Validating the Medicinal Properties of Bamboo Shoot used in Traditional Hela Medicine

Recent studies on the fresh juices of bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) shoots uncover prompt and significant ability to reduce immunity (immunosuppressive properties) in trials carried out with both rats and mice. 

These new findings support age old traditional knowledge of Hela medicine (traditional Sri Lankan medicine) and traditional Chinese medicinal knowledge, where the juice of the bamboo shoot is used to treat diseases such as febrile fever (fever where the cause is unknown). The  study provides a basis of scientific validation to the traditional claims of Bamboo as an immunity modulating remedy – knowledge which was lacking until now. 

The study, published in 2021, was led by a team of scientists from the Open University of Sri Lanka and delved into the effects of oral administration of fresh bamboo shoot juice. The study aimed to bridge gaps in validating the claims of immunomodulation of bamboo extracts by investigating the effect of fresh juice of young bamboo shoots on immune responses. Parameters considered include immune cell counts, cytokine levels and phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages using rats as an in-vivo model. The team also looked to determining the safety of oral administration of fresh bamboo shoot juice by examining the toxicological parameters of the kidney, liver and blood along with immune parameters. An analysis on the chemical profile of the administered bamboo shoot juice was subsequently carried out as well. Freshly extracted juice from the shoots of Bambusa vulgaris were administered in three doses of low dose 0.25 mL/200 g BW (Body Weight), human equivalent dose 0.5 mL/200 g BW and high dose 1 mL/200 g BW – once daily for 2 consecutive days. 

‘It was an exciting opportunity to be able to apply modern science to traditional Hela Medicinal knowledge and truly showcase the wisdom of our ancient ancestors’ said Ms.Nayanathara Thathsarani, the first author of the study. 

The study showed significant alterations to immune cell counts, phagocytic cell (white blood cells that ingest harmful cells) counts and serum antioxidant levels following two days of treatment. In particular, bone marrow cell counts were lowered. As the bone marrow is a primary immune organ; the lowered cell counts allowed scientist to identify the ability of bamboo shoot juice to reduce immune function. Significant reduction in neutrophil to lymphocyte ratios with low dose treatments were identified as well. However, differential white blood cell counts were found to remain unaltered. “One of the exciting things we found in the results of the study was the increased number of splenocytes in the rats treated with the high dose – it appeared to be that the spleen stepped into compensate for the loss of immune function by the bone marrow to an amazing extent!” said Dr.Nilakarawasam. 

Despite the presence of many synthetic drugs for modulating immunity, the long-term effects of such drugs are not well known. Thus, with growing attention on more holistic and natural therapeutic interventions to diseases; identifying naturally available immune controlling sources is timely. Undoubtedly, given the expanse of traditional medicinal knowledge in Sri Lanka there is much to be discovered in time to come. 


Thathsarani, N., Jayasinghe, C. D., Jayawardena, U., & Nilakarawasam, N. (2021). Effect of oral administration of the fresh juice of Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) young shoots on enumeration of bone marrow cells, platelets, splenocyte and phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages of rats. Phytomedicine Plus, 1(3), 100059.

Researcher group

  1. Nayanathara Thathsarani – Demonstrator OUSL [Lead Author] 
  2. Dr. Chanika Jayasinghe – OUSL
  3. Dr. Nilakarawasam – OUSL [Principal Investigator]
  4. Dr. Uthpala Jayawardena – OUSL

Story by

Odatha Kotagama
Student Member – IOB