Coix lacryma-jobi

Common name: Job’s Tears Family: Gramineae
Author: L. Botanical references: 200
Known Hazards: None known
Range: E. Asia – E. India.
Habitat: Wet places in grassland in the foothills of the Himalayas146, 158. Open sunny places to elevations of 2000 metrs in Nepal272.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 3 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 3
Other Possible Synonyms: From various places across the web, may not be correct. See below.
C. agrestisH C. chinensisH C. lachrymaH C. lachryma-jobiE,H C. lachrymajobiH C. lacrymajobiE
Other Common Names: From various places around the Web, may not be correct. See below.
Chi Shih E, Chieh Li E, Djali Batoe E, Gavedhu E, Graines Chapelet E, Gurlu E, Hato-Mugi E, Hatomugi E, Hui Hui Mi E, I Chu Tzu E, I I Jen E, I I Jen Chiu E, Jelai E, Job’S Tear E, Job’s Tears H,P, Job’s-tears B, Kan Mi E, Lagrimas De San Pedro E, Larmes De Job E, T’U I Mi E, Tranengras E, Yi Yi Ren E, Yokuinin E, Zyuzu-Dama E,
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Cyperales. Renamed to Poaceae — Grass family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database
China; Egypt; Germany; Haiti; Hawaii; India; India(Santal); Japan; Java; Panama(Choco); Panama(Cuna); Perak; Philippines; Sanscrit; Taiwan; Us; Venezuela

Physical Characteristics

Perennial growing to 1m by 0.15m . It is hardy to zone 9. It is in leaf from May to October, in flower from July to October, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind. We rate it 3/5 for edibility and 3/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Habitats and Possible Locations

Cultivated Beds.

Edible Uses

Coffee; Seed; Tea.

Seed – cooked. A pleasant mild flavour, it can be used in soups and broths

269.. It can be ground into a flour and used to make bread or used in any of the ways that rice is used1, 2, 57, 100, 183. The pounded flour is sometimes mixed with water like barley for barley water269. The pounded kernel is also made into a sweet dish by frying and coating with sugar269. It is also husked and eaten out of hand like a peanut269. The seed contains about 52% starch, 18% protein, 7% fat114, 174. It is higher in protein and fat than rice but low in minerals114. This is a potentially very useful grain, it has a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal57, though the hard seedcoat makes extraction of the flour rather difficult. A tea can be made from the parched seeds46, 61, 105, 183, whilst beers and wines are made from the fermented grain269. A coffee is made from the roasted seed183. (This report refers to the ssp. ma-yuen)


Seed (Fresh weight)
In grammes per 100g weight of food: Water: 11.2 Calories: 380 Protein: 15.4 Fat: 6.2 Carbohydrate: 65.3 Fibre: 0.8 Ash: 1.9 In milligrammes per 100g weight of food: Calcium: 25 Phosphorus: 435 Iron: 5 VitaminA: 0 Thiamine: 0.28 Riboflavin: 0.19 Niacin: 4.3 VitaminC: 0 Source: 218

Medicinal Uses

Anodyne; Anthelmintic; Antiinflammatory; Antipyretic; Antirheumatic; Antispasmodic; Cancer; Diuretic; Hypoglycaemic; Pectoral; Refrigerant; Sedative; Tonic; Warts.

The fruits are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, sedative and vermifuge

218, 238. The fruits are used in folk remedies for abdominal tumours, oesophageal, gastrointestinal, and lung cancers, various tumours, as well as excrescences, warts, and whitlows. This folk reputation is all the more interesting when reading that one of the active constituents of the plant, coixenolide, has antitumor activity269. The seed, with the husk removed, is antirheumatic, diuretic, pectoral, refrigerant and tonic176, 218, 240. A tea from the boiled seeds is drunk as part of a treatment to cure warts116, 174. It is also used in the treatment of lung abscess, lobar pneumonia, appendicitis, rheumatoid arthritis, beriberi, diarrhoea, oedema and difficult urination147, 176. The plant has been used in the treatment of cancer218. The roots have been used in the treatment of menstrual disorders240. A decoction of the root has been used as an anthelmintic272. The fruit is harvested when ripe in the autumn and the husks are removed before using fresh, roasted or fermented238.

We have a more details factsheet on the history and medicinal use of this plant. Email for details.

Other Uses

Beads; Weaving.

The seeds are used as decorative beads

1, 61, 100, 171, 272. The stems are used to make matting158.

Cultivation details

Succeeds in ordinary garden soil162. Best grown in an open sunny border1, 162. Prefers a little shelter from the wind. Job’s Tears is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 61 to 429cm, an average annual temperature of 9.6 to 27.8°C and a pH in the range of 4.5 to 8.4269. Weed to some, necklace to others, staff-of-life to others, job’s tear is a very useful and productive grass increasingly viewed as a potential energy source269. Before corn (Zea mays) became popular in Southern Asia, Job’s tears was rather widely cultivated as a cereal in India158, 269. It is a potentially very useful grain having a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal57. The seed has a very tough shell however making it rather difficult to extract the grain. The ssp. ma-yuen. (Roman.)Stapf. is grown for its edible seed and medicinal virtues in China, the seedcoat is said to be soft and easily removed57, 183. This form is widely used in macrobiotic diets and cuisine183. The ssp. stenocarpa is used for beads57. Whilst usually grown as an annual, the plant is perennial in essentially frost-free areas269. Plants have survived temperatures down to about -35°c160. (This report needs verifying, it seems rather dubiousK.) Plants have often overwintered when growing in a polyhouse with us, they have then gone on to produce another crop of seed in their second yearK. We have not as yet (1995) tried growing them on for a third year in a polyhouseK.


Seed – pre-soak for 2 hours in warm water and sow February/March in a greenhouse164. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 4 weeks at 25°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. Grow them on in cool conditions and plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts1, 164. Seed can also be sown in situ in May1 though it would be unlikely to ripen its seed in an average British summer. In a suitable climate, it takes about 4 – 5 months from seed to produce new seed269. Division of root offshoots272. This is probably best done in the spring as plants come into fresh growth272.


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