Barley Water–An Ancient Energy Drink


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©2010  Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)

Did you know that many traditional cultures made drinks from grains?  Yes, they made beer and ale.  But there were other drinks they made that were energizing and replaced the minerals and vitamins lost during the work day.  These simple beverages were infused in boiling water for a few hours while others were lacto-fermented.

Barley water, like many of the other grain beverages and lacto-fermented beverages, is a digestive aid that relieves intestinal problems and strengthens you when you are sick.  It promotes stamina and overall well-being, too!  In fact, these drinks were preferred over plain water to quench the thirst during physical labor because they provided the body with electrolytes.  These are more easily absorbed by the cells in the body than plain water.  Ancient Greek and Roman athletes based their diets around barley, since it increased their strength and stamina.

Barley is rich in magnesium, fiber, selenium, tryptophan and copper.   These nutrients all help to reduce the risk of diabetes, prevent gallstones and are also good for your heart.  Barley also contains lignans which are the antioxidants that fight and prevent cancer.  Barley water is great for kidney and bladder ailments and the phosphorus content is excellent for your bones.

A few cultures that use Barley Water:

  • British—call it Lemon Barley Water
  • Japanese—mugicha
  • Koreans—boricha
  • Mexico—aguas frescas
  • The Japanese and Koreans use roasted barley to make a tea and in Korea they add a roasted corn infusion called oksusu cha to sweeten the drink, since barley can have some bitterness to it.

So, if you need a quick-pick-me-up drink but don’t want the side effects from tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol or fruit juices, then make an old traditional glass of barley water and energize your body naturally!

How to make Barley Water

  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  • 6 cups water
  • Honey, lemon zest, and juice of 2 lemons

Put the barley in a strainer and run cool water over until it runs clear.  Place in a small pot with the water and some grated lemon zest and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain into a bowl and add honey and lemon juice.  Let it cool to room temperature.  Put into glass jars, cap and store in the refrigerator.

You can also add a tablespoon of grated ginger to the boiling water for a little kick!

To use the barley, add more water to it and finish cooking, about an hour.  Add it to vegetables, salads, breads and muffins! 



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