English: Job's tears

Chinese: 薏苡仁

Parts used: Dried ripe kernel

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Lung Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Coix lacryma-jobi

Other names: Coix, Adlay, Adlay millet, Coixseed, Tear grass, Chinese pearl barley

Use of Yi Yi Ren ( job's tears) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: After harvest, take the kernel, remove impurities and dry

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Regulates water and encourages urination. Tonic to the Spleen and stops diarrhea caused by Spleen Deficiency. Reduces inflammation and eliminates pus. Dispels Wind-Damp Bi Pain. Expels Damp-Heat.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Yi Yi Ren may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Oliguria Enuresis Rheumatoid arthritis Diarrhea Lung abscess Appendicitis Verruca plana Colitis

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by pregnant women.

Common TCM formulas in which Yi Yi Ren is used*

San Ren Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Damp-Heat. Disseminates the Qi. Facilitates the Qi mechanisms.

Conditions targeted*: TyphoidPyelonephritis and others

Yi Yi Ren is a king ingredient in San Ren Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In San Ren Tang, Yi Yi Ren leaches out Dampness through the urine. It also treats the Middle Burner by strengthening the Spleen.

Read more about San Ren Tang

Wei Jing Tang

Source date: 627 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears heat from the Lungs. Transforms Phlegm. Drives out Blood-Stagnation. Discharges pus.

Conditions targeted*: BronchitisBronchiectasis and others

Yi Yi Ren is a deputy ingredient in Wei Jing Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Wei Jing Tang, Yi Yi Ren clears Heat from the Lungs and disperses pus from the upper parts of the body. It also leaches out Dampness and helps restore proper function to the Intestines, thereby providing an outlet for Dampness and Heat through the urine.

Read more about Wei Jing Tang

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatic feverRheumatoid arthritis and others

Yi Yi Ren is a deputy ingredient in Xuan Bi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Xuan Bi Tang, Yi Yi Ren works together with Silkworm feces (Can Sha) to strengthen the Spleen, resolve Dampness, and treat painful obstruction. 

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments the Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Leaches out Dampness. Stops diarrhea.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisEnteritis and others

Yi Yi Ren is a deputy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, Yi Yi Ren strengthens the Spleen and leaches out Dampness.

Read more about Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Key TCM concepts behind Yi Yi Ren's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yi Yi Ren belongs to the 'Herbs that drain Dampness' category. These herbs are typically diuretics, meaning that they promotes the increased production of urine in order to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. According to TCM Dampness accumulates first in the lower limbs, causing edema and impaired movement. From there, if unchecked, it can move upward and impair digestion and eventually the respiratory system.

Furthermore Yi Yi Ren is Cool in nature. This means that Yi Yi Ren tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Yi Yi Ren can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Yi Yi Ren also tastes Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like Yi Yi Ren tends to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Yi Yi Ren is thought to target the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.

Research on Yi Yi Ren

Some studies show Kanglaite injection (an anti-tumor new drug made from Job's tears extracts) could inhibit some anti-apoptotic gene and activate some pro-apoptotic gene, its injection solution is one of the new anticancer medicine that can significantly inhibit a various kinds of tumor cells.1


1. Lu Y, Li CS, Dong Q. (2008). Chinese herb related molecules of cancer-cell-apoptosis: a minireview of progress between Kanglaite injection and related genes. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. , 21;27:31. doi: 10.1186/1756-9966-27-31.

Use of Yi Yi Ren as food

Yi Yi Ren is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Coix congee or Job's Tears Salad.