What an amazing sight to see a swathe of Snakeshead Fritilleries growing near Cricklade at the edge of the Cotswolds – home to a staggering 80% of this native beauty still growing in the wild. This is one of the few remaining “Lammas” – a community grown hay-field on a nutrient rich flood plane – most of these sites have long been lost to modern farming methods.
In Chinese Medicine, Fritillary bulbs have a long history. The “Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica”, thought to have been compiled around 200-300 BCE, listed Fritillary for such diverse sympoms as acute fever, dribbling, phlegm accumulation, insufficient breast-milk, and wounds1. However, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME – many fritillaries are poisonous, not to mention rare, and have to be carefully processed before use.
In more recent times they are regarded as bitter/cold in nature, and having an affinity to the chest. They are used for clearing hot-phlegm from the lungs (for cough and asthma), and for clearing phlegm nodules (non-healing abscesses, sores and swellings)3. Chuan Bei Mu (川贝母 Fritillaria cirrhosa2) is sweeter, more nourishing to the Lung fluids, and hence used for more chronic conditions. Zhe Bei Mu (浙贝母 – Fritillaria thunbergii) is stronger, harsher, and used for more acute conditions3.
It is a member of the Lily family. Interestingly it’s cousin Bai He (Lily bulb) also has a distinct affinity to the Lungs and respiration, and is consumed as both medicinal herb and vegetable in Asia.
Please note: This information is for your information only, and is not meant as medical advice – always seek the advice of a health professional. The author accepts no responsibility for the consequences of the use of the information, or for any liability arising therefrom.
1The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing) by Yang Shou-zhong, Blue Poppy Press, ISBN 9-780936-185965
2 Also other varieties – Fritillaria cirrhosa, unibracteata, przewalski, and delavayi.
3 Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, third edition (2004) – Bensky, Clavey, Stoger, ISBN-13: 978-0939616428, pp372.