Take a Bite Out of Bamboo

Fresh, young, edible bamboo shoots are grown in some parts of the United States and are sold at local farmer's markets, specialty food stores, and in some restaurants. You can find canned bamboo shoots in the Asian food section of most supermarkets, but fresh shoots are a little more difficult to come by.

The shoots are low in calories and fat, have a good source of fiber and potassium, and carry phytochemicals (substances found only in plants that are known to help fight disease). These antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory agents have the potential to help prevent the development of cancer and heart disease.

In their raw state, bamboo shoots are bitter and indigestible. If you have access to fresh shoots and want to try them, follow these cooking directions from the Small Farms Team at Washington State University:

  • Peel off the outer leaves and trim off any tough flesh.
  • Cut the shoots across the grain into 1/8 inch thick slices.
  • Cook the sliced shoots, uncovered, in plenty of boiling water for 20 minutes or until tender-crisp. (It's important to leave the pot uncovered to allow naturally occurring bitter compounds in the shoots to boil out into the air.)
  • Use the parboiled shoots in stir-fries, sautéed vegetable mixtures, salads, and soups.
  • Even though they are traditionally used in Asian-style dishes, tender, cooked shoots can also be drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Although no research has been done on humans to date, laboratory studies show that bamboo leaf extract significantly reduces the growth of tumors in mice when the extract is given prior to the onset of cancer.

Studies have also found that bamboo extract contains powerful antioxidants that suppress the growth of existing tumors. Other studies have found that bamboo extract suppresses the body's natural inflammatory response that leads to the development of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and heart disease. The extract was also able to significantly lower blood lead levels in mice exposed to environmental lead.

Because bamboo extract appears to have a powerful medicinal effect, it can potentially have side effects that could interfere with other medical treatments. Speak to your physician or alternative health care provider if you are considering using bamboo extract as a self-treatment.




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Jiao J, et al; "Reduciton of Blood Lead Levels in Lead-Exposed Mice by Dietary Supplements and natural Antioxidants." Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2011 feb;91(3):485-91 Web 18 Nov 2011


Seki, T and Maeda, H; "Cancer Preventive Effect of Kumaizasa Bamboo Leaf Extracts Administered Prior to Carcinogenesis."  Anticancer Research 2010 Jan;30(1):111-8 Web 18 Nov 2011


Seki, T, Kida K and Maeda, H; "Immunostimulation-Mediated Anti-Tumor Activity of Bamboo (Sasa Senanensis) Leaf Extracts Obtained Under 'Vigorous' Condition." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010 Dec; 7(4):447-457 Web 18 Nov 2011


Washington State University Cooperative Extension and the American Bamboo Soceity: Bamboo Shoots