Yi Yi Ren
Botanical name: Coix lacryma-jobi
Common name: Coix, Job’s tears
Family: Gramineae, grass family
Part used in Chinese medicine: seeds
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Resolves dampness, strengthens Spleen, resolves dampness
in wind damp bi syndrome, clears damp-heat
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Coix lacryma-jobi; 10/2006; author Kurt Stueber; permission under GFDL
Photo 2: Coix lacryma-jobi; 09/2005; author Miya; permission under GFDL
Coix lacryma-jobi, or Job’s tears, is a robust, tall perennial grass grown around the world for many purposes, as a cereal grain, medicinal herb, and for decorative ornaments and necklace beads. With 16.2% protein, it has a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal grain and also contains several amino acids. In the 1960’s, Japanese researchers reported that extracts of the grain inhibited the growth of cancer cells.
In China, Job’s tears are commonly combined with rice and beans to make a nutritious staple grain dish that is high in protein. In a typical recipe, 2 cups of brown rice, 1 cup of Job’s tears and 1 cup of small red aduki beans (soaked overnight) are cooked together. The beans are boiled in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes, then the Job’s tears are added with another 1 1/2 cups water and cooked for 30 more minutes. The rice is added last, along with 1 1/2 more cups water, then cooked on low heat for another 45 minutes.
Growing and Propagation
Grown in ordinary garden soil, the plant does best in full sun or partial shade, with some protection from winds. It needs regular moisture but should not be over-watered. It grows 3-4 feet high, with gray to black tear-like seeds on flower stalks, looking somewhat like a small corn plant. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9, the plant is usually grown as an annual in colder climates.
Propagation is by seed, sown indoors in early spring, or directly into the ground after the first frost. Before planting, germination can be promoted by scarifying the seeds first, then soaking them for 12 hours in warm water. Seeds may be collected after allowing the seed heads to dry on the plant however in a small garden, because the plant self-sows freely, deadheading the plants is often recommended in order to keep it contained.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal purposes, good quality Yi Yi Ren grains are large and full, and white in color. Coix may be used in it raw or dry fried form, and it is not uncommon to see both prescribed in the same formula. This is referred to as Sheng Shu Yi Yi Ren.
Dry-fried Coix (Chao Yi Yi Ren) is baked or dry fried at a moderate temperature until it is slightly yellow. This form is considered more warming and increases the herbs ability to strengthen the Spleen. It may be also be dry-fried with bran, which increases its ability to stop diarrhea.