The bamboo is a perennial tree which grows upto a height of 12 metres with its trunk 8 to 15 cm in diameter. Every year, between July and October, new shoots sprout at the base of the tree. Bamboo trees are always found in clusters.
The stem of the tree is round, smooth and hollow. Nodes are swollen. The tree has no branches but, the lower portions, that is, three-fourths of the tree, have more spines between each node. It has simple, shiny, thin, stiff, smooth and dark green leaves. Bowers are found in bunch and seeds resemble the corn of wheat, in shape.
Bamboo is presumed to have originated in Asia. The tree grows wild throughout most parts of India, especially in the hilly forests of western and southern India but is cultivated only in the lower Himalayas and in the valleys of the Ganges and Indus.
An analysis of bamboo shows that it contains moisture 88.8 per cent, protein 3.9 per cent, fat 0.5 per cent, minerals 11 per cent and carbohydrates 5.7 per cent per 100 grams of its edible portion. Calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacine and vitamin C are amongst its vitamin and minerals. Its calorific value is 43.
Bamboo leaves are a rich source of hydrocyanic and benzoic acids. Tender bamboo-shoots contain various enzymes such as nuclease, deamidase, proteolytic enzym,e, amylase, amigdalin splitting and silicon splitting enzymes. Besides, the juice of the pressed bamboo-shoots possesses protease activity which helps digestion of proteins.
The leaves of bamboo tree are stimulant, aromatic and tonic. They are useful in counteracting spasmodic disorders, and arrest secretion or bleeding. They are also an effective aphrodisiac. The leaves do not have any prominent taste.
The leaves are beneficial in the treatment of stomach troubles. They are useful in strengthening the stomach and promoting its action. The young shoots of the tree are also useful in stomach disorders. Pickled or cooked, they serve as an appetizer. In many parts of India, the leaves of the tree are used in the form of decoction to treat diarrhoea.
The tender shoots are useful in the treatment of respiratory diseases. Decoction of the shoots should be taken with a tablespoon of honey once or twice daily.
A decoction of the leaves as an emmanagouge would stimulate menstruation. It promotes and regulates the menstrual periods. A decoction of the nodes of the bamboo stem is also useful for this purpose.
The leaves are useful in killing intestinal worms, especially threadworms. They should be taken in the form of decoction.
A poultice of the tender shoots is used for cleaning wounds and maggot-infested sores. Decoction or juice of the fresh bamboo leaves is applied as a medicine in such ulcers.
The juice of 35 grams of fresh leaves may be taken twice daily either alone or mixed with any other juice. The decoction extracted from 70 grams of leaves may be used by itself. About 120 ml of the juice extracted from very tender shoots may be taken twice daily.
Abortion, Pregnancy and Post-Delivery Use: Decoction of the tender bamboo-shoots, mixed with palm jaggery (tad-ka-gud)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 the childbirth eases the process of the expulsion of the placenta and prevents excessive loss of blood. It is a safe substitute for ergot in such conditions. Bamboo shoots are used as food in various ways. They are used in preparation such as bamboo candy, bamboo chutney and canning of bamboo in syrups.