Pearl barley – proven medicinal benefits, uses

pearl barley

The scientific name of the pearl barley is Coix lachryma Linn.


Scientific names Common names
Coix lachryma Linn. Abukai (Iv.)
Coix lachryma-jobi Linn. Adlai (Bis.) 
Coix agrestis Lour. Agagai (Iv.)
Coix exaltata Jacq. Agda (Ig.) 
Coix arundinacea Lamk. Aglai (C. Bis.) 
Chuan gu gen (Chin.)  Alimudias (P. Bis.) 
Apagi (Ig.)
Atakai (Ilk., Bon.)
Balantakan (Pamp.) 
Barubaioko (Bik.)
Bintikai (Bik.)  
Bitogan (Bag.) 
Daldi (Sub.) 
Damdu (C. Bis.) 
Glias (Sub.) 
Kalabugau (Buk.) 
Kambot (Ting.)
Katayan (Ig.) 
Katigbi (C. Bis.) 
Kibaoung (If.) 
Koldasan (Bik.)
Kudlasan (Tag.) 
Lamudias (P. Bis.)
Lias (Sub.) 
Paias (P. Bis., Bag.) 
Pintaka (C. Bis.)
Tidbi (S. L. Bis.) 
Tigbi (Bik., Tag.) 
Tigbikai (Bik.)
TIguas (Sul,) 
Tikaian (Bon.)
Coix Seed (Engl.) 
Job’s tears (Engl.) 
Pearl barley (Engl.) 
St. Mary’s tears (Engl.)
Chuan gu (Chin.) 
Other vernacular names
ARABIC: Badrang, Dam’Ayub, Amadrayan.
CHINESE: Yemi ren, ye yi ren, ye yi mi, shan yi mi.
FRENCH: Larmes de Job, larmilles,
GERMAN: Hiobsträne, Hiobstränengras.
INDONESIA: Jali, jali betul, jali watu. herbe a chapelets.
ITALIAN: Lacrima di Giobbe, lacrime di Gesu, erba da corone.
JAPANESE: Juzudama.
KHMER: Skuoy.
LAOS: Duay
MALAYSIA: Jelai batu, jelai pulut, menjelai.
SPANISH: Lagrimas de San Pedro, Lagrimas de Job.
THAILAND: Duai, maduai.
VIETNAM: [ys] d[ix], bo bo, c[uw][owf]m g[aj]o

Pearl barley is a plant growing 1 to 2 meters high. Stem is erect, branched and stout. Leaves are 10 to 40 centimeters long, 2.5 to 4 centimeters wide, with a broad and cordate base. Spikes are 6 to 10 centimeters long, erect, and peduncled. Male spikelets are about 8 millimeters long. Fruits are capsules, enclosing the female flowers. Grains are hard, bony, white or nearly black, shining, ovoid, about 8 millimeters long.



• Pearl barley contains 21.27% moisture, 6.09% ash, 9.11% protein, 0.45% fat, 0.412% crude fiber, and 77.16% carbohydrates.

• The grain contains a protein, prolamin, with a high percentage of leucine, tyrosine, glutamic acid, and basic amino acids arginine, histidine, and lysine. Protein is called coicin.

• Extracts have yielded coixenolides, attributed antitumor activity.

• Study isolated 6 benzoxazinoids from the roots of CL

• Study evaluating seed phytonutrients yielded a total vitamin E content of 37.38 mg/kg, two major components were y-tocopherol and y-tocotrienol. Squalene content ranged from 31.23 to 55.00 mg/kg. Tested varieties exhibited squalene content ranging from 31.23 to 55.00 mg kg. Phytosterols content yielded campesterol 80.43, stigmasterol 131.1, and β-sitosterol 313.38. Of the six detected fatty acids, the major fatty acids were oleic (46.3%) and linoleic acids (37.4%).

pearl barley


• Grain starch is tonic.

• Fruit considered antiinflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitumor, antispasmodic, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, vermifuge.

• Seeds considered to be nutritious, cooling, diuretic, demulcent, depurative, antihelmintic, antirheumatic, pectoral, tonic.

• Root of plant considered an excellent anthelmintic.

Parts utilized

Roots, seeds.

Edibility / Culinary

– Chief value of the plant is the edibility of the fruit. Grains are nutritious, with a higher content of protein compared to rice.

– Tea from the parched seeds.

– Coffee from the roasted seeds.

– Beer and wine from fermented grains.

Folkloric traditional medicine remedies, benefits and uses of pearl barley

– In the Philippines, decoction of the root has been used for gonorrhea.

– Roots also used as vermifuge for children.

– Starch from the grain used as tonic and as restorative in convalescence.

– Tea from boiled seeds drunk for treatment of warts. Also used for lung abscesses, appendicitis, rheumatoid arthritis, dysuria.

– Seeds are prescribed for blenorrhagia.

– In India, roots used for menstrual disorders.

– In Liberia, juice from the stem used as drops for eye irritation due to injury.

– Decoction and tincture of seeds are emollient in catarrhal affections, in bronchitis, and inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract.

– Seeds have been used as anti-inflammatory medicine.

– In Mexico, decoction or infusion of leaves used for diabetes.

– In Japan and China, spirit from seeds used for rheumatic affections.

– In China, used for cancer treatment (30-60 gm of coix, with glutinous rice as gruel, daily, year round. Used for dysfunctions of the endocrine system. Also, used for ascites secondary to liver cirrhosis.

– In Chinese traditional medicine, considered nutritious, demulcent, cooling, pectoral, and anthelmintic. Used for spleen invigoration, diarrhea, oliguria, edema, beriberi, appendicitis and warts. Also, used as food for the dyspeptic. Coix seed has been used in the preparations used in the treatment of tumors.

– In Europe, tincture or decoction of seed use for catarrhal afflictions of the air passages.

– In Vietnam stems are used in some diabetic recipes.

– In Japan, used for warts.

Other uses

– Ornaments: The berries as strung as beads for rosaries and decorative for curtains, bags, trays, necklaces, etc.

– Matting: Stems used for matting.

Scientific proven health benefits and uses of pearl barley


Components isolated from the Chinese herbal medicine Coix lachryma-jobi showed antitumor activity attributed to the acidic fraction which was composed of four free fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids.

Antiinflammatory / educe pain, swelling and inflammation/ Seeds:

Results showed the methanol seed extract of seeds of CL showed antiinflammatory properties which may involved the inhibition of NO and O2 production by activated macrophages.

Antiinflammatory / Roots:

Study on the antiinflammatory activities of six benzoxazinoids from roots of Coix lachryma-jobi var. Ma-yuen showed the free hydroxyl group in the benzoxazinone skeleton involved in the expression of inhibitory activity.

Progesterone Production Inhibition:

Study suggested decrease of progesterone production via mechanisms involving the inhibition of cAMP pathway, enzyme activities and protein expressions in rat granulosa cells.

Cytotoxicity / Anti-Viral:

In a study of its in vivo effects on healthy volunteers, showed the Coix seeds increase peripheral cytotoxic lymphocytes and may be effective to viral infection through enhancement of cytotoxic activity.

Macrophage Biostatic Activity:

Results of study of water extract of seeds suggest that some components other than the non-proteinous and defatted components in Coix lachryma seeds may contribute to activate macrophages through induction of NO for the biostatic activity.

Osteoporosis Prevention:

Results of study of the water extract of adlay seed suggest it may be capable of reversing the osteoporotic status in rats and may be a helpful healthy food for osteoporosis prevention.

Abortifacient / Embryotoxicity:

Results indicate the water extracts of adlay seeds are capable of inducing embryotoxicity and enhancing uterine contractility during pregnancy, possibly through the enhanced activities of PKC-alpha, ERK1/2 and COX-2.

Hypoglycemic Effect / ß-sitosterol and Stigmasterol:

Study on STZ-induced hyperglycemia in mice, the chloroform fraction of an ethanol extract significantly reduced blood glucose as well as gluconeogenic enzyme activities. Two compounds isolated, ß-sitosterol and stigmasterol, have been reported as hypoglycemic.

Hypocholesterolemic / Antioxidant:

Study of polyphenol extracts on high cholesterol diet fed rats showed an effective reduction of TC, LDL cholesterol, and oxidative stress marker, MDA (malondialdehyde). There was also an increase in HDL-C and antioxidant capacity.

Anticancer / Breast and Skin:

Coix lachryma and Asparagus cochinchinensis showed breast and and skin anticancer activity. Coix lachryma ethanol extract yielded terpenoids, steroids, and phenolics; For Coix lachryma, the methylene chloride extract showed the most activity.

Gastroprotective / Anticancer / Antiulcer:

Study of extracts of bran and endosperm showed antiproliferative activity, with inhibitory effects, especially by caffeic and chlorogenic acids, on a gastric cancer cell line. Study also showed an antiulcer activity in an indomethacin-induced gastric lesion model.

Anti-Obesity / Neuroendocrine Modulation:

Study in high-fat diet induced obesity in rats, results showed adlay seen water extract may regulate neuroendocrine activity in the brain, causing reduction in body fat mass, body weight, serum leptin level and immune activities of NPY (neuropeptide Y) and LR (leptin receptor). Adlay presents as a potential for therapies targeting obesity.

Coix Seeds / Kanglaite Injection (KLT) Preparation / Anticancer and Immunomodulating:

A review on the pharmacological actions of Coix seed and its preparation Kanglaite Injection reports antitumor and immunomodulating actions.

Antimutagenic Components / Cancer Chemopreventive:

Study yielded six compounds exhibiting great antimutagenic activity: p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, vanillin, syringaldehyde, trans-coniferylaldehyde, sinapaldehyde, and coixol. Two exhibited potent scavenging of DPPH radicals. Among the six, trans-coniferylaldehyde may be a highly promising agent for cancer chemoprevention. 

Anti-Allergic / Inhibition of Chemical Mediator Release:

Study evaluated the anti-allergic effects of adlay bran on rat basophilic leukemia (RBL)-2H3cells. Results showed adlay bran extract reduced the release of histamines and cytokines and suppressed production of Akt. The anti-allergic effect was through its effect on signal transduction in RBL-2H3 cells.

Fructooligosaccharide / Antioxidant:

Fructooligosaccharide (FOS), a prebiotic was extracted from the grain of Coix lachryma-jobi Lin. The FOS-containing extract exhibited antioxidant activity by DPPH free radical scavenging assay comparable to vitamin with a slight lipid peroxidation inhibition activity. Results suggest a potential for use as antioxidant in food and cosmetic products.

Anti-Inflammatory / Seed Hull:

Study evulated the effects of adlay seed hull extracts on liposaccharide-induced inflammatory response in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Study showed anti-inflammatory effect which was attributed, in part, to eriodictyol and ceramide (2S,3S,4R)-2-[(2′R)-2′-hydroxytetracosanoyl-amino]-1,3,4-octadecanetriol, isolated for the first time from seed hull extracts.


Pearl barley bran extract reduced the release of histamines and cytokines and suppressed the production of Akt. , combined effects that influenced the signal transuction in RBL-2H3 cells, revealing mechanisms of the anti-allergic effects of adlay.

Endochitinase / Seeds:

Studies of the purification, characterization and primary structure of protein inhibitors of trypsin and -amylase from seeds of Job’s Tears (Coix lachryma-jobi) were undertaken. Endochitinase activity was demonstrated. The results suggest a first characterization of a plant protein with activity as an enzyme and as an enzyme inhibitor.

Anti-Tumor / Seeds: Triterpene-loaded microemulsions using Coix lachryma seed oil was evaluated for enhanced antitumor activity. The TME preparation showed markedly enhanced antitumor efficacy in a xenograft model of Lewis lung cancer after intragastric administration. Compared to cyclophosphamide, the TME showed similar antitumor activity but less general toxicity.



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