Ayurveda is a science of how to lead a healthy life; and it all begins with the intake of good, nutritious and a wholesome diet. Diet has been described as one of the taraya upasthambhas or three pillars of life, which explain the importance Ayurveda places on food. Each type of food has been categorized and explained in great detail which makes Ayurveda a unique system of medicine.
आरोग्यं भोजनाधीनं ।
(Kasyapa Samhita Khilasthanam)
Health depends on food.
Among the many kinds of cereals and pulses explained in Ayurveda, the use of barley or yava, is done as a food item worthy of daily intake owing to its immense health benefits.
Ranked fourth among the most cultivated cereals, barley is said to have been possibly originated in Egypt, Ethiopia or Tibet. First domesticated about 10,000 years ago by Neolithic farmers, it even features in Homer’s Odyssey.
The name of the Olympian goddess of agriculture and vegetation; Demeter is derived from the Cretan word dêai, which means barley. In ancient Rome, gladiators ate so much barley to improve their strength and stamina, that they were also known as hordeari or the barley men. In ancient Greece, a beverage made with barley called kykeon was deemed to be a cure for various diseases.
There is a detailed description of Yava or barley in Vedas, Upanishads, Grihya sutra and Shatapata brahmana. One of the first staples of the Aryans, Yava was extensively used in religious ceremonies and rituals as well as in medicinal preparations. On the day of Basant Panchami, it is customary to put barley leaves along with cow dung on the door head as it is considered very auspicious.
Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) also called Jowar is a rabi cereal crop grown in summer or winter. Although a temperate crop, it also grows well in tropical countries. It is sensitive to frost but tolerant of drought. It is a short duration crop, maturing in about 90 to 100 days. It grows well in sandy loam soils with good drainage.
Ayurveda has mentioned barley as Yavam, is mentioned in Suka dhanyas. Explained as dry, cold, heavy and sweet, it is a good laxative, generates feces and Vata dosha in intestines is an aphrodisiac and increases stability as it clarifies the channels because of its specific action. It pacifies diseases of the urinary tract, corrects fat metabolism, maintains pitta and Kapha dosha. It reduces rhinitis, asthma, cough, pain in thighs, diseases of throat and skin.
रुक्षः शीतो गुरुः स्वादुः सरो विड्वातकृत् यवः।
वृष्य: स्थैर्यकरो मूत्रमेदःपित्तकफान् जयेत् ।।
पीनसश्वासकासोरुस्तंभकंठत्वगामयान् ।(As. Hri.6/ 12)
Susrutacharya has mentioned Yava as astringent, sweet and pungent post digestion, cold in potency, pacifies Pitta and Kapha, good for wounds always like tila or sesame seeds, increases flatus and feces, improving digestion, mitigates fat and Vata dosha and purifies blood and Pitta. (Su.Su. 46/41)
Acharya Charaka has mentioned Yava as nityasevaniya dravya, meant for daily intake, which underlines the importance of barley in disease prevention and health management. Charakacharya has also mentioned Yava as the best among purishajanaka, or food which generates feces.
Ayurveda uses Yava in many medicinal preparations as well as in diet in many santarpanajanya roga, or diseases caused by overnutrition like diabetes. Yava kshara, an Ayurvedic medicine prepared using the whole plant of barley is used in treating urinary disorders, abdominal pain and is an ingredient of many Ayurvedic classical preparations.
Various preparations of Yava mixed with Vidanga (Embelia ribes) is indicated in Ayurvedic classics in Krimija hridroga or heart diseases due to worm manifestation.
Barley is a whole grain, low in calories, rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Due to its immense health benefits, it is hailed as the new counterpart of Quinoa. Barley is rich in Vitamin B such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and pantothenic acid.
Organic food has recently garnered worldwide attention in recent times because of being free from the ill effects of chemical preservatives, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Organic Barley procured locally from certified organic farmers is guaranteed to deliver only the goodness of barley sans the toxic chemicals, so that you can enjoy your daily bowl of health, without any fear. Consumed as whole or made into a flour, this millet can be consumed in a variety of ways and it is high time that we include barley, the underrated superfood in our daily diet and be hale and hearty!