Coix (botanical name Coix lachryma-jobi) is an annual plant belonging to the Poaceae (grass) family. This herb is extensively used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and known as yi yi ren in China. The English name of the plant is Job's tears.
This annually growing plant grows uncultivated in sunny moist grasslands and often reaches a height of about three feet (1 meter). In addition, coix is now cultivated in several oriental regions. The domestication of the plant is believed to have occurred in the Philippines. The plant is native to East Asia, but is now found all over China, Japan, east India, the Caribbean, northern Africa, Central America, US as well as northern South America.
The coix plant bears slender and ribbon-like leaves. The herb bears false fruits that are like teardrops in appearance. The fruits of coix are found at the base of spikelet that is used as beads in necklaces as well as consumed as food. This herb was introduced to southern Africa where it grows naturally and is also sometimes cultivated as a crop in rural areas. In many regions, coix is grown as a food grain.
Each coix plant bears six to 15 seed heads that are similar to wheat's single seed head growing on alternating sides of a single stalk. The plant is cultivated all over China as a food crop. The ripened seeds of coix are harvested during the end of autumn. Quality coix seeds are full, large, round, and white. The seeds of this herb enclose around 50 per cent starch, 14 per cent protein and six per cent fat. This composition gives the coix seeds a higher protein-to-carbohydrate ratio compared to any other cereal grains. The grains of the coix plant are consumed whole or grounded to produce flour. Coix is necessarily a valuable food grain, although it is difficult to remove the seed coat or husk. This makes it difficult to produce flour with the seeds. Coix seeds can be cooked like barley or rice and the flour can be used to make bread. Parched coix seeds are used to make tea and a coffee substitute can be made from the roasted seeds of some Chinese sub-species. The coix grain is boiled and eaten much in the same manner as rice. The grain is also added to stews and soups. In addition, these seeds are grounded and used for baking as well as in wine and beer production after fermentation. Interestingly, puffed coix seeds, much akin to puffed wheat or puffed rice cereals, is available in health food stores.
Coix offers two-fold benefits - it can be used as a remedial herb as well as a food. It may be mentioned here that coix also has a rich content of essential fatty acids that relieve inflammation and encloses some antiviral effects. The seed of the plant, after the husks have been removed, is a very crucial element of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). These seeds are considered to possess a calm nature and have a sweet, but insipid flavor. In tradition Chinese medicine, the coix seed is prescribed to take care of internal damp-heat conditions as well as dampness, particularly maladies of the stomach, spleen, lungs and the large intestines.
Traditional herbal medicine practitioners use coix to enhance passage of water through the body. In fact, the herb is used as a diuretic to promote the flow of urine as well as to cure edema (effusion of serous fluid into the interstices of cells in tissue spaces or into body cavities). In addition, the herb is also used to alleviate pain and contractions in the legs that are also swelled. Moreover, herbal practitioners also use coix to treat gastrointestinal conditions such as poor digestion, diarrhea and abdominal bloating. In addition, coix is often used in prescriptions that cure rheumatism as well as arthritis. According to traditional Chinese medicine, these conditions are believed to be caused by excess dampness. Herbalists from China also use coix to treat cancer, appendicitis, beriberi, lung disease, and lung abscesses.
Coix is beneficial for specific health conditions and these are as follows:
The coix seeds are believe to possess antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing properties. It is believed that coix seeds can prevent spasms, lower blood sugar, and also work as a sedative. The root of the coix herb has been used to take care of menstrual problems. A tea prepared from the boiled seeds is said to be helpful in curing warts. In addition, generally coix is considered to be good for the skin, helping to nourish and soften it so that it appears smooth and healthy.
Properties of coix: The herb is effective for treating several disorders and possesses anti-rheumatic, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-diarrheal and anti-inflammatory properties. Medications prepared with the herb helps to drain out dampness, clear body heat, get rid of pus and also tones the spleen. Coix is also added to different medicinal formulas to control fluid preservation and thwarts inflammation. The herb is also an effective remedy for all conditions and ailments that are related to edema as well as inflammation. This includes conditions such as diarrhea, phlegm or abscesses of the lungs or the intestines as well as rheumatic and arthritic disorders.
Use as a food: As discussed earlier the kernels or seeds of coix are consumed as a whole or ground into flour and used in bakery, as well as wine and beer production. The coix grain is boiled and eaten much in the same manner as rice and barley. The grain is also added to stews and soups. In Japan, people prepare a type of coffee with these seeds. It is advisable to clean the seeds before using, as they may be mixed with small stones.
Usually, when this herb is used for remedial purposes, the common daily dose is between 10 g and 30 g. In addition, herb can be consumed as a nourishing supplement and this way it is different from other herbs that are taken in limited doses.
Coix grains or seeds may be used as food as well as for remedial purposes for a prolonged period. In traditional Chinese medicine, coix has been used for hundreds of years without any adverse side effects. However, there are hints that if people consume huge amounts of coix as food, it may lead to dehydration. The coix cereal is available in groceries in Japan and is known as 'hatomugi'. As coix stimulates urination, pregnant women and people having urinary incontinence should use the herb with caution. In fact, traditional Chinese herbalists advise that the herb should not be used by women during pregnancy.