Plaque in Subjects with Different Drinking Habits"

Whole Grains Council: "Types of Barley" 

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