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Bamboo Shavings (zhu ru)

What are bamboo shavings? What are they used for?

Bamboo is a tall, treelike grass that grows throughout the southern part of China and southeast Asia. It has a hollow wooden stem (also known as a culm), which usually grows in a branching cluster.

Because of its rigidity, bamboo can grow quite high; some species of bamboo can grow more than a foot per day, and can reach a height of more than 120 feet. Bamboo shavings are taken directly from the culm. After the outer green skin of a bamboo stalk is removed, the shavings are taken from the intermediate layer of the plant with a knife or carving instrument.

Bamboo has a great variety of uses in east and southeast Asia. The seeds are often used as grain, while cooked bamboo shoots are enjoyed as vegetables, especially in Chinese cuisine. Culms are often used to make a great number of objects, including walking sticks, garden stakes, fishing poles, and some types of furniture. Of course, bamboo is also used for its medicinal properties.

In traditional Chinese medicine, bamboo shavings are considered to have sweet and slightly cold properties, and are associated with the Lung, Stomach and Gallbladder meridians. Its main functions are to clear heat and resolve phlegm, and to relieve irritability and stop vomiting. It is often used to clear up coughs, phlegmy obstructions and chest congestion, and to treat nausea and vomiting caused by stomach disorders. Other conditions that can be treated with bamboo shavings include insomnia and vaginal bleeding. It is often used with a variety of herbs as part of a larger formula, such as tangerine peel, coptis root, poria and scutellaria.

How much bamboo shavings should I take?

Depending on the condition being treated, the daily dosage for bamboo shavings ranges between 6 and 10 grams, decocted in water. It is consumed raw to help treat phlegmy conditions. To treat vomiting, it is used after being fried with ginger juice.

What forms of bamboo shavings are available?

Bamboo shavings (usually fresh) can be found at some herbal shops and Asian markets. Powdered bamboo shavings are also available.

What can happen if I take too much bamboo shavings? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Bamboo shavings should not be given to patients who are suffering from nausea and vomiting due to spleen deficiency. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with bamboo shavings. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking bamboo shavings or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Bensky D, et al. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1990.
  • Cohen I, Tagliaferri M, Tripathy D. Traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of breast cancer, part three. Available online.
  • Suzuki K, Kitamura S, Sone Y, et al. Immunohistochemical localization of hemicelluloses and pectins varies during tissue development in the bamboo culm. Histochem J 2002;34(11-12):535-44.
  • Tsarong TJ. Tibetan Medicinal Plants. Tibetan Medical Publications, 1995.
  • Zhang Y, Wu X, Ren Y, et al. Safety evaluation of a triterpenoid-rich extract from bamboo shavings. Food Chem Toxicol Nov 2004;42(11):1867-75.
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