Barley, the biblical food that is so good for you..

Updated: Apr 15, 2018

The cultivation of Barley has a long history in China, it is said to be one of the ancient cereal crops which can be both used for eating and for medicine. The seeds were introduced in China in the first century A.D. by a Chinese general who conquered Tongking (Northern Vietnam), where the grains were widely used as a cereal.

Barley has a high nutritional value, it is known as the "king of the gramineous plants in the world”, in Europe it is known as the "the crops of life and health” and in Japan it has recently been classified as an anti-cancer food, so its nutritional value is greatly increased.

There are two main varieties of the species:

  • The cultivated variety, which is harvested as a cereal crop, has a soft shell and is used medicinally in parts of Asia.

  • The wild variety, which has hard-shelled pseudo-carps which are very hard, pearly white, oval structures, used as beads for making rosaries, necklaces and other objects.

Chinese pearl barley (yi yi ren or yi mi) is a gluten-free grain and makes a really delicious dessert drink or daytime snack. It is known as the seed of Job's tears, the seeds are said to represent the tears shed by the biblical Job during the challenges he faced. It's used in Chinese herbal medicine for its cooling and diuretic function and as a medicinal food for symptoms such as fever, sore throat, headaches or congestion in the nose or chest. Being a grain, it's bland in flavor and the recipe below includes a small amount of honey which makes it a great recipe for kids!

In multiple studies, it has been shown to help with reducing cholesterol, cancer prevention and treatment, endocrine disorders, gastrointestinal benefits, osteoporosis and even weight loss. So it may be worth introducing a little Barley into your family diet.



  • 100g raw Chinese pearl barley - rinsed and soaked fora few hours

  • 2 liters of cold water

  • for a sweeter taste, you can add 1 pitted date and/or lemon or mint or 2-3 pandan leaves, rinsed and tied into a knot (optional)


  • Rinse the Chinese pearl barley and add to a saucepan/pot. Add the date at this stage is you decide to use it.

  • Add the cold water to the saucepan/pot and bring to the boil.

  • Once on a rolling boil, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 45-60 minutes, stirring every so often.

  • This is ready once the barley is soft on the outside but slightly chewy on the inside, resembling of popcorn or rice. The liquid will turn slightly cloudy and greyish pink.

  • If you are using pandan leaves, mint, or lemmon add this and simmer for around 5-10 minutes. Remove the pandan leaves at the end as overcooking will give the water a slightly bitter taste.

  • This is best served warm in a bowl.

  • Strain the liquid and add more honey if you would like a sweeter taste.

You can keep it in the fridge and enjoy it for the next 3 days, but it should be taken only at room temperature.

Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. She would be happy to help personalise a treatment plan for you, click here for more detials.

These articles are not intent to diagnose, treat or cure any conditions or disease.

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