Bamboo’s Surprising Medicinal Uses
In addition to the many practical uses bamboo serves in Asia, America, and throughout much of the modern world, its medicinal qualities are varied and really quite surprising.
First mentioned in Asian medicinals of the 6th century, modern analysis of bamboo shows that it contains 88.8 % moisture, 3.9 % protein, 0.5 % fat, 11 % minerals, and 5.7 % carbohydrates per 100 grams of its edible portion. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C, making it quite valuable as a curative for many common conditions.
Bamboo leaves, for example, are a rich source of hydrocyanic and benzoic acids, while the tender shoots contain various valuable enzymes such as nuclease, deamidase, proteolytic enzym.e, amylase, as well as amigdalin-splitting and silicon-splitting enzymes. Additionally, the juice of pressed bamboo shoots possesses protease activity which helps in digestion of proteins. As traditional medicine verifies, each part of this amazing plant has a variety of uses.
In general terms, the prepared leaves of bamboo act as stimulants, aromatics, and work as a general tonic. They are useful in counteracting spasmodic disorders (spasms, fits), and in stopping infection and bleeding. The leaves are also said to be beneficial in the treatment of stomach disorders, in promoting digestion, and as commonly used in many parts of India, as a decoction to treat diarrhea. Bamboo leaf decoction is also used to stimulate menstruation, regulate menstrual periods, kill intestinal worms (especially thread worms), and is an effective treatment for ulcers. Additionally, for centuries the leaves were chewed for their aphrodisiacal effects.
The young shoots are particularly useful in stomach disorders as well. Pickled or cooked, they are even served as appetizers, serving much the same purpose as parsley in other parts of the world, intended to aid in digestion. Shoots are commonly used throughout many parts of Asia in treating respiratory diseases, with a decoction taken once or twice daily with a tablespoon of honey. Bamboo shoot decoction is also commonly used for a number female disorders: mixed with palm jaggery (tad-ka-gun), can be given once or twice a day for a week to cause abortion during the first month of pregnancy, used in the last month of pregnancy to induce labor, and following childbirth, eases in the expulsion of the placenta while preventing excessive blood loss. A poultice of the shoots is quite effective for cleaning wounds and healing infested sores.
Particular varieties and their curative values
In addition to these general applications, some varieties of bamboo are chosen for their particular curative properties. For example:
- Black Bamboo, is used in cases where a diuretic, fever reducer, expectorant, or vomit inducer is called for, or to control bacterial infections.
- Dwarf Bamboo, the stems and leaves are brewed as a decoction and used to treat irritability, urinary tract infections (with low urine output), for mouth and gum sores, to reduce fever, and as a diuretic. They also have a positive effect on the heart, stomach, and bladder when taken as a general tonic.
- Moso Bamboo, which contains high levels of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, ash, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, b-carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid, the leaves have been shown effective for arthritis, with the stem sheaths used for nausea and sour stomach.
- Timber Bamboo is prepared as a decoction of the leaf to reduce fever, and the stems of new shoots are a long time remedy for treating blood in the urine. The leaves are also useful in counteracting spasmodic disorders, and to control infection or bleeding. They too are said to be an effective aphrodisiac.
While Black Bamboo’s primary use is to treat coughs and mucous in children, it is also used to treat lung inflammations, strokes (where phlegm is obstructing breathing passages), as an expectorate, to relieve spasms and convulsions caused by heat, and to control convulsions in children.
The leaf of Black Bamboo is specifically used as a fever reducer, diuretic, to treat chest colds, head colds, pharyngitis, and inflammations of the mouth, as well as to prompt urine flow. The juice of the stem reduces fever, is a cough suppressant, expectorant, sedative, and has been used for bronchial, catarrhal, and cerebral infections. The stem shavings and sap have been used internally for lung infections with cough and phlegm, and is also given as a sedative and to reduce fever, while the stem bark is effective in stopping vomiting. Additionally, the leaves and stem shavings have been used to treat nosebleeds, with the leaves and roots used for fevers and convulsions--especially in babies. The roots stop bleeding (applied as a styptic), and are used as an astringent, fever reducer, and diuretic. They are also prepared in decoction form to treat anxiety, fever, sleeping problems, and general restlessness. And until very recent times, the roots were the standard treatment for rabies.
(Note: It is strongly recommended that before trying these or any other natural curatives, you do your own research into any potential benefits, side-effects, or precautions.)
For additional info on bamboo see: Bamboo
Red Cloud Bamboo (redcloudbamboo(dot)com)
Gator Ventures (gator-ventures(dot)com)
Amargi, September, 1991
Missouri State University (missouristate(dot)edu)
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