Before middle school even started, I was one of the first kids in my class whose face started to break out with lovable acne. At first, I went along with the pharmaceutical products peers would purchase – you know, the ones you find in teen magazines with fresh, photoshop-tampered faces looking as un-angsty as possible – except they didn’t have photoshop back then, and it was far from becoming the verb we use now. Luckily, my acne was primarily hidden under my bangs. But the lotions and solutions dried up my face and at times, depleted the color! Finally, my mom said enough was enough – of course, she had just heard about something new to try: Chinese pearl barley. Like with most dietary solutions, it took a few months before I suddenly noticed that much of my acne on my forehead had vanished or began to fade. Furthermore, my skin, overall, felt less dry even before applying lotions. So by the time I entered middle school, I was mostly acne-free as I watched the rest of my classmates go through the motions.
How to cook Chinese pearl barley: Chinese pearl barley can be mixed into rice and takes the same amount of time to cook. Therefore, I usually just put as much barley as half the amount of rice I use in my rice cooker. I also put pearl barley into my morning cereal mixture – see previous fox nut entry, but need to soak them overnight. Chinese pearl barley has also been powdered to use for tea, known as, “Job’s tears tea.”
Where to find it: Chinese pearl barley can be found in Asian grocery stores in transparent, plastic packaging, typically labeled, “Pearl barley.” It is spherical, pearl white, and larger than rice. There’s also a brownish groove on one side of the grain.
What else: Now, before getting too excited about barley’s wonderwork and going out to get a six-pack of beer or a bottle of barley wine, Chinese pearl barley is not really barley at all. While misleadingly called “barley,” it is not in the same genus as true barley (Hordeum vulgare). While barley, or H. vulgare, has its own healthy benefits, Chinese pearl barley has also been known as an anti-tumor agent and an alternative treatment for cancer. Chinese pearl barley is used as a traditional Chinese tonic for primarily the skin, lungs, and the spleen. See next section on who’s done the research.
Who’s done the research:
- The neutral lipid isolated from the endosperm of Job’s tears (NLEJ) has been known to possess an anticancer activity with relatively low toxicity. The present study was designed to examine its antiproliferative effects in the PaTu-8988 and SW1990 human pancreatic cancer cells and to investigate its potential mechanism(s). The data show that NLEJ inhibits pancreatic cancer cell growth through induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest as well as regulation of gene expression in vitro. Therefore, NLEJ might be a chemotherapeutic agent against pancreatic cancer. – Bao Y, et al. Neutral lipid isolated from endosperm of Job’s tears inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancer cells via apoptosis, G2/M arrest, and regulation of gene expression. Gastroenterol Hepatol 20(7):1046-53, 2005 Jul.
- Previous results demonstrated that the methanolic extract of adlay seed exerted an antiproliferative effect on human lung cancer cells in vitro and in vivo and might prevent tobacco carcinogen-induced lung tumorigenesis. In this study, the methanolic extract of adlay seed was tested for its regulation of COX-2 expression of human lung cancer cells. The data demonstrated that treatment of the methanolic extract reduced the PGE(2) level in serum and inhibited COX-2 expression of tumor tissues in nude mice. Taken together, the results suggest that inhibition of COX-2 is one of the mechanisms by which the methanolic extract of adlay seed inhibits cancer growth and prevents lung tumorigenesis. – Hung WC, et al. Methanolic extract of adlay seed suppresses COX-2 expression of human lung cancer cells via inhibition of gene transcription. J Agric Food Chem 51(25):7333-7, 2003 Dec 3.
- This study examined the effects of different extracts of adlay seed on the growth of human lung cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. The data showed that a methanolic extract, but not a water extract, of adlay seed exerted an antiproliferative effect on A549 lung cancer cells by inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Groups of mice were pre-fed with different diets, followed by feeding with NNK-containing drinking water for 8 months. The results indicated that feeding with diet containing 30% of powdered adlay seed reduced the number of surface lung tumors by approximately 50%. Taken together, these results indicate that the components of adlay seed exert an anticancer effect in vitro and in vivo and may be useful for the prevention of lung tumorigenesis. – Chang HC, et al. Antiproliferative and chemopreventive effects of adlay seed on lung cancer in vitro and invivo. J Agric Food Chem 51(12):3656-60, 2003 Jun 4.
- Five active compounds that inhibit cancer cells were isolated from adlay bran (Coix lachryma-jobi L. var. ma-yuen Stapf), and their structures and activities in vitro were characterized. These compounds showed anti-cancer activities with IC(50) values between 28.6 and 72.6mug/mL. – Lee MY, et al. Isolation and characterization of new lactam compounds that inhibit lung and colon cancer cells from adlay (Coix lachryma-jobi L. var. ma-yuen Stapf) bran. Food Chem Toxicol 46(6):1933-9, 2008 Jun.
- A pharmaceutical grade extract of Coix lachryma-jobi seeds is currently the most commonly used treatment for cancer in China. Although clinical data support the use of this preparation of a Traditional Chinese Medicine for cancer treatment, biological basis for the activity of this preparation has not been previously established. To address this issue, we first evaluated the anti-neoplastic activity of a Coix extract emulsion in xenografts of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and found that the extract significantly inhibits growth of MDA-MB-231 xenografts in athymic nude mice. We determined that Coix seed extract also significantly affects gene expression in these cells, including downregulation of genes that are considered to be important in neoplasia. We concluded that this Traditional Chinese Medicine-based cancer treatment affects cellular pathways of recognized importance in neoplasia. – Woo JH, et al. Coix seed extract, a commonly used treatment for cancer in China, inhibits NFkappaB and protein kinase C signaling. Cancer Biol Ther 6(12):2005-11, 2007 Dec.
- To find out whether the immunohistochemical expression of neuropeptid Y (NPY) and leptin receptor (LR) in the rat hypothalamus is influenced by adlay seed water extract (adlay), obesity in rats was induced by high fat diet (HFD) for 8 weeks; these rats were injected with 50 mg/100 g body weight adlay daily for 4 weeks. The results suggest that adlay may regulate neuroendocrine activity in the brain. Accordingly, administration of adlay may be considered for therapies targeting obesity. – Kim SO, et al. The water extract of adlay seed (Coix lachrymajobi var. mayuen) exhibits anti-obesity effects through neuroendocrine modulation. Am J Chin Med 35(2):297-308, 2007