It was only a few years ago that I realized Job’s Tears was more than an interesting ornamental. So much more.
Job’s Tears or Coix lacryma-jobi is known as several names. Its pharmaceutical name is Semen Coicis Lachrymajobi of the family Gramineae. It’s also called Coix, yi yi ren, Chi Shih, Chieh Li, Djali Batoe and that’s just a start.
Description: This annual grass is native to south-east Asia and grows to a height of around 3 feet, with knobbly, bamboo-like stems from the bases of which new ‘tillers’ arise, these sometimes self- layering. The glossy deep green leaves are up to 2 inches wide with slightly wavy edges. The flowering and fruiting spikelets are insignificant, but the shiny, pea-sized receptacles that enclose their bases harden in autumn to a pale bluish gray and have often been used for beads and other decorative purposes. Some selected strains are cultivated for their edible grains. 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 and are pollinated by the wind.
Cultivation: Job’s Tears succeeds in ordinary garden soil and is best grown in an open sunny border. It 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 41 to 50°F and a pH in the range of 4.5 to 8.4. While usually grown as an annual, the plant is perennial in essentially frost-free areas. Plants have often overwintered when growing in a polyhouse, they have then gone on to produce another crop of seed in their second year. Propagate by seed pre-soaked for 2 hours in warm water and sown February/March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 4 weeks at 57°F. 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 frosts. Seed can also be sown in situ in May. In a suitable climate, it takes about 4 – 5 months from seed to produce new seed. Crop harvested in 4-5 months after sowing. Plants are cut off at base and grain separated by threshing. Seeds are dried in sun prior to milling and the husks are removed. It is extensively cultivated in Philippine Islands, Indochina, Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka, and is used as an auxiliary food crop, especially as a substitute for rice.
History: In southern India, Job’s tears have been cultivated for at least 4000 years. The seeds are commonly found in archaeological sites. The grass is often growing in rice fields nearby. Archaeologists call the seeds, rice beads. Although extensively used by Asians, the grass is considered a weed in commercial rice fields. The teardrop shaped seeds have a hard shiny coat with a hole at the tip where the flower emerges. When the seed drops from the plant, another hole opens at the base which makes them perfect for stringing. In archaeological sites dating to approximately 2000 years ago, large numbers of the seeds have been found arranged in a manner that suggests they were strung as necklaces. In Japan, the seeds are called juzu dama which means prayer beads referring to the use by Buddhists for their meditations. By the 1400s, this grass was cultivated in southern European monasteries. One hundred-fifty seeds were strung to keep track of daily recitations of the Psalms. This use of beads later evolved into the rosary. It is in the monasteries that the seeds were first called Lachrima Iob (Job’s tears).) Their natural color is white, but they can be dyed shades of red, blue, green and yellow. Depending on where you are in the world, this plant goes by various names including ~David’s tears, Saint Mary’s tears, Christ’s tears and just plain tear drops. The leaves are used as fodder in parts of India, and are especially relished by elephants. Job’s tears were introduced into China in the first century A.D. by a Chinese general who conquered Tongking, where the grains were widely used as a cereal. The general became so fond of Job’s tears that he carried back several cartloads of the seeds to his own country. In Central America, strings of Job’s tears are used for the arms and legs of little seed dolls. Strings of Job’s tears were reportedly given to teething babies. Job’s tears is also used for musical instruments. Shaker gourds are probably one of the earliest musical instruments. In Africa, hollow gourds are covered with a loose net strung with hundreds of Job’s tears. The generic name of Job’s tears, coix, comes from the Greek koix, meaning “palm”, a name given by Linnaeus, The specific name lacryma-jobi, means tears of Job, an allusion to the large tear-like sheaths enclosing the flowers.
Properties: Diuretic, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal, Anodyne; Anthelmintic; Antipyretic; Antispasmodic; Diuretic; Hypoglycemic; Pectoral; Refrigerant; Sedative; Tonic
Energetics: Kernels and roots: Sweet, bland, cool to cold. Leaves are neutral.
Meridians/Organs affected: Kidney, Lung, Spleen, stomach
Medicinal Uses: In Chinese medicine, the seeds strengthen the spleen and counteract “damp heat”, and are used for edema, diarrhea, rheumatoid arthritis and difficult urination. Drains dampness, clears heat, eliminates pus, tonifies the spleen. This herb is added to medicinal formulas to regulate fluid retention and counteract inflammation. It is very good for all conditions and diseases associated with edema and inflammation, including pus, diarrhea, phlegm, edema or abscesses of either the lungs or the intestines, and rheumatic and arthritic conditions. A tea from the boiled seeds is drunk as part of a treatment to cure warts. It is also used in the treatment of lung abscess, lobar pneumonia, appendicitis, rheumatoid arthritis, beriberi, diarrhea, edema and difficult urination. The roots have been used in the treatment of menstrual disorders. The FDA has approved testing for cancer therapy. Currently going through testing, the Kanglaite Injection is a new effective diphasic anti-cancer medicine prepared by extracting with modern technology the active anti-cancer component from the Coix Seed, to form an advanced dosage form for intravenous and intra- arterial perfusion. It had been proved experimentally and clinically that the Kanglaite Injection had a broad spectrum of anti-tumor and anti-metastasis action, such as hepatic cancer and pulmonary cancer, along with the action of enhancing host immunity. When used in combined treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the Kanglaite Injection can increase the sensitivity of tumor cells, reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, relieve cancerous pain, improve cachexia, and raise the quality of life in advanced cancer victims. As a fat emulsion, the Kanglaite Injection can provide patients with high-energy nutrients with little toxicity. It inhibits formation of new blood vessels that promote tumor growth, counteracts weight loss due to cancer.
Some of the latest research also shows that Job’s tears is Immunostimulating, induces interferon, Bronchodialates; Lowers blood sugar; Reduces muscle spasms and is anti-convulsant; Stimulates respiration in small doses and inhibits it in higher doses; reduces arterial plaque; Anti-inflammatory, possibly through the suppression of macrophage activity
In order to gain optimum therapeutic benefits from this herb, it must become part of your daily diet for a period of at least 2-3 months.
Dosage: 9-30 grams
Combinations: For edema, blood in the urine, diarrhea, or dysentery, combine 20 grams of coix, 9 grams of alisma, 9 grams of poria, and 9 grams of atractylodes.
For rheumatic and arthritic conditions, combine 30 grams of coix and cinnamon-twig tea cooked with rice to make a porridge.
Indications: dark and scanty urine; swelling; painful joints, sinews and bones due to damp excess; ulcers in the stomach or lungs; diarrhea and dyspepsia due to damp injury to spleen
Kernel: promotes urination and drains dampness, tonifies the Spleen and stops diarrhea, tonifies the Lungs, clears Damp Heat, clears Heat and expels pus, expels Wind Dampness, benefits the skin
Leaves: Warms the Stomach, tonifies Blood, tonifies Qi
Roots: Clears internal heat, drains damp, benefits the Spleen
Contraindications: Not in pregnancy
Dosage: 5 – 30 grams.
Powder: roast the seeds until golden brown, then grind to powder and store in an airtight container; plain, capsules, or water-paste; 6-12 grams, in two or three doses, on an empty stomach; for paste, use warmwater
Porridge: ½ cup of seeds, soaked in pure water for 1 hour, drained, then boiled in 1 liter pure water until cooked, adding more water as needed; eat in one or two portions, either on an empty stomach, or as part of a nonmeat, nondairy meal; to increase nutrient properties; add 3-5 Chinese jujubes
Combinations: For diarrhea, dysentery, edema, or blood in the urine with Phragmitis communis (Lu Gen), Poria cocos (Fu Ling), and Atractylodes macrocephala (Bai Zhu)
For intestinal abscess with Trichosanthis kirilowii (Gua Lou Ren) and Prunus persica (Tao Ren) Patrinia spp. (Bai Jiang Cao) and Paeonia suffruticosa (Mu Dan Pi)
For lung abcess Phragmitis communis (Lu Gen), Prunus persica (Tao Ren) and Benincasa hispida (Dong Gua Ren)
For bladder infections with Akebia trifoliata (Mu Tong)
For diarrhea with Atractylodes macrocephala (Bai Zhu) and Poria cocos (Fu Ling) [China]
For jaundice with Artemesia capillaris (Yin Chen Hao). For infantile jaundice with Coptis chinense (Huang Lian) As tea prepared with peanuts and brown sugar for edema and to benefit digestion
For joint pain as a food (congee) with Cinnamomum cassia (Gui Zhi) as a base.
For gout: Great Orange Peel Decoction (da ju pi tang)
6 g Citrus reticulata, 3 g costus, 3 g cinnamon, 15 g Morus alba seeds, 6 g Clematis minor, 9 g Cocculus diversifolius, 4.5 g Atractylodes macrocephala, 9 g Tuckahoe, 6 g Alisma plantago, 9 g Magnesium silicate (talc), 6 g Achryanthes bidentata, 12 g Job’s tears, 3 g licorice
Of a decoction of the above ingredients take two doses on an empty stomach.
Culinary Uses: Before corn (Zea mays) became popular in Southern Asia, Job’s tears was rather widely cultivated as a cereal in India. It is a potentially very useful grain having a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal. The seed has a very tough shell however making it rather difficult to extract the grain. The ssp. ma-yuen. Stapf. is grown for its edible seed and medicinal virtues in China, the seedcoat is said to be soft and easily removed. The ssp. stenocarpa is used for beads. A staple cereal crop in Japan and China, and in important medicinal herb. Nutritious soft-shelled seeds are widely consumed in macrobiotic cuisine. The seed is cooked. A pleasant mild flavor, it can be used in soups and broths.. It can be ground into a flour and used to make bread or used in any of the ways that rice is used. The pounded flour is sometimes mixed with water like barley for barley water. The pounded kernel is also made into a sweet dish by frying and coating with sugar. It is also husked and eaten out of hand like a peanut. The seed contains about 52% starch, 18% protein, 7% fat. It is higher in protein and fat than rice but low in minerals. This is a potentially very useful grain, it has a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal, though the hard seedcoat makes extraction of the flour rather difficult. A tea can be made from the parched seeds, while beers and wines are made from the fermented grain. A coffee is made from the roasted seed. In India, the Nagas use the grain for brewing a beer called zhu or dzu. Japanese brew a tea and an alcoholic beverage, and roasted seeds are made into a coffee-like drink.
Other Uses: Stems are used to make matting and the seeds are used in lei making in Hawai’i
Job’s Tears and Brown Rice Porridge
Yi yi ren dzao-mi jou
1 cup Job’s tears
1 cup brown rice
8 cups pure water
Wash and rinse the rice and Job’s tears well, then soak them in 8 cups of pure water for about 2 hours or overnight. Pour the grain, herb and water into a large nonaluminum pot, bring to a boil, cover, then lower heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until the grain is thoroughly cooked and the fluid begins to thicken. (A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs)
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Dan Bensky & Andrew Gamble, Eastland Press, 1993; ISBN: 0-939616-15-7
A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs, Daniel Reid, Barnes & Noble, 1995; ISBN: 0-7607-1907-1
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