The bamboo is a remarkable plant- it is a grass, a tropical reed, a food source and a medicinal plant that has been used in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of healing, for thousands of years. It is the fastest growing of all known plants, and is presumed to have originated in Asia. The tree grows wild in most parts of India, and is abundantly found in the forests of Kerala in southwest India. The bamboo is a perennial tree, and its stem is smooth, round and hollow. It has swollen nodes, spines between the nodes, and leaves that are shiny, thin, stiff, smooth and dark green. Flowers are found in bunches and seeds resemble the corn of wheat, in shape. Bamboo trees grow up to 12m in height and are always found in clusters.
A Medical Treasure House
An analysis of bamboo shows that it contains 88% moisture, 3.9% protein, 5% fat, 11% minerals and 5.7% carbohydrates per 100 grams of its edible portion. Calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C are amongst the vitamin and minerals found in bamboo. Bamboo leaves are a rich source of hydrocyanic and benzoic acids. Bamboo leaves, obtained from the common tall bamboos have recently been utilized as a source of flavonoids that are used as antioxidants. The flavonoids may reduce inflammation, promote circulation, and inhibit allergy reactions.
Tender bamboo-shoots contain various enzymes such as nuclease, deamidase, proteolytic enzyme, amylase, as well as amigdalin-splitting and silicon-splitting enzymes. Besides, the juice of the pressed bamboo-shoots helps the digestion of proteins. The exudation, or sap, collected from the knots in the stems, is called bamboo silica. It is a stimulant, astringent, febrifuge, tonic, antispasmodic agent and aphrodisiac. The average adult body contains about twenty grams of silica, and it is necessary for the body’s silica stores to be maintained at this level to promote good health. As we age, less silica is assimilated. Therefore, daily supplementation with bamboo will help maintain this necessary equilibrium and minimize the effects of premature aging. In addition, it has been noted that the bamboo plant has unusually high levels of acetylcholine, which is an excellent nerve tonic.
Uses in Ayurveda
The leaves of the bamboo tree are aromatic. They act as a stimulant and tonic, and are useful in counteracting spasmodic disorders. They also arrest bleeding, and are useful in killing intestinal worms, especially thread worms. Stomach disorders can be effectively treated with bamboo leaves as well. In many parts of India, the leaves of the tree are used in the form of decoction to treat diarrhea. A decoction of the leaves promotes and regulates menstrual periods. A decoction of the nodes of the bamboo stem is also useful for this purpose too. The tender shoot of bamboo is also used to treat stomach disorders. It is useful in the treatment of respiratory diseases as well.
A poultice of the tender shoots is used for cleaning wounds and maggot-infested sores. A decoction or juice of the fresh bamboo leaves is applied as a medicine in such ulcers. Decoction of the tender bamboo-shoots, mixed with palm jaggery is given once or twice a day for a week to cause abortion during the first month of pregnancy. The same preparation can be used in the last month of pregnancy to induce labour. Its use after childbirth eases the process of the expulsion of the placenta and prevents excessive loss of blood. In short, bamboo has myriads of uses in Ayurveda.
An Ayurvedic remedy, Sitopaladi Churna, was used traditionally for tuberculosis and other wasting diseases and has been adopted as a popular remedy for common cold, sore throat, sinus congestion, and cough. It is a powder made with the sap of bamboo as the main ingredient, plus small amounts of long pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon in a base of sugar. So the next time you are troubled by these ailments, let bamboo’s healing properties work for you through Ayurveda’s herbal remedies.