Herb: Job's Tears

Latin name: Coix lacryma-jobi

Family: Gramineae (Grass Family)

Medicinal use of Job's Tears:

The fruits are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, sedative and vermifuge. 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 activity. The seed, with the husk removed, is antirheumatic, diuretic, pectoral, refrigerant and tonic. 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, diarrhoea, oedema and difficult urination. The plant has been used in the treatment of cancer. The roots have been used in the treatment of menstrual disorders. A decoction of the root has been used as an anthelmintic. The fruit is harvested when ripe in the autumn and the husks are removed before using fresh, roasted or fermented.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Wet places in grassland in the foothills of the Himalayas. Open sunny places to elevations of 2000 metrs in Nepal.

Edible parts of Job's Tears:

Seed - cooked. A pleasant mild flavour, 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, whilst beers and wines are made from the fermented grain. A coffee is made from the roasted seed. (This report refers to the ssp. ma-yuen)

Other uses of the herb:

The seeds are used as decorative beads. The stems are used to make matting.

Propagation of Job's Tears:

Seed - pre-soak for 2 hours in warm water and sow February/March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 4 weeks at 25C. 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 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 seed. Division of root offshoots. This is probably best done in the spring as plants come into fresh growth.

Cultivation of the herb:

Wet places in grassland in the foothills of the Himalayas. Open sunny places to elevations of 2000 metrs in Nepal.

Known hazards of Coix lacryma-jobi:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.