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What are the Benefits of Bamboo

Updated on January 5, 2011

Where did Bamboo Originate

Bamboo is found in Southeast Asia and the Americas. It is thought that the plant is at least thirty million years old and it was likely a food source for a wide range of animals.

Because most of the continents of the earth (South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica) were one super-continent called Gondwanaland bamboo's range may be explained by this alone.

There are currently known twelve thousand species of bamboo and it can be found in both temperate, dry, and cold conditions. Though bamboo is thought of as a tropical plant some speicies can survive and thrive at altitudes of up to 12,000 feet.

Bamboo will not grow where temperatures are freezing year-round, but will grow readily almost anywhere else.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bamboo Stand in KyotoGiant Panda eating BambooBamboo leavesBamboo Pass Under Water Wheel
Bamboo Stand in Kyoto
Bamboo Stand in Kyoto
Giant Panda eating Bamboo
Giant Panda eating Bamboo
Bamboo leaves
Bamboo leaves
Bamboo Pass Under Water Wheel
Bamboo Pass Under Water Wheel

Bamboo is Grass

Bamboo is a type of grass and for that reason one of the fastest growing plants on the planet.

Some varieties of bamboo can grow at a rate of a two feet a day. Of course, bamboo needs sunlight and ample water for this phenomenal growth rate to occur. Bamboo matures in three to five years. When compared to other soft-woods, which take ten to twenty years to mature, bamboo is a highly renewable resource for construction material.

Bamboo generates thirty-five (35%) percent more oxygen than trees. In the process it cleans the atmosphere of CO2 and purifies the soil. The roots help prevent erosion and run-off as well as providing shade, a sound barrier, and wind-break.

Bamboo as Clothing

Bamboo fibers are being used as a thread for fabric. Bamboo textiles can be found in everything from undergarments and socks to sweaters.  As a fiber bamboo has many advantageous properties. It breathes well, is elastic, soft, and readily takes up dyes. Because of it's affinity for dyes less colorant is needed than with other fabrics. It is also less course than hemp, burlap, and linen.

Another factor in bamboo as fabric is that it naturally resists insect attack. For this reason fewer pesticides need to be used in growing the plant.  Because bamboo is basically a weed it also requires little or no fertilizer during it's growth cycle. Finally, because bamboo grows so quickly it is a highly renewable source of fiber.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bamboo Bicycle FrameBamboo and Epoxy Bike with Call-outsLaminated Bamboo Attache CaseBamboo Guitar
Bamboo Bicycle Frame
Bamboo Bicycle Frame
Bamboo and Epoxy Bike with Call-outs
Bamboo and Epoxy Bike with Call-outs
Laminated Bamboo Attache Case
Laminated Bamboo Attache Case
Bamboo Guitar
Bamboo Guitar | Source

Bamboo as Building Material

Bamboo is both strong and light. It is also extremely flexible (see water wheel picture above) making it one of the best building materials on the planet. Add the fact that it is so fast growing and therefore abundant it's a wonder the material is not used more often in more locals.

Currently bamboo is used whole or in laminated strips as:

  • Flooring (laminate)
  • Wall paneling (laminate)
  • Stud (support) replacement (whole)
  • Rebar in cement structures (whole or strips)
  • As a primary material in scaffolding (whole)
  • For bicycle frames (see pictures at right)
  • As a wood replacement in briefcases (see picture at right)

Bamboo has a tensile strength of 18,000 pounds per square inch making it an easy rival to steel.

Bamboo Briefcase
I have personally owned a bamboo briefcase (very much like the picture above) for eight years. The case itself has held up quite well in those eight years. A few months ago one of the latches (made of brass) fractured. I am now looking for a replacement latch as the case itself is still in excellent condition.

In all the years I've had it I only needed to "polish" the wood (with a ScotchBright Padtm) to remove dirt and scuff marks.  Every time I used that pad the case ended up looking like new again.

Bamboo as Medicine

In China, bamboo preparations have long been used as a healing agent and for treating infections. When powdered dried bamboo sap is used to treat asthma and cough. Bamboo root has been used to treat kidney disease.

Bamboo sap has also been used as a fever reducer and the powdered ash of the bark like powder to relieve the itching of prickly heat.

Bamboo has also been used as treatment by indigenous cultures for the following:

  • anti-diarrheal
  • to restore the menstrual cycle
  • as a labor inducer
  • to cause spontaneous abortion

Of course none of these "folk" remedies can be currently backed up with scientific findings so far. However drug science has long looked for "folk remedies" for new products with particular properties. For example the hormone in birth control pills was found in an African yam. Scientists found it having heard that some tribes used raw yam as a pregnancy terminator.

Bamboo Steamer
Bamboo Steamer

Bamboo as Food

Bamboo shoots are edible and are used in a wide variety of Asian dishes as well as an animal and fish food.

Fermented (with turmeric and oil) bamboo shoots are a popular ingredient in the Himalayas. This dish is served with potatoes and rice. In Indonesia thin strips of bamboo shoot are boiled in coconut milk and spices. In Japan powdered bamboo bark is used as a natural preservative in food storage.

Larger bamboo segments can even be used as cooking pots as bamboo does not burn easily, yet passes heat readily into the food item being cooked. Bamboo is also a good material for chop-sticks, spatulas, and flat spoons.

It is also said that food cooked in bamboo picks up some of the flavor from the bamboo itself; enhancing the flavors of the food being cooked.

Bamboo as Aircraft Runway

There is a documented case of bamboo stalks (cut in quarters at length) being used as a forest runway in Borneo. 

During World War II as the Allies were invading Japanese held territory, some U.S. bombers were shot down or forced down in the jungles of Borneo. The native people there helped rescuers from the British Army find these fliers. Each flier was flown out and back to U.S. held territory in a small two-seater airplane. The plane landed and took off from an improvised runway made of bamboo.

Less Than Usual Bamboo Recipes

Bamboo Shoot and Eggplant Currey


  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 Tablespoons Green Curry Paste (see below)
  • 3 Cups (720ml) coconut milk
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100g) green or purple eggplant, chopped
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100g) bamboo shoots, sliced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 3/4 ounces (50g) button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons palm sugar (substitute light brown if desired)
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, sauté the green curry paste briefly, and add the coconut milk.
  2. Bring to a simmer and add the kaffir lime leaves, eggplant, bamboo shoots, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Stir to mix.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the soy sauce, salt, and sugar, and cook for a further 5—7 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  5. Mix in the basil leaves and turn off the heat.
  6. Serve Immediately

GREEN CURRY PASTE (Nam prik gaeng khiao wan)
Makes about 1 cup (240ml)


  • 10 small fresh hot green chilies
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 1/4-inch (3-cm) cube galangal, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon rind
  • 1 ounce (30g) fresh coriander with stems and root
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil


  1. Put all the ingredients, except the oil, in a food processor and grind to a smooth thick paste. You may need to scrape down the side of the bowl from time to time.

    or use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients, a few at a time.

  2. Mix in the oil and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Chinese Chicken with Bamboo Shoots and Water Chestnuts


  • 1 Tablespoon dry sherry
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots, sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, slivered
  • ½ lb chicken breast, cut in thin strips
  • 2 cups water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

The trick with stir-frying is to add the toughest cooking items first and then those that take longer to cook.

  1. Mix sherry, soy sauce and cornstarch; set aside.
  2. Heat frying pan; add oil and heat thoroughly.
  3. Add chives, ginger, and bamboo shoots; stir-fry 1 minute.
  4. Add chicken to stir-fry and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until light brown.
  5. Add water chestnuts and garlic; stir-fry one more minute.
  6. Add cornstarch mixture and stir another minute or until thickened.
  7. Server immediately.

Though the original recipe has you adding the garlic along with the chives and bamboo, garlic cooks quickly, burns readily, and has a very bitter taste if overcooked. Thus I recommend adding the garlic with the water chestnuts near the end.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bamboo FluteBamboo BookBamboo brushes and penBamboo cooking utensils
Bamboo Flute
Bamboo Flute
Bamboo Book
Bamboo Book
Bamboo brushes and pen
Bamboo brushes and pen
Bamboo cooking utensils
Bamboo cooking utensils

Other Uses

Water Desalination
Bamboo is reportedly used to desalinate sea-water.There are a number of reverse osmosis filter manufacturers who use bamboo charcoal (carbon) as a clearing/cleaning agent in water filtration.

Water Source
Live bamboo is also recommended as a source of fresh water in survival situations. Small quantities of water can be found between the joints of the bamboo plant.

Bamboo is a popular material for kitchen utensils and tools. I personally own a set of tools (pictured) which serve as turner, spatula, and spoon. They are very "kind" to my non-stick pots and pans, pick up no flavors and seem not to impart flavors either. Best of all they are easy to clean.

Musical Instrument
Bamboo, due to it's hollow structure, makes it a natural choice for flutes and wind chimes. As a flute, bamboo has been used as a material in Ghana, India, China, Japan, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and in the Andes

Pen and Paper
Bamboo strips and slender stalks were widely used in China (200 BCE) as both paper and pen.


The author was not compensated by any mentioned manufacturer for the writing of this article. Though I have mentioned a brand-name I was not paid by 3M or any other company for this mention. In other words I was not compensated with cash, discounts, or freebies for the writing of this article or any of its content.

The author does stand to make a small percentage of profits on advertising, but the author has no control over that advertising


Submit a Comment

  • Sams Spot profile image

    Sams Spot 

    7 years ago

    Very interesting, I live in Virginia and have a back yard full of Bamboo. I agree on how fast it grows, the first time I cut some down it blew my mind that a week later it was four feet tall. Very informative hub, thanks

  • LiamBean profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    Bamboo Frames: I had to copy your comment and add it here. Hubpages frowns on names that are external commercial links.

    "Bamboo is definitely a good material it great for going green!They also using for furniture, table, chair, basket and others, wow this is great i really love it thanks..."

    Thanks for reading Bamboo Frames.

  • Sun360 profile image


    7 years ago

    Very informative piece of article which i enjoyed reading and really began to imagine the usefulness of bamboo. Thanks for getting me informed.

  • LiamBean profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    One Eyed Jack: Thanks. I'm going to include your bamboo guitar image above. Look near Building Materials above. You are credited for the photo too.

  • profile image

    One Eyed Jack 

    8 years ago

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    u are really good mam

  • fucsia profile image


    8 years ago

    Very interesting Hub! I did not know all the uses of bamboo! Thanks

  • theherbivorehippi profile image


    8 years ago from Holly, MI

    Great hub!! I love bamboo..especially clothing...I only run in bamboo socks...make all the difference in the world. Great information here. Rated up!

  • Michael Jay profile image

    Michael Jay 

    8 years ago

    Wow! This is a really informative hub, Liambean! You have filled this hub with great information about the benefits of bamboo. Two thumbs up!--Michael Jay


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