Allah’s Medicine Chest: Barley (Hordeum Vulgare)
By Hwaa Irfan
The earliest record of the cultivation of barley goes back to Ethiopia, 10,000 years, and the Middle East, 6,000 years ago. Roman athletes held barley in high regard because of the strength that it gave them. The fifth largest cultivated cereal crop in the world, which is a grass still bears some relation to the wild variety, Hordeum vulgare/spontaneum which still grows in Iran and Iraq today. Considered the most drought and saline tolerant of cereals, its wide ranging geographical distribution today has led to many varieties.
Viewed as the only vegetation on earth that can become a sole source of nutrition from birth to old age, Muslim scholars of Hadith (prophetic sayings) have understood barley to be very nutritious, beneficial in the alleviation of coughs and inflammation of the stomach lining, and to have the ability to expel toxins from the body, yet act as a good diuretic. At least 21 ahadith recommend satoo (powdered barley).
At-talbina is a meal made from satoo, formed by adding milk and honey to the dried barley powder. Prophet Muhammed (SAW) recommended at-talbina for the sick and the grieving.
“At-talbina gives rest to the heart of the patient and makes it active and relieves some of his sorrow and grief (Al-Bukhari 7: 71 #593).
Barley provides a sound solution to famine and war-stricken countries as it provides respite from malnutrition, and disease prevention. The variety ‘Rihane 03’ is produced by ICARDA and has been cultivated in Iraq, which poses a threat to the wild species.
Like most major crops grown in the U.S., barley originated in the Middle East, and like most Western countries barley is grown for animal feed with high quality barley reserved for the production of beer, and other alcoholic beverages. Pearl barley is the product of abrasive removal of the hull, the bran, and the embryo, which is also used to make barley flour , which is a far cry nutritionally from its natural self.
However, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest feed barley importer.
The phytochemical properties of barley as one can imagine varies widely depending on the variety and processing. In the time of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) Hazim asked Sahl:
“Did you use white flour during the time of the prophet?” Sahl replied, “No.” Hazim then asked: “ Did you used to sift barley flour?” Sahl replied, “No, but we used to blow off the husk (off the barley)” (Al-Bukhari 7: 65 #321)
The phytochemical properties include:
- β -glucan (with embryo) – barley flour
- Alkylresorcinols (with hull)
- Pentosans – barley flour
- Superoxide dismutase
- Tocopherols (with hull)
- Uronic acid
Plentiful in dietary fibre, barley provides the necessary bulk that improves the function of the intestines to the extent that it increases the time frame of processing faecal matter to the point of elimination. The friendly bacteria of the large intestines ferment the insoluble β –glucan converting it to a key source of energy for the cells of the large intestines, thus maintaining a healthy colon, liver, and muscles. β –glucan also helps to lower bad cholesterol. However, two-thirds of plant cellulose is in the husk, which is shed when milled.
Superoxide dismutase is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells against cell death – disease causing free radicals that destroy healthy cells.
Dr. Howard Lutz of the Institute of Preventative Medicine, Washington found barley to be:
“… the most incredible product of this decade. It improves stamina, sexual energy, clarity of thought and reduces addiction to things that are bad for you.”
- Omega-3 fatty acid
- Omega-6 fatty acid
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B₆
- Vitamin B₁₂
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Dr, Yoshihide Hagiwara, plant geneticist at the Office of Science and Technology and Japan Food Analysis Centre researched 150 varieties of barley over a 15 year period. Hagiwara found the high organic sodium content maintains blood calcium in solution form preventing calcium deposits in the joints. It also replaces the organic sodium of the stomach lining which aids digestion by improving the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. As a remedy for indigestion, diarrhoea, and inflammatory bowel the benefit from barley comes from the grain itself when the husk is removed.
In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, the dried or germinated shoots of hordeum vulgare/spontaneum improves poor digestion as the result of a weak spleen,abdomen, anorecia, and abdominal abstention.
Biologist Yasno Hotta of the University of California, identified P4D1 in barley which has a strong action on human DNA. P4D1 suppresses and cures cell death, delays aging, and cures pancreatitis, stomatitis (inflammation of the oral cavity), dermatitis, lacerations of the stomach and duodenum. Dr. Hagiwara also found that DNA repaired itself when barley juice is added.
The high chlorophyll content of barley neutralizes and removes toxins from the body, and experiments demonstrate that the chlorophyll in barley is similar to human haemoglobin. Niacin is reduces bad cholesterol (LDL), clumping of blood platelets thus reducing blood clots.
Combined with hawthorn fruit, , barley stops milk secretions and painful breasts, so it is not recommended for lactating women. It is also not suitable for pregnant women as it promotes contractions, but is beneficial in the birthing process. It is not suitable for those who have a gluten allergy.
Barley has a strong nutty flavour, and facilitates what the mouth was designed to do, chew! It should be stored in a tightly concealed container, preferably glass, and kept in a cool dry place.
Like all grains remove any dirt or debris and rinse before cooking. Add one part barley to three and a half parts boiling water or broth. After the liquid has returned to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer. Pearled barley should be simmered for about one hour, while hulled barley should be cooked for about 90 minutes.
Instead of consuming questionable wheat products, try replacing wheat with barley. Drinking barley water cleanses the skin, which can be made by using 3 tablespoons of barley boiled in 3 cups of water for one hour, strain, cool, and add honey or orange juice to make it more palatable. Added to diluted cow’s milk, provides good nutrition for the young.
– 1 cup of dried barley
– ½ cup of dried lentils
– 6 cups of water
– 3 small diced onions
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 1 tsp. of turmeric
– ½ ground black pepper
– 1 cup of cooked chickpeas
Fry onions in hot olive oil until golden brown. Add all other ingredients except for chickpeas and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas near the end of cooking time.
“ ‘Abdullah b. Abi Aufa reported: We were with the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) on a journey during the month of Ramadan. When the sun had sunk he said: So and so, get down (from your ride) and prepare the meal of parched barley for us. He said: Messenger of Allah, still (there is light of) day. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Get down and prepare meal of parched barley for us. So he got down and prepared the meal of parched barley and offered him, and the apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) drank that (liquid meal). He then told with the gesture of his hand that when the sun sank from that side and the night appeared from that side, then the observer of the fast should break it.” (Muslim #006, Ahadith #2422)
In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!
Ovenell-Roy, K.H. “Variation in Chemical Composition and Nutritional Quality Among Barley Cultivars for Ruminants.” http://pubs.aic.ca/doi/pdf/10.4141/A96-099
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