If you look at Asian skin care, you’ll often see products formulated with Job’s Tears, be it products from Korea, Japan, or Taiwan. So, why do so many Asian skin care brands add it into their formulations? Like many typical skin care ingredients, the reasons can be traced back to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda but they’re still valid today.

What are Job’s Tears?

The scientific name is coix lacryma-Jobi. Confusingly, its pharmaceutical name is semen coicis lachrymajobi. It also goes by adlay, adlai, adlay millet, coixseed, and tear grass.

Job’s tears belongs to the grass family, photo by 7 july 🙂

Even though Job’s Tears are nicknamed Chinese pearl barley or red pearl barley, it has nothing to do with barley, even if both are grains. It belongs to the Poaceae (grass) family that includes

The name Job’s Tears comes from its tear-shaped pod. Since it’s a popular ingredient for Asian skin care brands, let’s also include its names in the Japanese and Chinese, because you may seem them also used in the ingredient list.

  • In Japanese, it’s known as yokuinin or hatomugi
  • In Chinese, it’s called 薏米 (yi mi), 薏仁 (yi ren) 薏苡 (yi yi)

A little bit of background

Adlay is native to Southeast Asia. Farmers in India, Burma, China, and Malaysia started to cultivate it 2000-4000 years ago as a food staple. Later it got introduced to the rest of the world through commerce.

It’s seen as a viable alternative in locations, where rice or corn are difficult to grow. Adlay isn’t only used as food or in traditional Asian medicine, the tear-shaped pods are also used as ornamental beads.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, adlay is known for clearing heat and removing pus from the body, for it works on strengthening the Spleen. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Spleen is important for skin health.

So, concerns such as acne or eczema are indicators for Traditional Chinese Medicine that there’s too much heat in your body. Therefore, adlay is used to clear the heat and cool down the inflammation as well as soothe the breakout.

Another indicator that the Spleen is doing a poor job is when you’ve got dry skin. This is a sign of poor fluid metabolism of which the spleen is a determinant. This means if you regularly consume it, you’ll strengthen your Spleen Qi and therefore help regulate fluid metabolism which in turn moisturises your skin from the inside.

Foods that are heating up the body are for example spicy or fried. And Job’s Tears does the opposite: It cools down the body. In summer, you’ll find cooling drinks made of water and pounded adlay flour in Asia.

Job’s Tears is a healthy food trend, photo by Phoebe Lim

Nowadays, adlay is becoming a popular healthy food trend in Asia. It’s popular to add it into drinks, desserts, and soups. Elsewhere in the world, it also enjoys popularity, especially for vegetarians and vegans. It not only contains proteins but also essential amino acids and vitamin B which usually come from meat in our diets. And, it’s gluten-free.

This isn’t all. Tea made of adlay is also drunk to ward off and deal with allergies. It has been shown to relieve symptoms of hay fever and allergic reactions on the skin.

Since adlay has anti-inflammatory properties, it has prompted the researcher to examine its effect on cancer treatment and prevention.

Job’s Tears in skin care

A look at the nutritional profile of Job’s Tears show that they contain

  • Protein
  • Vitamin B (B1 – thiamine, B2 – riboflavin, B3 – niacin)
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Antioxidants

Evening out your complexion

With its high content in vitamin B3 (niacin) adlay lends itself to skin care products that brighten and even out your skin tone. Beyond improving skin tone, adlay helps firm your skin since it also contains peptides (they’re amino acids that make up certain proteins that your skin needs).

Moisturising your skin

Products containing Job’s Tears are doing more than “just” moisturising. They’re balancing, anti-ageing, repairing, and calming. That’s because adlay is anti-inflammatory and will help reduce irritation and the redness and swelling associated.

Where to get Job’s Tears?

If you can’t find adlay in your local food store, try the  Chinese, Japanese, or Korean markets. Since Job’s Tears are gluten-free, you may want to try natural food stores too.

How to use it?

Know that Job’s tears need a good deal of soaking and cooking time – otherwise they just won’t be soft and have the right texture. The cooking instructions are

  1. Wash them
  2. Add them with 4-5 amounts of water in your rice cooker (if you soak them 2-3 h beforehand, it’ll shorten the time to cook it)
  3. When the water evaporates add more water and cook for another cycle

Don’t throw the water that hasn’t evaporated after the second cycle down the drain. It has great medicinal properties and has the same benefits as eating the grains. You can drink it like a tea or if you don’t like the taste, use it in your soups for added nutritional value and flavour.

Adlay itself can be used as an alternative to rice, oatmeal, or any grain. You can also grind it into flour and use it to make bread.

The ground flour can be combined with water for a summer drink. Or if you’re up for some DYI make a thick paste to use as your face pack. For that matter, you can also use the water you cooked Job’s Tears with as a toner.

Danger zone?

Job’s Tears are considered generally safe. There are no potential side effects and it’s been a safe source of carbohydrates in Asia for a long time.

Final words

Job’s Tears are popular throughout Asia as healthy food, as well as in Asian skin care products and in Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas. It has a long history of being effective in treating a range of skin concerns when taken internally or applied to the skin.

If you want to tackle dry skin, dark spots and uneven complexion, you may want to include an Asian product containing Job’s Tears.

Do you have any thoughts or questions? Leave them in the comments below.

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