Coix seed oil injection may effectively reduce pain and improve the quality of life among patients with advanced cancer, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer

Pain is one of the most common and pervasive effects associated with advanced cancer, but its management is suboptimal. Coix lacryma-jobi — also known as Job’s tears — is a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) used in Chinese medicine for a variety of clinical effects, and has been used to treat neuralgia, rheumatism, and inflammation. Its effect on pain however, has not been evaluated. 

For this study, researchers randomly assigned 90 patients to receive coix seed oil intravenous injection every day for 2 weeks or 0.9% normal saline. Patients in the control arm received additional analgesic treatment but patients in the experimental arm rarely received routine analgesia. The numeric rating scale (NRS) was used to assess pain and the Quality of Life Questionnaire Core-30 for quality of life; both were completed before and after study completion. 

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At baseline, NRS measurements were comparable between the study groups, with pain scores of 5.6 and 5.8 in the coix seed oil group and control group, respectively. Upon treatment completion, patients in both groups experienced reductions in pain but patients who received the coix seed oil had a more significantly decreased pain score (2.55 vs 3.84; P=.02). 

Quality of life evaluations revealed that patients in the coix seed oil group had significant improvements in all 5 functional domains and general health domain while decreasing all three symptom domains. Patients in the control arm, however, only had significant reductions in the pain domain. 

While all patients experienced commonly observed analgesic-associated adverse events, patients treated with coix seed oil had significantly lower rates of nausea and constipation

The authors concluded that although the intervention effectively reduced pain and improved quality of life, “caution should be used in generalizing the results in other countries, because this paper is limited to a single-center study of advanced cancer patients in China.”


Zhang P, Meng X, Tang X, Ren L, Liang J. The effect of a coix seed oil injection on cancer pain relief[published online July 4, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4313-z