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Bamboo (Arundinaria japonica)


Also listed as: Arundinaria japonica
Related terms

Related Terms
  • Arrow bamboo, Arundinaria japonica, bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Fargesia, Himalayacalamus, Indocalamus, Otatea, Phyllostachys edulis, Pleioblastus, Pseudosasa japonica, Sasaella, Sasa japonica, Semiarundinaria, Shibatea, Thamnocallamus.

  • Bamboo is the hard woody stems of bamboo plants. Bamboo cups were used in cupping therapy or the "horn method" in ancient China. Today, the Chinese still use cupping therapy to stimulate circulation through the tissues, manage pain and enhance healing.
  • In China, people identify bamboo as a symbol of desirable personality characteristics: it represents elasticity, endurance and perseverance. The stem bends and does not break.
  • In folk medicine, the leaves have been used to treat blood diseases and inflammation. Tabashir, which can be found as a hardened material inside bamboo, has been used for tuberculosis, asthma and leprosy. In Chinese diet therapy, a soup of bamboo shoots and carp is used to treat measles. The tips of the branches have been used in India for uterine disorders. The shoots are said to be an appetite stimulant and digestion aid. The root has been used for ringworm. The juice from the flowers has been used for earache and deafness.
  • Cane and bamboo may be alternative basic construction materials for orthotic and prosthetic appliances. Bamboo night splints and upper limb splints are believed to be effective, and bamboo walkers, crutches and wheelchairs are remarkably useful, inexpensive and lightweight.
  • Bamboo shoots may have some anti-thyroidal effects, anti-oxidant activity and pro-oxidant activity. Bamboo may be an alternative bone substitute, although study is lacking in this area. At this time, there are no human trials supporting the effects of bamboo for any indication.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Antioxidant, appetite stimulant, asthma, blood disorders, bone substitute, cancer prevention, cough, cupping therapy, dandruff, deafness, diabetes, digestive aid, earache, gallbladder disorders, gum disease prevention, headache, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperthyroid, inflammation, leprosy, measles, orthotic/prosthetic appliances, pain, porphyrin photosensitizers, post-natal depression, pro-oxidant, rehabilitation aid, ringworm, sinusitis, toothache, tuberculosis, uterine disorders, wound healing.


Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is not enough scientific evidence to safely recommend the use of bamboo in adults.

Children (younger than 18 years)

  • There is not enough scientific evidence to safely recommend the use of bamboo in children.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Patients with a known allergy or sensitivity to bamboo products or any of their ingredients should avoid bamboo products. Contact dermatitis of unclear origin has been reported.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • In general, there are limited reports of adverse effects associated with bamboo, although it appears likely safe when prepared and manufactured correctly. The shoots of bamboo are edible and usually safe to ingest. Bamboo shoots should be peeled or boiled before consumption.
  • In March 2006, a botulism outbreak (from bamboo shoots) occurred in Northern Thailand. Symptoms included respiratory failure, abdominal pain, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and/or dysarthria (impaired speech), ptosis (droopy eyelid), double vision, generalized weakness, urinary retention, and respiratory failure. Most patients exhibited fluctuating pulse and blood pressure. Melanosis coli has also been reported after the ingestion of bamboo leaf extract.
  • Caution is advised when ingesting home-canned bamboo shoots that are not properly sterilized or canned. Inadequately cooking bamboo shoots, the anaerobic condition in the can, and lack of an acidifier may produce toxins in the food.
  • Many cases of penetration injury have been reported from products made of bamboo materials. It was reported that an illegal abortion performed by inserting foreign objects vaginally into the uterus resulted in a septic abortion.
  • Caution is advised in patients with thyroid disorders due to theoretical thyroid suppressant properties.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Bamboo is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.


Interactions with Drugs

  • Theoretically, bamboo may interact with drugs for thyroid disorder. Bamboo has been found to have anti-thyroidal activity. Patients taking any thyroid medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Theoretically, bamboo may interact with herbs and supplements for thyroid disorder. Bamboo has been found to have anti-thyroidal activity. Caution is advised.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. Akao Y, Seki N, Nakagawa Y, et al. A highly bioactive lignophenol derivative from bamboo lignin exhibits a potent activity to suppress apoptosis induced by oxidative stress in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Bioorg Med Chem 2004;12(18):4791-4801.
  2. Ando H, Ohba H, Sakaki T, et al. Hot-compressed-water decomposed products from bamboo manifest a selective cytotoxicity against acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells. Toxicol In Vitro 2004;18(6):765-771.
  3. Chandra AK, Ghosh D, Mukhopadhyay S, et al. Effect of bamboo shoot, Bambusa arundinacea (Retz.) Willd. on thyroid status under conditions of varying iodine intake in rats. Indian J Exp Biol 2004;42(8):781-786.
  4. Chang JJ, Yen CL. Endoscopic retrieval of multiple fragmented gastric bamboo chopsticks by using a flexible overtube. World J Gastroenterol 2004;10(5):769-770.
  5. Iseki K, Ishikawa H, Suzuki T, et al. Melanosis coli associated with ingestion of bamboo leaf extract. Gastrointest Endosc 1998;47(3):305-307.
  6. Kim KK, Kawano Y, Yamazaki Y. A novel porphyrin photosensitizer from bamboo leaves that induces apoptosis in cancer cell lines. Anticancer Res 2003;23(3B):2355-2361.
  7. Kitajiri S, Tabuchi K, Hiraumi H. Transnasal bamboo foreign body lodged in the sphenoid sinus. Auris Nasus Larynx 2001;28(4):365-367.
  8. Kweon MH, Hwang HJ, Sung HC. Isolation and characterization of anticomplementary beta-glucans from the shoots of bamboo Phyllostachys edulis. Planta Med 2003;69(1):56-62.
  9. Lu B, Wu X, Tie X, et al. Toxicology and safety of anti-oxidant of bamboo leaves. Part 1: Acute and subchronic toxicity studies on anti-oxidant of bamboo leaves. Food Chem Toxicol 2005;43(5):783-792.
  10. Maruya J, Yamamoto K, Wakai M, et al. Brain abscess following transorbital penetrating injury due to bamboo fragments--case report. Neurol Med Chir (Tokyo) 2002;42(3):143-146.
  11. Peh WC, Helpert C, Chan CW. Bamboo skewer perforation of the bowel: computed tomography appearances. Australas Radiol 1997;41(3):308-310.
  12. Swaddiwudhipong W, Wongwatcharapaiboon P. Foodborne botulism outbreaks following consumption of home-canned bamboo shoots in Northern Thailand. J Med Assoc Thai 2000;83(9):1021-1025.
  13. Teraoka F, Hamada Y, Takahashi J. Bamboo charcoal inhibits growth of HeLa cells in vitro. Dent Mater J 2004;23(4):633-637.
  14. Uchino A, Kato A, Takase Y, et al. Intraorbital wooden and bamboo foreign bodies: CT. Neuroradiology 1997;39(3):213-215.
  15. van der Wal KG, Boukes RJ. Intraorbital bamboo foreign body in a chronic stage: case report. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2000;29(6):428-429.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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