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Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)

Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu) in a ceramic dish

What is Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)?

Fritillary bulb (chuan bei mu, 川贝母), also known as Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae, refers to the dry bulb of Fritillariae Cirrhosae, which is a perennial herbaceous plant that belong to the Liliaceae family. Its bulbs are usually harvested in summer, autumn, or when the snow is starting to melt. After the harvest, the bulbs are then cleansed by having its fibrous roots, bark and sand removed, before being dried under the sun or in low temperature.

Known for its remarkable efficacy in moistening Lungs to arrest cough, Fritillary bulb has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since Eastern Han dynasty, as recorded in The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, 神农本草经).

Produced in highland areas, Fritillary bulb is hard to harvest. Furthermore, as it is one of the key herbs to relieve cough and reduce sputum, Fritillary bulb is always in high demand. The over-exploitation of wild resources, coupled with the difficult and expensive cultivation process, has led to the rising prices of Fritillary bulb.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu) falls under the ‘cool herbs that transform phlegm and stop cough’. Such herbs can treat stagnation of fluids and prevent the accumulation of phlegm. Cool in nature, Fritillary bulb can help individuals with too much heat in their body, such as those experiencing a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance.

Bitter and sweet in taste, Fritillary bulb can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. Also, Fritillary bulb can slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Fritillary bulb targets the Heart and the Lungs.

Functions and Benefits of Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu) has the following health benefits.

Fritillary bulb can clear Heat in the Lungs and resolve phlegm in the throat. In particular, it can moisten and resolve Dry-Phlegm and stop coughing. Hence, Fritillary bulb is often indicated for the syndromes of Heat-Phlegm and Dry-Phlegm, especially for long-term cough caused by internal injury and dryness of Lungs due to Yin Deficiency, which is manifested as symptoms such as scanty phlegm, dry throat, and bloody phlegm.

In addition, Fritillary bulb can be used to treat coughs together with Qi Stagnation, including symptoms such as low appetite and a stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen.

Fritillary bulb can also dissipate nodulation. For example, the herb can treat Lung abscesses, breast abscesses, scrofula, goiter, sores, and other swellings and nodules. For scrofula caused by the Stagnation and accumulation of Phlegm-Fire, Fritillary bulb can be combined with toxicity-relieving, abscess-curing and nodulation-dissipating herbs to enhance its effectiveness. For swollen abscess and acute mastitis caused by exuberant Heat-Toxin accumulation, Fritillary bulb can be combined with Heat-Clearing and Toxicity-relieving herbs to enhance its effectiveness. 

Close up of Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)
Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu) can help to ease chronic dry coughs.

How to Use Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)

The recommended daily dosage of Fritillary bulb is 3 – 10g, when used as a decoction. If used in powdered form, the recommended dosage of Fritillary bulb is 1 – 2g.

As it is very effective in nourishing Lung yin, ventilating and moistening Lungs, as well as clearing Lung Heat, Fritillary bulb is often used in herbal formulas for chronic cough and asthma caused by excessive phlegm. For example, Fritillary bulb is used in Si Chun Tang and Bei Mu Tang.

Fritillary bulb and its supplements, such as pills and powder, can be found in herbal stores and Asian specialty markets.

Cautions and Side Effects of Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)

Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu) should not be used by individuals experiencing cough or phlegm caused by Dampness or Cold.  Individuals who are pregnant or experiencing digestive weakness accompanied by phlegm should avoid this herb too. Also, unprocessed Fritillariae Cirrhosae Bulbus is toxic, and should not be used for consumption.

In addition, Fritillary bulb should not be used together with Aconitum herbs (Wu Tou).

We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Fritillary bulb to your healthcare routine!


Here is a summary for Fritillary bulb (Chuan Bei Mu):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 川贝母
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): chuān bèi mǔ
  • Herb name (English): Tendrilleaf Fritillary Bulb
  • Herb name (Botanical): Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae
  • Origin of species: Fritillaria cirrhosa D. Don; Fritillaria unibracteata Hsiao et K. C. Hsia; Fritillaria przewalskii Maxim; Fritillaria delavayi Franch.; Fritillaria taipaiensis P. Y. Li; Fritillaria unibracteata Hsiao et K. C Hsia van wabuensis
  • Part(s) of herb used: Bulb
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Bitter, sweet; Slightly cold; Administrates the Lung and Heart Meridians
  • Actions: Eases chronic dry coughs or coughs with yellow oral discharge; Reduce swelling and eases inflammatory conditions

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