Job's tears (Coix Lacryma-jobi).
Flowers and seeds.
Job's tears - Coix Lacryma-jobi
Job's tears (US) or Job's-tears (UK), scientific name Coix
lacryma-jobi, also known as coixseed, tear grass, hato mugi, adlay or adlai, is a tall
grain-bearing perennial tropical plant of the family Poaceae (grass family) native to Southeast Asia but elsewhere cultivated in gardens as an
annual. It has been naturalized in the southern United States and the New World
tropics. In its native environment it is grown in higher areas where rice and corn do not grow
well. Job's tears are also commonly sold as Chinese pearl barley in Asian
supermarkets, although C. lacryma-jobi is not closely related to barley (Hordeum
Jobís tears is a tall perennial grass and is usually cultivated as an
annual. It grows 1 to 3 metres (3.3 to nearly 10 feet) tall and features jointed stems with long flat leaf
blades. Male and female flowers are borne on the same plant and bloom in the late
summer. The pseudocarps that surround the seeds are off-white or dark in colour and are 6 to 12 mm (0.25 to 0.5
Jobís tears receives its name from the hard
shiny tear-shaped structures (pseudocarps) that enclose the seed kernels. There are two main varieties of the
species: The wild variety Coix lacryma-jobi var. lacryma-jobi has hard-shelled pseudocarps which are very
hard, pearly white, oval structures used as beads for making rosaries, necklaces, and other
objects. The cultivated variety Coix lacryma-jobi var. ma-yuen is harvested as a cereal
crop, has a soft shell, and is used medicinally in parts of Asia.
Interestingly enough, the actual beadlike structure resembling a seed is not a seed at
all. It is a very hard, hollow structure (called an involucre) containing a minute fertile female flower and two sterile
flowers. Pollen-bearing male flowers are produced on a slender stalk that extends out of the bead through a tiny
pore. Two feathery stigmas from the fertile female flower also protrude from the
pore--ready to receive pollen from the male flowers. Like other members of the enormous Grass Family
(Poaceae), Job's tears are pollinated by the wind. Following pollination, a seed-bearing grain is produced by the fertile female
flower. The shiny gray beads are dispersed and planted like seeds, but they are actually remarkable little shells containing flowers and
The common name Job's tears refers to the droplet-shaped, pearly white "beads," and to the biblical man of the Old Testament who endured great
suffering. This relationship to tear drops is also reflected in the specific epithet
lacryma-jobi, in reference to the tear-producing lacrimal glands located near the
eyes. Although there is unanimous agreement that the beads resemble tears, there appears to be some disagreement as to exactly whose tears the beads
resemble. Depending on exactly where you happen to be in the world, this plant goes by various names including David's
tears, Saint Mary's tears, Christ's tears (Lacryma Christi), and just plain tear
Besides the use for ornamental purposes, Job's tears grains are useful as a source of food
(cereals) and folk medicine.
Like other cereals, there are many cultivars of Job's tears, including soft-shelled, easily-threshed types with a sweet kernel. In some, the hulled grain is adapted for parching or boiling like rice, while in others it can be milled, ground into flour and baked into bread. Reportedly, the grain has a higher protein content than most cereals. The grains are also utilized in soups, porridge, drinks and pastries.
In India, the Nagas use the grain for brewing a beer called zhu or dzu. A Japanese variety called "Ma-Yuen" is brewed into a tea and an alcoholic beverage, and roasted seeds are made into a coffee-like drink. According to Agnes Arber, the leaves are used as fodder in parts of India, and are especially relished by elephants.
Throughout East Asia, Job's tears are available in dried form and cooked as a
grain. The grains are generally spherical, with a groove on one end, and polished white in
color, though in Japan unpolished yuuki hatomugi, which is unpolished and brown in
color, is also available.
In Korea, a thick drink called yulmu cha (???, literally "Job's tears tea") is made from powdered Job's
tears. A similar drink, called Yi Ren Jiang, also appears in Chinese cuisine, and is made by simmering whole polished Job's tears in water and sweetening the resulting
thin, cloudy liquid with sugar. The grains are usually strained from the liquid but may also be consumed separately or
In both Korea and China, distilled liquors are also made from the grain. One such example is the South Korean liquor called
okroju, which is made from rice and Job's tears. An ancient Chinese beer recipe included the grain as an
ingredient. In Japan, an aged vinegar is made from the grain.
In southern Vietnam, a sweet, cold soup called sam bo luong has Job's Tears as one of its
ingredients. This dish derives from the southern Chinese tong sui called qing bu liang
(Cantonese: ching1 bou2 leung4).
In Thailand, it is often consumed in teas and other drinks, such as soy milk.
It is also used alongside other herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Particularly Coix
lacryma-jobi var. ma-yuen has been used in the traditional Chinese medicine to invigorate the spleen function and promote
urination, alleviate arthritis, arrest diarrhea, remove heat and facilitate the drainage of
But of all the uses for Job's tears, probably the most important is bead jewelry. Their natural color is pearly
white, but they can be readily dyed shades of red, blue, green and yellow. In addition to attractive bead
necklaces, belts, bracelets and earrings, they are also made into lovely rosaries with a cross at one
end. In Central America, strings of Job's tears are commonly used for the arms and legs of quaint little seed
dolls. Although the practice seems somewhat questionable, strings of Job's tears were reportedly given to teething
In both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, the beads of Job's Tears are called
"corn beads" or "Cherokee corn beads" and have been used for personal adornment since at least the time of the united Cherokee
Republic. A common folk story is that the corn beads sprang up along the path during the 1838 forced march of many Cherokees to Oklahoma from their southeastern North American homelands by the
Another remarkable use for Job's tears is 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. As the beads slap against the gourd a loud shaker sound is produced--as good as any modern instrument for this
purpose. Using the neck of the gourd as a handle, the sound of the bead net is amplified by the hollow