Coix lacryma-jobi L.

Last updated: 7 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Coix lacryma-jobi L.


Coix agrestis Lour., Coix arundinacea Lam., Coix exaltata Jacq. ex Spreng., Coix gigantea J.Jacq. [Illegitimate], Coix lacryma L. [Illegitimate], Coix ouwehandii Koord., Coix ovata Stokes [Illegitimate], Coix palustris Koord., Coix pendula Salisb. [Illegitimate], Coix pumila Roxb., Coix stigmatosa K.Koch & Bouché, Lithagrostis lacryma-jobi (L.) Gaertn., Sphaerium lacryma (L.) Kuntze [Illegitimate] [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Jelai batu, jelai pulut, menjelai [2], jilai, senjelai, melai tikus, batak, lancing [3]
English Job's tears, adlay [2], children’s bread, corn bead, gromwell-bead, pearl barley, sheep’s salt [4]
China I-I, t’u I-Jen [3], yi yi, yi yi ren [4]
Indonesia Jali, jali betul, jali watu [2]
Thailand Duai (General); maduai (Northern) [2]; deuy [3]
Laos Düay [2]
Philippines Adlai (Bisaya); kaudlasan, katigbi (Tagalog) [2]
Cambodia Skuöy [2]
Vietnam [ys] d[ix], bo bo, c[uw][owf]m g[aj]o [2]
Japan Hato-mugi [4]
Saudi Arabia Damu ayub [4]
France Larmes de Job, larmilles, herbe à chapelets [2]
South America Avena, rosario, trigo [4].

Geographical Distributions

The origin of Coix lacryma-jobi is unknown, but it is indigenous to southern and eastern Asia. The form with a soft-shelled false fruit (var. ma-yuen (Romanet) Stapf) has been cultivated since ancient times which is 3000-4000 years ago in India, 2000 years ago in China and was very important before maize and rice became widespread as staple foods. At present, it is cultivated as a minor cereal crop throughout the tropics and subtropics, especially in India, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and the Mediterranean. Forms with hard-shelled false fruit are also occasionally cultivated. The plants escaped from cultivation occur as weeds. [2]

Botanical Description

C. lacryma-jobi is a member of the Gramineae family. It is an erect, perennial, strongly tillering, monoecious grass and often cultivated as an annual that can grow up to 3 m tall. The culm is filled with pith, hairless, sometimes pruinose and it branched in the upper part. [2]

The leaves are large and sheathed. The sheath is short and smooth or with long hairs at the apex. The ligule is short and membranous. The auricles are absent. The blade is linear to ovate-lance-shaped, measuring 8-100 cm x 1.5-5 cm, rounded to almost cordate at the base, acute at the apex, prominent at the midrib, with rough margins and smooth or scabrid above. [2]

The inflorescences are in the axil of the upper leaves, solitary or 2-7-fascicled and on a peduncle measure 3-6 cm long. At the end of the peduncle is a hollow, bony, with a globular to ovoid-elliptical cupule (a modified leaf-sheath), measures 5-15 mm long, shiny, white or blueish and comprises of 2 racemes. The female raceme is enclosed by the cupule and consists of a sessile spikelet that accompanied by 2 barren pedicels. The spikelet is with 1 pistillate floret of which the 2 stigmas exsert from the mouth of the cupule. The male raceme is 3-5 cm long, exserted from the mouth of the cupule and with about 10 imbricate spikelets that borne in pairs or threes where one is pedicelled while the other(s) are sessile. The spikelet is lance-shaped to ellipsoid, measures 7-8 mm long, falling at maturity, contains 1-2 staminate florets where each is with a lemma, a smaller palea and 3 stamens. [2]

The false fruits (the cupules) are variable in size, shape, colour and hardness, usually 8-12 mm long, grey yellow-brown or purplish, soft or hard and contains caryopsis. The caryopsis is dark red in hard-shelled forms which is pale brown in soft-shelled edible forms. [2]


C. lacryma-jobi is a quantitative short-day plant and requires high temperatures, abundant rainfall, reasonably fertile soils, and prefers short, sunny days. In the tropics, it occurs up to 2000 m altitude. It often grows wild in swampy locations. [2]

Chemical Constituent

C. lacryma-jobi has been reported to contain 4-ketopinoresinol, α-coixin,   α-sitosterol, β-sitosterol, coicin, coixan A,  coixan B,  coixan C,   coixenolide,  coixlactam, coixol,   coixspirolactam A, coixspirolactam B, coixspirolactam C,   coniferyl alcohol, ferulic acid, γ-sitosterol,  glucose,  methyl dioxindole-3-acetate, myuenolide, palmatate,  phytin, potassium chloride, stearate, stigmasterol, syringic acid, syringaresinol, vitamin B1,  peracetylated forms of glucose, maltose, maltotriose, maltotetraose, and maltopentaose. [5][6][7][8]

Plant Part Used

Roots, leaves and seeds [5][9]

Traditional Use

The traditional practitioners recognized anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in C. lacryma-jobi and utilized them in the treatment of infective processes like appendicitis, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, puerperal fever, pulmonary infection and urinary tract infection. [5][9]

The fruits are used for intestinal and lung cancers, cervical and chorionic epithelioma and viral skin affections like warts, verruca plana and eczema. [5][9]

The seeds are the most frequently used part in the treatment of common gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and dysentery. Seeds are also used for enteritis and persistent diarrhoea in children. It has also been advocated in the treatment of acute appendicitis. The seeds have vermifuge property which can used to treat worms infestation. The seeds are remedy for various pulmonary conditions includes bronchitis, pleurisy, pneumonia, pulmonary abscess, hydrothorax and lung cancer. Infusion of the seed is prescribed for bronchitis, pulmonary abscess and hydrothorax. The seeds had been prescribed for dysuria. [5][9]

The roots are used in the treatment of fever with drying of saliva and intense thirst, oedema, beri-beri, amenorrhoea and jaundice. They are also used in ascariasis, urinary tract infection, nephrolithiasis, dysuria and oliguria. [5][9]

Preclinical Data


Anticonvulsant activity

One of the pharmacologically active compounds isolated from C. lacryma-jobi is coixal (6-methoxybenzoxazolone). In rats it was observed that it could decrease locomotor activities and produced hypothermia. It is able to potentiate thiopental induced sleep, attenuates writhing syndrome induced by 1% acetic acid, increased the threshold of jumping response to foot shock and prevent convulsion induced by maximal electro-convulsion. On the EEG it could induce drowsy patterns and inhibit EEG arousal response to external auditory stimulus, but failed to suppress the arousal response to midbrain reticular stimulation. These results indicate that coixol can act as a central muscle relaxant with an anti-convulsant effect very much similar to chlorzoxazone. [10]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Two out of six benzoxazinoids isolated from the roots of C. lacryma-jobi was found to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity. It is observed that the free hydroxyl group at the 2-position in the benzoxazone skeleton is important for the expression of the inhibitory activity. [11]

Antiobesity activity

Park et al. studied the effects of C. lacryma-jobi on lipid metabolism in Sprague-Dawley male rats. They found that it may have an inhibitory action on cholesterol synthesis in liver, a facilitating effect on the biliary excretion of triglyceride, and an acceleratory action on phospholipid synthesis in liver [12]. Kim et al. found that the crude extract of the seeds could modulated the expression of leptin and TNF-alpha and reduced body weights, food intake, fat size, adipose tissue mass and serum hyperlipidaemia in obese rats. Based on this they suggested that it could be considered for use in antiobesity therapy [13]. They further found that the water extracts of the seed exhibit anti-obesity activity through regulating neuroendocrine activity in the brain [14]. Huang et al. the effects of C. lacryma-jobi sees oil on plasma lipids, insulin and leptin in rats and found that it could decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), insulin, leptin and thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS) concentrations after 4 weeks of feed [15].

Antidiabetic activity

A screening activity of twelve antidiabetic plants showed that C. lacryma-jobi exhibits hypoglycaemic effect. The dehulled seed of C. lacryma-jobi could reduce the blood glucose level in diabetic rats (streptozocin induced). [16]

Fibrinolytic inhibition activity

The coix-mixed diet given to Wistar rats for 30 days could lower fibrinogen level while at the same time created the tendency to reduced fibrinolytic activity. [17]

Macrophage activation activity

Water extract of C. lacryma-jobi seeds and several separated components (dissolved with Tris-Cl buffer and the supernatant (WC1), ammonium sulfate treatment supernatant (WC2) and the pellet (WC3), QAE column chromatography of WC1 and the peak portions; WC4, WC5 and WC6.) were used to determine their effects on murine peritoneal macrophages infected with Toxoplasma gondii. The addition of modulators (C. lacryma-jobi seeds and several separated components) could enhance the production of nitrite by the macrophages and that there was a retroverse relationship between the amount of nitrite produced and the phagocytic index of macrophages and the fold increase of tachyzoites in the macrophages. They concluded that some components other than the non-proteinous and defatted components of C. lacryma-jobi seeds may contribute to activate macrophages through induction of NO for the biostatic activity. [18]

Cytotoxic activity

A number of studies were done to determine the cytotoxic activity of seeds of C. lacryma-jobi. This cytotoxic activity is seen in lung, colon, pancreatic, breast cancers and hepatoma. It was found that the acid fraction of the acetone extract to have antitumour activity against transplantable mouse tumour. This acid fraction was found to be four free fatty acids i.e. palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids [19]. Besides, methanol extract was not only effective in inhibition of growth of A549 lung cancer cells (inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis) but also prevented lung tumourigenesis [20]. This action was attributed to inhibition of COX-2 [21]. A similar result was obtained when they use Kanglaite (extracts of seeds of C. lacryma-jobi) injections on A549 lung cancer cells. [22] The feeding of dehulled seeds could suppress early events in colon carcinogenesis but not the formation of tumours [23]. Five active compounds that inhibited cancer cells (A549 lung cancer, HT-29 colorectal carcinoma and COLO 205) were isolated. These five compounds are of the lactam group (coixspirolactam A, B. C, coixlactam and methyldioxindole-3-acetate) [24]. The seed bran and its ethanol extract and residue could inhibit colonic preneoplastic lesions at an early stage [25]. Another compound that could be responsible for this effect could be ferulic acid through an anti-inflammatory pathway [26]. A neutral lipid isolated from the endosperm of Job’s tears showed anticancer activity against PaTu-8988 and SW1990 human pancreatic cancer cells [27].

A number of mechanism had been attributed to the cytotoxic activity of the seeds of C. lacryma-jobi. As already mentioned above the inhibition of COX-2 is one of them. The characteristic gene expression changes noted were recognized to be a characteristic of inhibition of NF kappaB-dependent transcription. This was found to be associated with reduced translocation of Rel-A/p65 subunit of NF kappaB to the nucleus [28]. Bao et al. found that they neutral lipid isolate blocked cell cycle progression at the G(2)/M phase with increase in annexin V binding and DNA fragmentation. They found that the expression of signals of 24 genes was significantly altered after 24 hours of treatment. These genes were involved in cell cycle control, apoptosis regulation and signal transduction [27].

Uterine contractile activity

The extracts of seeds of C. lacryma-jobi showed abortifacient activity. It was found that the water extract of the seeds could cause foetal resorptions and postimplantation mortality without causing foetal malformations. There was spontaneous uterine contraction when an isolated pregnant uterus of rats was exposed to the water extract. This action was attributed to induction of COX-2 protein expression along with enhancement of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) ½ phosphorylation and protein kinase C(PKC)-alpha translocation from cytosolic to particulate fraction in the uterus. [29]

Four solvents (water, 1-butanol, ethyl acetate and n-hexane) of the seed hull were fractionated to study the uterine contractility activity. All four extracts and their subfractions inhibited uterine contractions induced by PGF(2 alpha), the Ca2+ channel activator Bay K 8644 and high K+; the most active being the ethylacetate extract. It seems that this extract suppressed the increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration induced by PGF(2 alpha) and high K+. They found that the major pure chemical components to be responsible for this effect was naringenin and quercetin. [30]

Effects on production of hormones activity

The bran extract of seeds of C. lacryma-jobi were used traditionally to treat endocrine dysfunction and inflammatory conditions. It decreased the production of progesterone and estradiol by inhibition of the cAMP-PKA and PKC signal transduction pathway, P450scc and 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3beta-HSD) enzyme activity; P450scc and StAR protein and mRNA expressions and the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 in rat granulosa cells. [31][32]

The seed hull acetone extract of C. lacryma-jobi was used to study its effect on cortisone production from rat zona fasciculate-reticularis cells. The results showed that the extract could inhibit corticosterone release; stimulate prehnenolone release; non-competitively inhibit P450 side chain cleavage enxyme (P450scc) and 11beta-hydroxylase; and inhibit the expression of StAR protein. This indicates that the extract has a direct action of rat ZFR cells to diminish corticosterone releases. [33]

The methanol extract of hull of seeds of C. lacryma-jobi could inhibit production of testosterone by rat Leydig cells. This action is mediated through inhibition of the PKA and PKC signal transduction pathways; 17beta-HSD enzyme activity in rat Leydig cells and in vitro Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone induced LH secretion. [34]

Antiosteoporotic activity

Water extract of the seeds of C. lacryma-jobi could reverse the decreased alkaline phosphatise activities and calcium levels and increased tartarate-resistant acidic phosphatise activities induced by parathyropid hormone in cultured metaphyseal tissues. In ovarectomized rats, it could reverse the osteoporotic effects. [35]


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Antioxidant activity

A clinical trial was studied on the effect of C. lacryma-jobi (adlay) on plasma lipids and LDL oxidation in hyperlipidaemic smokers. They found that adlay could reduce the total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) while at the same time increase the lag phase of LDL oxidation. The antioxidative effect was found to be less pronounced in smokers than in non-smokers. [36]

Antiviral activity

The antiviral activity of C. lacryma-jobi seeds was studied based on traditional uses in China and Japan for the treatment of verruca vugaris and verrucae planae juveniles. They found that in seven healthy volunteers who took six tablets of C. lacryma-jobi seeds the percentage of CD3+, CD5+ cells and CD16+, CD57+ cells increased significantly. The increase in the peripheral cytotoxic lymphocytes could be the mechanism of antiviral activity i.e. through the enhancement of cytotoxic activity. [37][38]


No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing




Figure 1: Line drawing of C. lacryma-jobi [2]


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  25. Li SC, Chen CM, Lin SH, Chiang W, Shih CK. Effects of adlay bran and its ethanolic extract and residue on preneoplastic lesions of the colon in rats.  J Sci Food Agric. 2011;91(3):547-552.
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