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Lily bulbs

Chinese: 百合

Pinyin: Bǎi Hé

Parts used: Dried fleshly scale leaves of the bulb

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Heart Lung

Scientific name: Lilium lancifolium, Lilium brownii or Lilium pumpilum

Use of lily bulbs (Bai He) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Wash the bulb, strip its leaves, boil them quickly in water, dry them.

Dosage: 6 to 12g.

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat and stops cough due to either Lung Yin Deficiency or Lung-Heat. Clears Heat from the Heart and calms the Spirit (Shen).

Primary conditions or symptoms for which lily bulbs may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Whooping cough Sputum Palpitations Restlessness Insomnia Bronchitis Pneumonia

Contraindications*: Should not be used by those with Wind-Cold conditions when there is Phlegm, nor should it be used when there is Spleen Deficiency with diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which lily bulbs (Bai He) are used*

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic pharyngitis and others

Bai He is a king ingredient in Bai He Gu Jin Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Bai He Gu Jin Tang, Bai He moistens and nourishes Dryness in the Lungs, and clears Heat.

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Key TCM concepts behind lily bulbs (Bai He)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), lily bulbs are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Yin tonics have a heavy, moist nature. They either nourish the Kidneys and Liver or moisten the Lungs and Stomach. Extreme Yin Deficiency often translates into a 'burn-out', unfortunately more and more common among people today. It is worth mentioning that another great remedy against Yin Deficiency is a lot of rest and sleep; no herb will ever be able to replace this!

Furthermore lily bulbs are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that lily bulbs typically help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition lily bulbs can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Lily bulbs also taste Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like lily bulbs tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such lily bulbs are thought to target the Heart and the Lung. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on lily bulbs (Bai He)

Lily bulbs from Lilium lancifolium have anti-inflammatory effects.1


1.OK Kwon, MY Lee, JE Yuk, SR Oh; et al (2010). Anti-inflammatory effects of methanol extracts of the root of Lilium lancifolium on LPS-stimulated Raw264.7 cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 130, Issue 1, Pages 28-34

Use of lily bulbs (Bai He) as food

Lily bulbs are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Stir-fried lily bulb and celery.