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Bamboo Your Way To Better Health

Did you know that bamboo comes with an array of health benefits? CHI explores the medicinal use of bamboo

Bamboo is powerful plant. Few of us are aware of the full breadth of its medicinal properties.  Most commonly it is used to cure fevers, break up phlegm and treat lung inflammation.  Its leaves can be boiled down for use as a stimulant, aromatic or cure-all tonic as well as to cure a plethora of digestive disorders such as nausea, diarrhea and intestinal worms.

Anatomy of Bamboo

The main stem of the bamboo is known as the culm, made up of jointed segments called nodes.  Nodes are made up of solid plates, which give the bamboo plant its strength. Each is connected by the hollow internode, which gives the plant its flexibility.

Branches sprout on alternate sides of these nodes, identifying the species of bamboo by their arrangement. Foliage leaves sprout from branches, the green blade protected by the leaf sheath until it reaches maturity. Culm leaves sprout directly from the culm. The entire blade of the culm leaf is protected by the leaf sheath, which will eventually grow into a new culm.

Different kinds of sap can be found in different species of bamboo, sometimes secreted and dried in the internodes or extracted from surface wounds left on the plant by parasitic wasps.  It can also be collected by removing the surface of the culm and boiling the plant.

The most commonly used part of the bamboo plant is the shoot or sprout, the white portion of a new culm as it pushes its way out of the ground.

Preparing Bamboo for Medicinal Use

Preparing a decoction is very simple and can be done by heating or boiling the plant to extract the healing properties of its deeper essence. Cover ¾ of your leaves and/or nodes in a clean saucepan, preferably glass, and simmer for twenty minutes or until the water has reduced to ⅓ of its original amount.

Take care not to boil any part of the plant as this can take away from its healing properties. Some species of plants emit toxins when boiled, so be sure to do your research before beginning any serious regime.

Similar to a decoction, an infusion can be made in the same way as you would prepare a cup of tea. Just pour a little boiling water over the leaves and let sit for approximately 3-5 minutes.

A poultice can be extremely effective for cleaning wounds, healing infected sores and drawing toxins out of the body. Add enough hot water to make a thick paste from your ground bamboo shoots and apply it directly to the affected area. Cover up with a hot, moist towel and let sit until the mixture and towel cool.  Repeat as needed.

Bamboo for Women

Bamboo leaves can be used as what’s called an emmanagouge (herbs that stimulate blood flow to the pelvis area and uterus) to bring on menstruation and promote regularity. A decoction of the nodes can also be used for same purpose.

Better still, bamboo is known to repair free radical cell damage, making it a powerful anti-aging tool for both men and women.

Easy Household Uses for Bamboo

  • A cup a day of bamboo tea contains about 1 g of dietary fibre.  It’s great for digestive health and also clears the body of certain types of cholesterol.  

  • Pickled or cooked bamboo shoots make for a delicious appetizer, strengthen the stomach and promote intestinal health.

  • A decoction taken once or twice daily with a tablespoon of honey can be a very effective treatment against respiratory disease.

A Word of Warning

Though it may be tempting to grow a little bamboo in your garden, remember is can spread rapidly and is difficult to control.  A running bamboo plant, for example, grows from three to five feet per year, while clumping bamboo grows between one and two feet.

“Heavenly bamboo,” also known as “sacred bamboo,” is not actually a species of bamboo and is highly poisonous to humans and animals if ingested.

Bamboo is a versatile little plant, full of interesting uses around the house. Got a pet fish? Throw a couple of bamboo stalks in the fishbowl and you’ll hardly, if ever, need to change the water.

Do a little research. You may be surprised at the amazing power of bamboo.