Fritillaria (Chuan Bei Mu)

fritillaria bulbsBeing one of precious Chinese medicines, fritillaria bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu) is known for their remarkable efficacy on moistening lung to arrest cough. Actually the history of using this herb in Chinese herbal remedies can date back to The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica Classic), one of the earliest material medica classics allegedly written in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220).

What are fritillaria bulbs?

Actually in TCM practice there are total 5 different fritillaria species, among which bulbus fritillariae cirrhosae (Chuan Bei Mu) and Thunberg Fritillary Bulb (Zhe Bei Mu) are the most used two. However, generally the former is believed to be the best.

Its formal name is tendrilleaf fritillary bulb or Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae in Latin. The plant is a member of Liliaceae family. Looked from the TCM’s angle, medicinal fritillaria refers to the dry bulbs of Fritillaria cirrhosa D. Don, Fritillaria unibracteata Hsiao et K. C. Hsia, Fritillaria przewalskii Maxim., and Fritillaria delavayi Franch.

According to different medicinal properties, they can be classified as “Song Bei”, “Qing Bei”, “Lu Bei”, and cultivated products. The medicinal fritillaria bulb is usually harvested in summer and autumn or when the snow is melting. After the harvest, it needs to remove the fibrous roots, bark, and sand before drying them in the sun or low temperature drying.

What is fritillaria used for?

In the sight of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this herb is bitter, sweet, and slightly cold in nature. It goes to two meridians, including lung and heart. Its chief functions are to eliminate phlegm by cooling, moisten lung to arrest cough, and remove stasis to reduce swelling. Its main indications and uses are irritating dry cough caused by lung heat, hacking cough with little phlegm, cough due to overexertion and Yin deficiency, dry coughing and sputum with blood, stagnation in chest and heart, the consumptive lung disease, pulmonary abscess, pharyngitis, and acute mastitis. Usual dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, or 1 to 2 grams in powder.

Chemical composition

It is a little bit complicated here. Fritimine is found in commodity fritillary bulb; Minpeimine, Chinpeimine and Minpeiminine are found in Fritillaria przewalskii Maxim.; Fritiminine is found in Fritillaria delavayi Franch.

1. Fritillaria cirrhosa D. Don contains fritimine and sipeimine;
2. Fritillaria unibracteata Hsiao et K. C. Hsia contains songbeisine, sonbeinine, sucrose, stearicacid, palmiticacid, and β-sitosterol;
3. Fritillaria delavayi Franch. contains dela-vlne, delavinone, chuanbeinone, delafrine, delafrinone,(22R,25S)-solanid-5-enine-3β,5α,6β-triol, peimisine, imperialine, and fritiminine;
4. Fritillaria przewalskii Maxim. contains minpeimine, minpeiminine, imperialine, delavinone, and chuanbeinone.

Pharmacological actions

  • Both fritillaria alkaloids and non-alkaloids have antitussive function;
  • Both fritillary liquid extract and fritimine have expectorant effects, but in varying degrees;
  • Sipeimine is antispasmodic;
  • Both Fritimine and Imperialine can lower blood pressure;
  • Peimine can increase uterine tension;
  • The total alkaloids from Fritillaria have anti-ulcer effect.

Chinese herbal formulas related fritillaria

Thanks to its great performance on nourishing lung Yin, ventilating and moistening lung, and clearing lung heat, this herb is the inevitable choice for chronic cough and asthma due to excessive phlegm. Hence, fritillaria bulbs are frequently found in many proprietary formulations for acute bronchitis and tuberculosis, such as San She Dan Chuan Bei Mu Ye and Chuan Bei Pi Pa Lu.

Si Shun Tang

Si Shun Tang is selected from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns & Treatment). This herbal recipe is mainly used for pulmonary abscess, pyemesis, dysphoria in chestpalms-soles, chest tightness, and cough. Other main herbal ingredients include Zi Wan (Purple Aster Root), Jie Geng (Platycodon), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root).

Bei Mu Tang

Bei Mu Tang comes from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is primarily for the treatment of sudden cough due to the cold. Other herbs are Kuan Dong Hua (Coltsfoot Flower), Ma Huang (Ephedra), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), and Gan Cao.

Er Mu San

Ee Mu San is from Ji Jiu Xian Fang (Immortals’ Prescriptions for Emergency). This prescription is really great for treatment of cough due to lung heat and dryness. The other herb is Zhi Mu (Anemarrhena Rhizome).

Xiao Luo Wan

Xiao Luo Wan is chosen from Yi Xue Xin Wu (Understanding of Medical Science). It is good at curing scrofula, mastitis, and lung abscess. The other two important herbs are Pu Gong Ying (Dandelion) and Yu Xing Cao (Houttuynia).

Chuan Bei Mu Pear

This is a popular folk prescription, mainly for infant cough, especially chronic bronchitis. This is simply because this formula is so safe and mild in nature that it is an ideal choice for frail children who suffer from chronic cough. But attention please, it should not be used when kids are catching a cold. Other ingredients include pear and crystal sugar.

Why is Chuan Bei Mu so expensive?

Commodity fritillaria mainly comes from wild resources. It is produced mainly in highland areas, which makes it hard to harvest. What’s more, as one of the most important herbs that relieve cough and reduce sputum, this herb is always in great demand. On one hand, the overexploitation of the wild resources leads to the scarcity. On the other hand, the cultivation is expensive and difficult because it grows pretty slow and needs a long production cycle. All the above-mentioned elements lead to what it is now.

Potential fritillaria side effects and contraindications

This herb are considered as bitter and cold. As a result, it is suitable only in cough due to the phlegm-heat accumulation. That’s to say, it should not be taken in the cases of clear white sputum, frothy sputum, or those with cold-phlegm or damp-phlegm syndrome, often manifested as cough accompanied with excessive phlegm and swelling face.

Besides, TCM wise, fritillaria bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu) contradicts with Aconitum herbs and thus should not be used with them together.

15 thoughts on “Fritillaria (Chuan Bei Mu)

  1. Selam

    I have been coughing for over 15 years, and now it is getting worst and my friend introduce me to this herb and i started 1 week ago no result yet, but I am excited about it.

  2. kendal

    i have suffered non-allergic Rhinitis for over 10 years. i have changed my diet, relocated to get sea air daily in the best UK temperatures and climate available. my exercise regime is good but moderate. so sever are my symptoms i was taking oral Prednisolone for over 7 years – the ONLY drug that made my mucus production manageable so i could breathe somewhat normally. for the last year i have been on slow release steroid injection. my last injection lasted 6 months as i have to stay abroad through winter here or increase dosage which is not conscionable with my GP. i waited until the steroid wore off and my full symptoms were returning (tubes flooding with mucus non stop, hard coughing causing pain and difficult breathing), then since 03-04 -17 started on this herb to reduce symptoms without steroid intake. it is working very well at making my symptoms manageable

    but my mucus is always white, clear or frothy and this article says i should not take it. this is the first relief i have gained in all these years reducing my need for steroids. my blood pressure previously was slightly high but of no alarm to my GP. when i started with it – 0.6g 3 times a day – it gave me headaches. i reduced to 0.3g/day every 12 hours and it still has good effect. headaches gone, mucus production considerably slowed. please can someone say if i should still be taking this or is it dangerous? many thanks

    1. kendal

      i also have allergies that trigger – wheat and rapeseed oil i avoid. i have mild asthma and sever hey fever, allergy to grass, weeds, pollen of course. my main trigger though is allergy to house dust mite faeces. so my whole environment has to be wipeable and only synthetic bedding. my IGE count for dust allergy was once recorded at 92.

    2. kendal

      but with this herb regime now – my only medical drug as yet is now Loratadine, once per day for hey fever. it works extremely well. also calcium and vit D for my bones to counter steroid thinning of them. i am seeing Chinese herbal practitioner but we are only tackling immediate symptoms right now. the difference to my quality of life is considerable.

  3. Jun rechtzigel

    I hope you are seeing a good Chinese herbal practioner. There are a lot of incompetent Chinese herb practioner in UK. You need one who graduated from china with credentials like at least with doctorate degree with many years herb praction experience.

    Chinese hèrbs often are toxic without proper process. After process, some only can use at most 2 months ( such as: cang er zi, he shou wu ). Anyway, most herb can be taken for years because they are food grade products which means they won’t use liver and kidney to process the toxicity as much as western medication. But… They are still not food, it should not take more than 6 month. But… They are so many hèrbs can be subtituted for each other for similar function. So ….no worries about side effect as long as you see a good herbalist ( there are side effect though if you continue using same product )!

    Your immune system immunoglobulin IGE are not constantly same, changing all the time it Could fluctuate greatly if you have infection going on or after. Not totally reliable information but still it could use as sounding board.

    In my opinion, you have so much allergy issues going on all the time like my husband so you need a top tier Chinese herbal specialist make a raw herb formular for you every few days. You tell them all your symptoms and see what they will provide. Remember ask for the raw herb so it will have most potent result. Every week you see them at least once. You can go to university near your town and looking for a herb practioner with professor type care dutiable. They are most valuable asset on this earth. 5000 years practition are not just a tell tale thing. It works. You just have to find that jewel in the vast sand.

    My husband has constant drainage from back of his nasal passages which drained to his lungs especially when he sleeping. He has asthma and all kinds of allergy as well. Steroid is not an option for long term use. The Chinese raw herb ” cang er zi & xin Yi hua ” could solve this problem. ( cang er zi has toxic so you only can use it no more than 2 month at one time. After that you can use ” ye ju hua & xin Yi hua to subtitute the original formula. However, the sickness always changing, and you need a practioner to diagnose your sickness pattern so he can accordingly write out a formular just for you. Chinese medication is very fluid so the fomular only work in that few days otherwise you have to get a different formular. Plus… The raw herb tea is very bitter and expensive. You need to prepare your mind to take the disgusting taste fluid.

    I have taken more than 2 years herb formular now with a top notch herbalist who practice and teach in northwestern university ‘s professor ‘s help. It takes tons of money and time. I hope you have the courage taking this route. Your case shouldn’t be complicated as mine because my illness arise from soil & dirt while I was working. I went to emergency room twice that night, both doctors in ER refuse to give me the blood cell count or / and give me the antibiotic. By the time, I saw my doctor on the third day in the U of Minneasota, my immune system totally breached, the CT scan shows the ground glass opaque diffused colored infection in my lungs. She gave me antibiotics and virus right away ( she is infectious disease professor , very knowledgeable & kind ) but it was late, I have diagonsised with chronic bronchitis. She Refered me to the Pulmanary director, but they don’t have any ways to wash my Lungs clean. My brochis was feeling like a sand paper with every breathing was irratated; my lungs feels like two big bags water hinging in my chest. They even refer me to the mayo clinc in Rochester. No clinic correction available.

    Luckily, I know this northernwestern university’s professor for more than 11 years. He took me in but he said he is not garantee the result because it has been so long since I initially get infected ( more than 6 month ) I know I have no another options so I cook and took all his bitter disgusting taste herb juice ( it called raw herb – most potent form ). You know it cost me more than$100 per week to just get the raw herb, without insurance help ( they won’t help alternative medication). Same day, the chemical reactions have shown the effect because in the morning I start to cough out some black particles and more phlegm. I started to doubt about the changed I had. That professor ask me that you want those dirty phlegm stay in your lungs or you want it out? Well… You know the answer. Days after days, weeks after weeks, months after months, finally one day he told me that no much phlegm left in your lungs but you still do have infection which he said probably I inhaled virus that day while I was working but it is manageable for all the symptoms. My IGg 4 was so low- 27, the range should be 24 -197 according to different lab.

    You do not have raging infection like mine. It should be way more easier to deal with. Just do your home work and find your own doctor yourself.

    I can provide all the medical document to prove all above information. Don’t give up and use that harmful westerns medications along. Use both western medication and Chinese medication both. We fight with our both hands. Why some people only fight with one hand. I can not comprehend ow. You will found a new medical world with all kinds of treatment for all kinds of difficulty disease in eastern medical world. Let s live healthier and longer with laugh louder to the people who predict us only can live in a short amount time with miserable life.

    1. Huy

      If you have chronic lung infections , maitake mushroom is the best I know to manage it. It does not taste bad, but buy the high potency one or liquid exract. It can be expensive but your dosage is low, alstroemerias very challenging convenient.

      The other is grapefruit seed extract …

      For dry cough without phlegm use shen mai san…but usually there is dry yellow phlegm that you can’t expel you need to mix it Qing Qing hua tang to purge it.

  4. Kendal

    Hi – firstly – thank you Jun for your detailed advice. very useful.

    but i wonder about if anyone has specific knowledge of following. i have been taking suggested dosage 1.4g Chuan Bei Mu granules per day and has prevented me needing steroid injection. they work extremely well in making my perennial rhinitis manageable – side effect is they reduce mucus production in sinuses dramatically.

    my supplier ran out of stock so i looked at use of Zhe Bei Mu – more concentrated, of same plant family Fritillariae but not Cirrhosae bulb. description of use and symptoms treated are identical. does anyone know if this herb does the same job as Chuan Bei Mu? it is expensive to buy but the Zhe Bei Mu can save me money in the long term if it works.

    many thanks

    1. Huy

      Zhe bei mu is too dry so more appropriate if you got a lot of mucus that are yellow.
      Take Pe min kan wan for allergy mucus….for white mucus.

    2. HUY

      The Zhe Bei mu is dryer….. Chuan is moistening.
      The Zhe Bei mu is usually mix with Gua Lou for moistening.

  5. Roberta Beckett

    Just started taking NIN JIOM PEI PA KOA Herbal Dietary Supplement with Honey and Loquat. It contains Sichuan Fritillary (bulb) 179mg.

  6. Kendal

    HI folks, thank you for responding. regarding Chuan Bei Mu – i understand the difference completely

    to be clear my symptoms are constant and predictable, except when i enter environments that trigger what i call an attack – rapid flooding of mucus – or conversely dehydration of it making it like latex glue you get on plastic envelopes, excruciating in the sinuses and hard to shift.

    Chuan Bei Mu, Fritllaria Cirrhosa D.Don 1:7 and dosage is not as stated previously but 0.7mg every 12 hours (below recommendation from herbalist who is a good chinese one and gets al products from there when she visits family) but i could not sustain the cost so she tried me on the retail 100g tub product. this has worked for over 2 years now, but my body immediately lets me know if i forget to take it.

    this has now doubled in price since a main UK supplier stopped trading. i have found a supplier whose product is ratio of 1:5, so i am thinking of taking this in 0.5mg doses – is this feasible or should i stay with the 1:7 mixture?
    also i admit i have not been making tea with it but taking the powder with a swallow of tonic water. but it has worked. i do not know how my body will process this differently, but since the mucus is concentrated around the nose and throat, and accumulates in my chest during sleep – i figure it is hitting its localised target first before being digested.

    can anyone say if this is dangerous for any other organs? many thanks – Kendal


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