Herb: Zhe Bei Mu

Latin name: Fritillaria thunbergii

Synonyms: Fritillaria collicola, Fritillaria verticillata thunbergii

Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Medicinal use of Zhe Bei Mu:

The bulbs are antidote, antitussive, astringent, expectorant, galactogogue and purgative. They contain fritimine which diminishes excitability of respiratory centres, paralyses voluntary movement and counters effects of opium. The bulbs are thought to act specifically on tumours and swellings of the throat, neck and chest, and they are taken in the treatment of thyroid gland nodules, scrofula, abscesses and boils and breast cancer. The bulb is used internally in the treatment of coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia, feverish illnesses, abscesses etc. The bulbs also have a folk history of use against cancer of the breast and lungs in China. This remedy should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner, excessive doses can cause breathing difficulties and heart failure. The bulbs are harvested in the winter whilst they are dormant and are dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Bamboo forests, shady and moist places from near sea level to 600 metres.

Edible parts of Zhe Bei Mu:

Bulb - fried or candied. The bulb is up to 3cm in diameter. Young plants and buds - cooked.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as ripe in a cold frame, it should germinate in the spring. Protect from frost. Stored seed should be sown as soon as possible and can take a year or more to germinate. Sow the seed quite thinly to avoid the need to prick out the seedlings. Once they have germinated, give them an occasional liquid feed to ensure that they do not suffer mineral deficiency. Once they die down at the end of their second growing season, divide up the small bulbs, planting 2 - 3 to an 8cm deep pot. Grow them on for at least another year in light shade in the greenhouse before planting them out whilst dormant. Division of offsets in August. The larger bulbs can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, but it is best to pot up the smaller bulbs and grow them on in a cold frame for a year before planting them out in the autumn. Bulb scales.

Cultivation of Zhe Bei Mu:

Bamboo forests, shady and moist places from near sea level to 600 metres.

Known hazards of Fritillaria thunbergii:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.