There are a variety of species of bamboo, with some being specific to certain countries like China or Japan. According to the American Bamboo Society website, bamboo is technically a grass. Some species grow only a foot in height while others grow over 100 feet. Some are more delicate, while others are sturdy, woody grasses that can be made into furniture and flooring. The leaves of certain bamboo plants have been used in traditional medicine, while tender bamboo “shoots” are found in Asian culinary dishes.
Extracts of bamboo leaves have been found to contain antioxidant properties. A study published in the Chinese journal “Guang Pu Xue Yu Guang Pu Fen Xi” in February 2010, discovered the free radical scavenging capacity of bamboo extracts. Dr. Guo and colleagues discovered that certain red compounds in the extract have the capacity to counteract free radical damage, suggesting that bamboo could potentially be used as an antioxidant. More data is needed, however; ask your doctor about bamboo extracts before using.
One particular bamboo, Kumaizasa bamboo found in Hokkaido, Japan, has been used in traditional healing for thousands of years. Recently two researchers from Tojo University in Japan discovered that extracts from Kumaizasa bamboo may have anti-cancer properties. Published in the journal “Anticancer Research” in January 2010, Drs. Seki and Maeda found that in mice with tumors, extracts of the bamboo inhibited growth of cancer cells. They also concluded that bamboo extracts prolonged life in the mice. These findings are promising, although more data will be needed before bamboo extract can be considered a treatment or prevention for cancer.