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Bulbine frutescens: Bulbinella Medicinal Uses and Herbal Remedies

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Fiona is a qualified naturopath, herbalist, and aromatherapist with thirty years of experience which she wants to share.

What Does Bulbinella Look Like?

The African Bulbine is a succulent with yellow or orange flowers.

The African Bulbine is a succulent with yellow or orange flowers.

Bulbine frutescens: Is it the Most Useful Bulbine?

The term "Bulbine" refers to a large group of succulents. Even when we look at the species, Bulbine fructescens, there are wide varieties. However, we're focusing on the common African Bulbinella in this article.

This hardy plant is easy to grow, brightens the garden, and is one of the top herbal remedies for skin complaints.

What Bulbinella Looks Like in the "Wild"

Bulbine frutecens: Keep Your Skin Healthy With This Hardy Herb

Bulbinellla's primary benefit is as a skin healer. Nurses in South Africa advise new moms to use some of the gel to clear up diaper rashes and other skin irritations.

First Aid

Useful for Small Burns

Scientists backed up what South Africans knew for a long time - Bulbinella soothes burns.

Being a clutz in the kitchen, I always keep a pot of African Bulbine outside the kitchen. Then, when I invariably burn myself, I pick a leaf, squish out the gel, and apply it to the burn.

It does feel a little sticky on the skin, so I give it about 10 minutes and then rinse it off. It relieves the sting of the burn and promotes healing. If I catch the burn early enough, it doesn't even blister.

Soothing Sunburns

Suppose you overdid the sun during the day, whip up some of the Bulbinella Spray from the herbal remedy section below. Spritz it onto your skin often throughout the day. You should make a fresh batch on alternate days and store it in the refrigerator.

Fixing Insect Bites

Summer in South Africa means dealing with several biting insects. Mosquito bites are particularly annoying because they're so itchy. A good home remedy for these bites is to apply a dot of Bulbinella gel. It will relieve the inflammation and reduce the itch.

Itchy Skin and Rashes

Eczema, in particular, responds well to treatment with African Bulbine. If the area is small, apply the gel twice a day. It's safe enough to use on babies and even puppies.

The Apple Cider and Bulbinella recipe below will be useful when a rash or irritation is widespread.

Fever Blisters

I used to get fever blisters every year without fail. I felt embarrassed about the dry scabby sores. I read about using some Bulbinella on the sores, but I wasn't convinced.

After all, I thought the aim was to dry out the scab to promote healing. Eventually, however, I decided to give it a go. The gel soothes the area and softens the sore.

The next time I noticed the tingle of a fever blister, I applied Bulbinella immediately. The sore went away by the next day, never forming a scab. Since then, I've used African Bulbinella on my lips every other day, and I have not had a fever blister.

Interestingly enough, research shows that the plant also has excellent anti-fungal properties.

Mouth Ulcers

Apply a little juice onto the affected area to help mouth ulcers heal more quickly.

Scratches and Scrapes

The gel has some analgesic properties making it helpful in treating cuts and scrapes. It will even stop the bleeding if held in place.

Interesting research shows that Bulbine natalensis is slightly better at healing cuts than Bulbine frutescens as it is a little faster acting. The average difference is about two days, but both plants increased the rate of healing and strength of the repair over the untreated control group.

Cosmetic Uses

Pimples and Acne

Bulbine juice may help to ease inflammation caused by pimples and acne. In addition, it soothes and nourishes the skin, promoting faster healing.

Cracked Lips and Heels

Bulbinella is deeply moisturizing and helps the skin to hold in moisture. Clean your skin and apply the gel directly to the lips or heels. To improve your results, use the gel or lotion last thing at night and sleep with a pair of socks.

Cuticle Treatment

If you battle hangnails, apply Bulbinella once or twice a day and rub it in. You may use either the fresh leaf or Bulbinella cream. Leave it on for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

A trick that I like to use is to apply it just before I don my rubber gloves for washing the dishes. The heat from the water allows the skin to absorb the Bulbinella cream more thoroughly.

The delicate flowers of the Bulbine plant make a pretty show in the garden.

The delicate flowers of the Bulbine plant make a pretty show in the garden.

How to Make Bulbinella After-Sun Cream and a Nourishing Day Treatment for Dry Skin

You may apply the gel straight from the leaf, but it's sticky and doesn't always go as far as you'd like. A more convenient way to use the herb is to make Bulbinella cream or an after-sun spray.

Bulbinella Cream

You'll need the following:

  • 1/2 cup of Bulbinella leaves
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 cup of aqueous cream
  • 2 Vitamin E oil capsules (Optional)
  • Muslin cloth to strain the mixture

Place the leaves and water in your blender and liquidize them. Next, line a colander with a piece of muslin and place it over a bowl. Pour the liquidized mixture into the colander and allow the liquid to drain through.

Squeeze the muslin to get as much gel as possible out. You can then discard the leaves or place them on the compost heap.

Pierce the Vitamin E oil capsules and stir the oil into the aqueous cream. Add the Bulbine gel and mix well. Vitamin E is not essential, but it acts as a natural preservative. If you decide not to use it, you should keep the cream in the refrigerator and use it within a week.

Bulbinella and Borage Cream

Suppose you'd like to up the ante even more; add Borage to the mix. If you want, you may read more about the medicinal benefits of Borage (Star Flowers) here. For now, though, what's important is that it boosts skin healing.

There are a few ways to incorporate Borage into the recipe above. You can:

  • Add the contents of two Borage Oil capsules
  • Pick 1/2 a cup of Borage flowers and leaves to the Bulbinella when you liquidize it.
  • Make a Borage tea and use that to replace the water in the recipe.
  • Add about 50 drops of a Star Flower tincture to the hot water before liquidizing

Bulbinella After-Sun Treatment

You'll need the following:

  • 1 cup of African Bulbine leaves
  • 2 cups of warm water

The method here is the same as mentioned above, except that the only ingredients are water and Bulbine leaves. Strain the mixture to remove the organic matter and decant it into a spray bottle.

Keep the bottle in the refrigerator to prevent the mixture from fermenting and cool down your burn. Use it within two days at the most.

Close-up View of a a Young Flower


African Bulbine and Diabetes Mellitus

Studies conducted in South Africa on five traditional remedies show that Bulbinella might be useful in managing Diabetes. In addition, the researchers tested four other traditional remedies alongside the African Bulbine.

Bulbine frutescens boosted the body's rate of glucose utilization the most. So, while more research is necessary, Bulbinella shows promise in the fight against Diabetes.

When the Bulinella plant thrives, it sends out masses of beautiful flowers.

When the Bulinella plant thrives, it sends out masses of beautiful flowers.

People Also Ask

What is Bulbinella good for?

Bulbinella is primarily suitable for skin irritations, dry skin and exceptionally good for healing scar tissue.

Is Bulbine frutescens toxic?

No. It is safe enough to use on the skin of adults, children, and dogs, but you should not ingest it.

What do Bulbine frutescens need to grow well?

Bulbinella is a very forgiving plant. It will grow in almost any soil and can thrive in rocky, poor soil. To get the best results, place the plant in full sunshine and make sure you dig the earth well.

Bulbines don't like wet toes, so make sure that the area drains well. The plant stores water in its leaves and is both heat and drought-resistant.

You can also grow the Orange Bulbine inside in a very sunny spot. It will, however, do better outside.

Why is Bulbine frutescens important?

We've only scratched the surface of what this critical herb can do. It's a compact ground cover that takes up far less space than the Aloe Vera plant.

  • There is growing evidence that it may be helpful in the treatment of Diabetes.
  • It heals Fever Blisters and may help your body rid itself of the virus that causes them.
  • South Africans have used it for centuries to treat skin complaints
  • It has strong anti-fungal properties and soothes inflammation
  • Safe to use on small kids and puppies
  • It provides color in the garden and is particularly useful in rockeries.
  • Non-toxic

Will a Bulbine plant grow in the shade?

The plant will tolerate some shade but fares better in full sun. The Bulbine plant is native to South Africa and so prefers warmer climates. That said, it will tolerate mild frosts of the type you get in USDA zone eight.

Is the Bulbine plant annual or perennial?

That depends on how cold it gets in winter. The Bulbinella plant will die in winter and may seem to die off during the coldest parts of the year. It'll re-emerge again in Spring, however.

What do Bulbine frutescens look like?

Bulbinella is a fleshy succulent with long, thin straw-like leaves. The stems are green and grow in a rosette pattern. The stamens are hairy, and the flowers are yellow or orange.

Where are Bulbine frutescens used?

Bulbinella is a common folk remedy in South Africa for skin complaints and burns. Research has shown that its curative properties rival those of Aloe Vera.

How do you take care of Bulbine frutescens?

You don't have to do much. Once the Bulbine plant becomes established, it doesn't require much care. However, in times of drought, you should water it deeply once a week. Alternatively, you could feed the soil once a year to provide more nutrients.

Should I deadhead Bulbine?

Not unless you like the pretty Bulbine flower. Deadheading won't do anything but promote additional flower growth. If you're more interested in Bulbinella's medicinal properties, it makes better sense to pick the leaves regularly. This encourages the plant to bush out.

Does Bulbinella chase away snails?

Unfortunately not, but there are many ways to rid your garden of slugs and snails.

Is Bulbine frutescens a succulent?

Yes. It's a creeping succulent that grows to about half a foot high. It makes a valuable show in rock gardens or

Bulbine frutescens is an undemanding plant. It makes an excellent succulent ground cover and blooms throughout the year. Bulbine frutescens works great as a low border plant in succulent gardens and is particularly popular in Xeriscaping.

How do you propagate Bulbine frutescens?

You can propagate Bulbinella through clump division or cuttings. First, look for a piece with a root, and plant it out. Alternatively, loosen the clump and divide off a section to replant.

Is Bulbine edible?

Yes, it is edible, but I've never eaten it before. In traditional medicine, it may be made into a tea to assist in the treatment of Diabetes and HIV. Personally, I don't think it'll taste good, so I'd instead stick to using it on my skin.

How do you extract Bulbinella?

The quickest way is to break a leaf in half and squeeze the gel out. You may also liquidize the leaves with water as the basis for a lotion and strain the leaves.

Is Bulbine Hardy?

Residents of Florida have begun to appreciate the cheerful African Bulbine. It's hardy, will grow almost anywhere, and requires little care. It's also deer resistant.

How big do Bulbine plants get?

Bulbinella is a low-growing plant. It will spread out rather than up. You can expect it to grow to about half a foot in length and a few feet in width.

Are Orange Bulbine deer resistant?

The Hallmark Orange Bulbine and the Hallmark Yellow Bulbine are both deer resistant.

Can you trim Bulbine?

Yes, you can, but it's usually not necessary. I've never done so, and I've had these plants growing in the garden for more than forty years. You may, however, choose to break up the clumps and occasional trim leaves that look leggy.

What is Bulbine used for?

Bulbinella has many uses:

  • Promotes the healing of skin from rashes, acne, scar tissue, and eczema
  • It may be helpful in controlling Diabetes
  • Clears up fever blisters and fungal infections
  • Soothes burnt skin and promotes faster regeneration
  • It's a pretty addition to any garden

Do hummingbirds like Bulbine?

Bulbinella is popular with hummingbirds and also butterflies, and bees.

Is Bulbinella suitable for dogs?

The herb is non-toxic, but I wouldn't let your dog eat the leaves. If they eat too many, they may develop a runny tummy. Bulbinella for dogs is best applied topically.

Close-Up of a Snail in Among Bulbinella Leaves

Even snails love Bulbinella

Even snails love Bulbinella

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Fiona