Herb: Hyacinth Orchid

Latin name: Bletilla striata

Synonyms: Bletia hyacinthina

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Medicinal use of Hyacinth Orchid:

The hyacinth orchid is an important wound herb in China, where it has been used medicinally for over 1,500 years. The root (actually a pseudobulb) is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, demulcent, pectoral, skin, styptic and vulnerary. It is taken internally in the treatment of haemorrhages of the stomach or lungs, uterine bleeding and nose bleeds. It is particularly effective against the endotoxin produced by Haemophilus pertusis in whooping cough. Externally, it is mixed with sesame oil and applied as a poultice to burns, cuts, abscesses and sores. The pseudobulbs are harvested when the plant is dormant and are dried for use in decoctions and powders.

Description of the plant:


40 cm
(1 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Grassy slopes in foothills, C. and S. Japan. In sandy soils amongst grassy patches on cool mountain slopes in China. Margins of woods and thickets.

Other uses of Hyacinth Orchid:

The bulb is mucilaginous, it is used as a size to impart a glossiness to ink and also to make an invisible ink (seen by wetting the paper and holding it up to the light).

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move. Division in autumn. Make sure that you keep plenty of soil with each plant. It is also said to be possible to transplant orchids after they have flowered but whilst they are still in leaf. Division is best carried out in the spring. Each division should have a leading point and two, or preferably three, pseudobulbs/joints of the rhizome. More propagating material can be obtained by cutting halfway through the rhizome during the previous growing season at the point where you wish to divide. This will stimulate the production of growth buds at the point of division.

Cultivation of Hyacinth Orchid:

Grassy slopes in foothills, C. and S. Japan. In sandy soils amongst grassy patches on cool mountain slopes in China. Margins of woods and thickets.

Known hazards of Bletilla striata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.