The main substances found in the plant are gelatin, essential oil, stilbenoids, blespirol, and phenanthrene glucosides.
In Western herbal medicine, the rhizome (root) is known for its astringent, expectorant and emollient (due to the high mucus content of the plant) properties and it has been used to treat indigestion, dysentery and fever.
The herb is rarely used in Western herbal medicine.
Very few people who grow this plant for ornamental reasons are aware of its value as a medicinal herb and its importance in Chinese herbal medicine.
Bletilla is classified as a bitter, slightly cool and slightly sweet herb. When consumed, it is bitter at first but gets sweeter when it is chewed on for a while.
It is an important wound-healing herb in traditional Chinese herbal medicine and it was first described in Chinese medical literature in about 500 A.D. The herb was used to reduce swelling, promote the formation of tissue and stop bleeding.
It is also used to treat hemoptysis (coughing up blood from the respiratory tract) and stop bleeding due to stomach ulcers.
Furthermore, it is used as a hemostatic agent for bleeding from the urinary tract, rectal bleeding, epistaxis (nose bleed) and some traumatic bleeding.
Powder made from the root (rhizome) is used externally as an herbal treatment for boils, swelling, acne sores and dry cracked hands and feet.
It is also used to treat burns and chilblains, a foot condition.
Preliminary research has indicated that the rhizomes of bletilla have some inhibitory effect on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and that the herb can be used as a treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).
In one study the powdered root was given to 60 chronic tuberculosis patients who had failed standard therapy. After taking the herb for three months, 42 patients were reported clinically healthy, 13 showed significant improvement while two showed no change.