Blackberry Lily (She Gan)

leopard flowerBlackberry lily, also known as Belamcanda Chinensis, leopard lily, or She Gan in Pinyin, is an herb with the line of beauty. It is often cultivated for the purpose of garden landscaping or grown as ornamental potted plants. To many people’s surprise, it turns out to be also a medicinal plant and the main medicinal part is its rhizome. Actually this Chinese herb was first collected by Shennong Bencao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica) and classified as a low-grade drug because it is considered slightly toxic. And now it is still very popular and commonly used for the treatment of a variety of diseases, such as sore throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, malaria, cough, asthma, mastitis, acute hepatitis, gonorrhea, and the like. In addition, recent studies also show that it is with anticancer properties so that it is also ideal for treating throat cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and more.

What is blackberry lily?

When used as medicine, it mainly refers to the dried rhizome of Belamcanda chinensis (L.) DC, which is a species in the Iris family (Iridaceae). Being the only member in the genus Belamcanda, it was recategorized into the genus Iris and assigned a new name as Iris domestica in year 2005 because of the molecular DNA sequence evidence. For that reason, this ornamental plant obtains many synonyms, such as Pardanthus chinensis (L.) Ker Gawl.), Iris chinensis Curtis, Morea chinensis, Ixia chinensis L., Gemmingia chinensis (L.) Kuntze, and Belamcanda punctata Moench. And other common names also include Belamcanda Rhizome, Rhizoma Belamcandae, leopard flower, Shegan, Freckle Face, and so on. In China it is principally produced in Hubei, Henan, Jiangsu, and Anhui. Blackberry lily bulbs are normally dug up in early spring when new sprout just comes out or in late autumn when the stem and leaves die away. And the one collected in autumn is believed with better healing properties. After the harvest, the following steps are to remove the stems, fibrous roots and dirt, wash with water, dry in the sun, and slice. Clinically it is normally used raw.

Blackberry lily plant is a perennial herb, 50 to 120cm in height. Rhizome is bright yellow and with many fibrous roots. Stems are erect. Flat gladiolus-like leaves look like a fan, arranged into 2 rows, 25 to 60cm long, 2 to 4cm wide, green, and often with white powder, acuminate apex, clasping base, and parallel veins. Racemes are acrogenous and binary; stalk base is with membranous bracts, which are ovate to lanceolate and about 1cm long; blackberry lily flower is 3 to 5cm in diameter; perianths are 6, in 2 whorls, and the 3 of inner whorl are smaller; tepals are oval, dark orange, 2 to 2.5cm long, 1 cm wide, and with obtuse apex, narrow base, and red spots; stamens are 3, shorter than perianth, and with outgoing anthers; inferior ovary are with 3 rooms. Bar-shaped style is with shallow 3-lobed stigma. Blackberry lily berries are oval, 2.5 to 3.5cm long, and with 3 edges, and three lobes when mature. Blackberry lily seeds are black and nearly spherical. Bloom time is from July to September and fruiting time is from August to October. Main habitats include hillside, grasslands, fields, and open areas.

Its rhizome and root contain irigenin, tectorigenin, tectoridin, belamcanidin, iristectoriginin A, irisflorentin, iridin, noririsflorentin, sheganone, apocynin (acetovanilline), belamcandal, 28-deacetylbelamcandal, isoridogermanal, 16-O-acetylisoiridogermanal, and more. Blackberry lily seed contains belamcandol A, B, 1-(2-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxy) phenyl-10-pentadecene, 3-hydroxy-5-methoxy) phenyl-10-pentadecene, etc. And both its flower and leaf contains mangiferin.

Blackberry lily health benefits

This is not only a wild ornamental plant, but also a medicinal plant with extensive medicinal uses. It is a commonly used drug for curing sore throat since is it clears heat, removes toxicity, reduces swelling, and relieve sore throat and cough. But as far as sore throat concerned, Sophora Subprostrata (Shan Dou Gen) has a better healing power. That is the reason why subprostrate is preferred in severe cases of a sore throat. Although belamcanda rhizome has a milder property on reducing the swelling, it has an expertise on eliminating phlegm. That’s to say, if the sore throat is accompanied with heavy heat-phlegm syndrome or accumulation of heat-phlegm, it is the perfect option since it can not only clear the throat by remove phlegm but also bring relief to the painful red swollen throat. What’s more, it is good at clearing away the lung-heat and making expectoration easy. No wonder it is frequently used to treat coughs with abundance of phlegm, regardless of cold and heat nature.

Modern pharmacological actions of belamcanda chinensis rhizome

1) It strongly inhibits common pathogenic fungi;
2) It also inhibits some viruses, such as adenovirus and ECHO11 in cold and throat disorders;
3) It has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic effects;
4) It has a significant diuretic effect.

Sample blackberry lily rhizome recipes on herbal remedies

The Chinese Materia Medica summarizes that it is bitter in flavor and cold and toxic in nature. It covers meridians of lung and liver. Important functions are removing heat and toxic substance, expelling phlegm, relieving sore throat, breaking stasis, and dissipating binds. Main blackberry lily uses and indications include swelling and pain in throat, cough and asthma with accumulation of phlegm, scrofula, tuberculosis, swollen liver and spleen, abdominal mass, and carbuncle and boils. Recommended dosage is from 5 to 10 grams in decoction. Or it can be used in the forms of blackberry lily flower essence, extract, pills, powder, fresh juice, and so on.

1) She Gan Tang from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is used alone to treat pharyngitis due to the combination of stagnated heat-toxicity and phlegm-fire.

2) She Gan Ma Huang Tang from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). It is formulated with Ma Huang (Ephedra), Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger root), Xi Xin (Herba Asari), Zi Wan (Radix Asteris), Kuan Dong Hua (Tussilago Farfara), Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis), Da Zao (Jujube Fruit), and Ban Xia (Pinellia) to cure cold-phlegm cough and wheezing accompanied with excessive thin clear sputum.

3) Bie Jia Jian Wan from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). It is matched with Bie Jia (Soft Turtle Shell), Huang Qin (Scutellaria Baicalensis), Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Da Huang (rhubarb), Shao Yao (Peony Root), Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi), Ren Shen (Ginseng), Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), etc. to heal swollen liver and spleen, hyperplasia of mammary glands, amenorrhea, and more. In this formula, belamcanda rhizome acts as a secondary drug to enhance the efficacy of promoting blood circulation to remove blood stasis, which now is seldom mentioned since it is quite weak but it does exist. For the same reason, pregnant women should stay away from it.

Clinical research of leopard lily rhizome

Relevant reports said that this herb had a very good effect in the treatment of acute infections like bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, pharyngitis, and others. In addition, it is still used for other diseases, such as the paddy fields dermatitis (rice field demadtis), throat cancer, stomach pain, and so on. And here are some clinical cases for your reference.

a) 50 cases of chronic sinusitis have been treated with the decoction of rhizoma belamcandae, sophora subprostrata, Xin Yi (Magnolia Flower), Herba Asari, etc. And 32 cases were cured and 16 cases were improved.

b) 104 cases of Chyluria have been treated with decoction of this herb and appropriate amount of sugar. And 94 cases were cured.

c) Taking the powder of 3g belamcanda rhizome and 3g Gan Song (rhizoma nardostachyos) with liquor works really well for impotence.

Blackberry lily side effects and contraindications

Are blackberry lily rhizomes poisonous? As a matter of fact, this herb is with a very low toxicity and TCM believes that it is edible if properly prepared. The oral mouse LD50 for its alcohol extract was 66.78g/kg and its injection could cause decreased blood pressure in rabbits. In addition, it has fewer side effects. Clinically the adverse reaction of diarrhea but poisoning had been reported. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, long-term use of it would make people weaker. Since it is of bitter-cold nature, it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy and in cases of loose stools caused by spleen deficiency.


a) An Hui Zhong Yi Xue Yuan Xue Bao (Journal of Anhui Traditional Chinese Medical College), 1986;2:36;
b) Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine) 1981;5:44;
c) Shan Xi Zhong Yi (Shaanxi Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine), 1994;2:4.

One thought on “Blackberry Lily (She Gan)

  1. Jyothi

    SIR/Madam, could please tell us the author and the year of publication of the above article titled ” Blackberry Lily (She Gan)”. as i was needed to add it in my reference text. hope you do the needful.


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