Bamboo shoot

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Code: f51
Latin name: Phyllostachys pubescens
Source material: Fresh shoot
Family: Poaceae
Common names: Bamboo shoot, Pubescent Bamboo, Moso, Madake, Hachiku

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
The Bamboo is cultivated in China and Japan for its edible young shoots and for other uses. There are 91 genera and about 1,000 species (1), but only a small number of species produce ingredients common in Asian cookery. Although Bamboo plants are treelike and can be very tall, they are grasses and are closely related to Maize and Wheat.

Moso is the name common in the East for the evergreen type of Bamboo tree that produces edible shoots. The tree has blue-green culms covered with white powder when new, and pale, dense, bending foliage. Growth can be over 6 m high, and flowering may be at intervals of many years. The shoots are harvested in the spring when they are about 8 cm above the ground. They are cut about 5 cm below soil level.

The season for Bamboo shoots in Japan is the early part of the spring, when 3 kinds are common: Moso, Madake and Hachiku. Several species of the closely related genera Phyllostachys, Bambusa and Dendrocalamus are eaten fresh in season or canned.

Bamboo grows in woodland and cultivated groves, but requires special damp, steadily warm, sheltered and rich-soiled conditions that make it rare in the West.

The tender-crisp, ivory-coloured shoots (new culms that come out of the ground) of Bamboo are edible. They are used in numerous Asian broths and other dishes, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, both canned and (rarely in the West) fresh. Fermented Bamboo shoots, called khorisa, are an important ingredient in certain cuisines. The shoots of some species must be cooked before eating, as they contain hydrocyanic acid that can cause cyanide poisoning (1).

Like other grasses, Bamboo has stems containing sugar, and syrup is made from them. The traditional Taiwanese manner of preparing this food involves fermenting the stems. They are most often used as an ingredient in traditional Asian dishes, but may be a garnish on other foods as well.

Bamboo is used in Chinese medicine for treating infections. The leaves are used in the treatment of arthritic inflammations. The sheaths of the stem are a treatment for nausea and sour stomach.

The canes make good water pipes. They are also used for household utensils, various types of woven handicrafts, papermaking, and even heavy construction. The rhizomes are used as walking sticks and umbrella handles.

Unexpected exposure
See under Environment.

No allergens from this plant have yet been characterised.

Potential cross-reactivity
An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected, as well as to a certain degree among members of the family Poaceae (2).

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Bamboo can occasionally induce symptoms of food allergy in sensitised individuals; however, few studies have been reported to date.
IgE antibodies to Bamboo have been reported in patients with atopic dermatitis, rhinitis and asthma (3). The efficacy of Pharmacia CAP System ImmunoCAP® for Bamboo f51, compared to SPT, was reported to be high (4).

Bamboo shoots were suspected of contributing to allergic symptoms in agricultural workers in Japan (5).

Other reactions
Contact allergy and delayed hypersensitivity has also been reported (6).

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman,


  1. Wikipedia contributors, ”Bamboo,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed September 8, 2008)
  2. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09
  3. Chiba T et al. Clinical evaluation of Pharmacia CAP System new food allergens. Paper presented at Jap Soc Pediatric Allergol 1992
  4. Matsumaru S, Artia M et al. Clinical evaluation of Pharmacia CAP System new allergens for fish, vegetables, fruits and grains. Paper presented at Jap Soc Ped Allergol 1992
  5. Ueda A, Ueda T, Matsushita T, Ueno T, Nomura S. Prevalence rates and risk factors for allergic symptoms among inhabitants in rural districts. Sangyo Igaku 1987;29(1):3-16
  6. Kitajima T. Contact allergy caused by bamboo shoots. Contact Dermatitis 1986;15(2):100-2


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.