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Lily Bulbs

Close up of lily bulbs TCM

What are Lily Bulbs?

Lily Bulbs (bai he, 百合) come from Lilies, which are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the World. These plants have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. As early as the second century BC, Lilies were already used in medicinal ointments in some parts of Asia. Other than its medicinal usage, Lilies are also popular among ancient Greece, Romans and Chinese as an ornamental plant.

While Lilies can be grown from seeds, they are usually raised from Lily Bulbs, which are used in herbal remedies as well. Lily Bulbs are composed of about a hundred overlapping scales, and they are believed to represent the blessing of a blissful, lasting marriage in Ancient Chinese culture. They are traditionally gathered in Autumn, cleansed, washed in boiled water, then dried under the Sun. Majority of the Lily Bulbs are white or slightly yellow, and they have either slight or no odour.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Lily Bulbs fall under the category of ‘Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency’. This herb can be used for patterns of Deficiency to replenish one’s Four Treasures (qi, blood, yin, yang). Cold in nature, Lily Bulbs can help individuals who have too much Heat in their body, such as those who are experiencing Yang Excess or Yin Deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance.

Sweet in taste, Lily Bulbs can help to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. It also has a tonic effect on the human body as it can replenish qi and blood. In particular, Lily Bulbs target the Heart and the Lungs.


Functions and Benefits of Lily Bulbs

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Lily Bulbs have the following benefits.

Firstly, Lily Bulbs can relieve syndromes caused by Yin Deficiency in the Lungs. As it is slightly Cold in nature, Lily Bulbs can nourish Lung Yin and clear Lung Heat. Thus, it can help to relieve cough and dispel phlegm. Also, it is a natural cough treatment as it can help to treat chronic cough, shortness of breath, dryness in nose and throat, dry cough with little Phlegm or Blood in Phlegm. Heat signs that accompany Lung Yin Deficiency, such as night sweats, tidal fever and absence of sputum can be relieved by Lily Bulbs too.

Secondly, Lily Bulbs can help to relieve syndromes caused by Yin Deficiency in the Heart. By nourishing Heart yin, clearing Heart Heat, calming the Heart and inducing tranquilization, the herb can provide relief for symptoms such as absentmindedness, lack of self-control over emotions, anxiety, bitterness in mouth, dark-yellow urine, slightly rapid pulse, restlessness, palpitation, insomnia and dream-disturbed sleep.

Modern studies have suggested that Lily Bulbs may be used to support heart health by regulating heart rate and stimulating our arteries. Other than that, Lily Bulbs may also be used to treat eye diseases too. For centuries, Lily Bulbs have been used to cure various eye diseases, such as sensitive eyes and conjunctivitis. They can also be used to protect eye muscles. Therefore, Lily Bulbs can be found in certain eye drops and other eye applications too.

Lily Bulbs are also quite effective when it comes to treating inflammations and ulcers. It can also help to maintain your oral health.

Lily Bulbs can also be used in aromatherapy to provide relief for depression.

Lily bulb in snow fungus dessert
Lily bulbs are common ingredients found in some Chinese desserts, such as snow fungus soup.

How to Use Lily Bulbs

The recommended daily dosage of Lily Bulbs is 10-30g.

Dried Lily Bulbs are usually available in herbal stores and traditional Asian markets. Some stores may also sell powdered Lily Flowers, which can be used to treat cuts and bruises.

Many users would boil Lily Bulbs in water or herbal tea as a decoction for oral administration. However, it is worthy to note that while dried and raw Lily Bulbs are more effective when it comes to clearing Heart Heat, Honey-fried Lily Bulbs are more effective for Lung moistening purposes.

Lily Bulbs make a great combination with other ingredients such as celery, meat and red dates.

Cautions and Side Effects of Lily Bulbs

Lily Bulbs are considered to be safe for consumption. However, it should not be taken by patients who are experiencing severe diarrhoea. Also, in TCM, it is found that patients who are experiencing coughs caused by Wind or Cold pathogens, Spleen Deficiency, Stomach Deficiency, chronic diarrhoea or loose stools.

Also, as Lily Bulbs contain monocrotaline (MCT), it is suggested that continued intake in large doses may lead to Lung and Kidney lesions. Direct contact with Lily Bulbs may also result in mild side effects such as itchiness.


Here is a summary for Lily Bulbs:

  • Herb name (Chinese): 百合
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): bǎi hé
  • Herb name (English): Lily Bulb
  • Herb name (Botanical): Bulbus Lilii
  • Origin of species: Lilium lancifolium Thunb.; Lilium brownii F. E. Brown var. viridulum Baker; Lilium pumilum DC
  • Part(s) of herb used: Fleshy scale leaf
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Most parts of China, especially in Hunan and Zhejiang
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet; Slightly cold; Administrates the Lung, Heart and Stomach meridians
  • Actions: Eases dry coughs; Helps to calm the mind and improve quality of sleep for those with sleeping issues.

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