Many Americans think of lilies as an ornamental flower used solely for decorative purposes. These striking beauties bloom for weeks, creating a brilliant splash of color in summer gardens and return each year with larger and brighter blooms than the year before. However, dried lily bulbs have been used since ancient times as medicinal and culinary herbs.
Madonna lily, Lilium candidum, is an effective treatment for skin inflammation and skin ulcers when applied externally. According to Viablehealth.com, the Madonna lily bulb brings relief from the pain and irritation of burns, scalds and rashes. Applied to foot corns, it softens and removes thickened skin, relieving associated pain. As an ointment, a Madonna lily bulb brings relief to contracted tendons. Taken orally in combination with life root (Senecio aureus) this bulb is used to treat "female complaints." The bulb provides a delicate sweet flavor and is served in white sauces by the Japanese.
Tiger lilies are cultivated in eastern countries for the edible bulbs. According to Plants for a Future, they are used in soups and salads. As a vegetable, tiger lily provides an alternate to potatoes and other root vegetables. Many Asian recipes contain tiger lily bulbs, as they are starchy and crisp with a sweet flavor.
Medicinal uses for the tiger lily bulb vary. Koreans have treated sore throats, coughs and boils with tiger lily bulbs. Used to relieve chest pains and angina pectoris, these bulbs are prized for their anti-inflammatory, diuretic and expectorant properties.
Lilium brownii is both a culinary and medicinal lily bulb. According to Plants for a Future, it is dried and pulverized or grated and used to thicken and flavor stews and sauces or eaten as a vegetable similar to potatoes. It has delicate, sweet flavor. Medicinally, it is used to treat variety of symptoms from coughs to anxiety. It is also used to treat intestinal disorders.
White Trout Lily
Native Americans have used the trout lily, a wildflower found in the United States as a treatment for skin wounds, inflammation and other skin ulcers. According to St. Olaf College, a poultice made from the bulbs is applied externally to promote healing and was used historically to treat scrofula, an infection of the throat and lymph glands. Although some Native American tribes consumed trout lily bulbs, unless you are experienced in preparation of these bulbs, they should not be eaten.