With over 300 species cultivated worldwide, bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) is actually a giant grass. Bamboo has been used for more than 7,000 years for food and for making a wide variety of useful things, including weapons, paper and building materials. Prized for its hypoallergenic qualities, bamboo can be used indoors in its many forms by individuals who may be highly sensitive to other plants and natural fibers. However, houseplants commonly called "bamboo" are in fact unrelated to the common bamboo and can cause allergic reactions.
Because of its rapid growth, regenerative powers, and beauty, bamboo in its many variations offers a healthy, eco-friendly alternative for food, fabric, home furnishing and decoration. Bamboo is used in products ranging from diapers to deodorant, and cultivated both indoors and out as an attractive addition to landscaping and home decor. Since almost all parts of the bamboo plant can be used, it is a versatile, renewable and healthful resource, according to online resource Bamboo Grove.
Bamboo can be used to make many implements and objects, including canes, water pipes and furniture. Its fibers create hypoallergenic bedding and pillows. Silky, soft bamboo fabric soothes the skin, wicks moisture and offers comfort to those with allergies to fibers such as wool. Bamboo shoots add nutrition and taste to Asian dishes of all kinds, and with its antibacterial and deodorant properties, bamboo constitutes a key ingredient in natural body products. Traditional Asian medicine also relies on the healing properties of bamboo for a variety of remedies, according to the Institute for Traditional Medicine.
Since it is highly hypoallergenic, bamboo can be a good home decorating choice for those with sensitivities to houseplants. Bamboo fabrics, floor covering and furniture can also reduce allergic reactions in individuals who are sensitive to natural fibers or wood. Bamboo Grove’s Bamboo Blog also reports that bamboo contains a natural bacterial agent.
Although bamboo is considered a hypoallergenic plant, it isn’t completely allergen or reaction free. Raw bamboo shoots contain hydrocyanic acid, which can cause cyanide poisoning. In people with rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis, a contact dermatitis involving reactions to numerous environmental allergens, bamboo plants or fibers can stimulate allergic responses, according to online resource All Allergy. Individuals who are allergic to wheat and other grasses may react to bamboo plants in the home. Bamboo clothing and diapers, which offer a breathable, comfortable alternative to traditional fibers, can cause skin reactions in some hypersensitive individuals, although chemicals in the processing may also cause these reactions.
A "bamboo" plant frequently used for indoor decor is not bamboo at all. Called "Lucky Bamboo," Dracaena sanderiana is an attractive, low-maintenance plant with stems that resemble true bamboo. A relative of the corn plant, lucky bamboo is often grown and sold hydroponically, its stems trained into decorative shapes and placed in bowls or vases filled with gravel or glass beads. According to University of Connecticut Extension, while dracaena plants are not toxic to humans, touching or eating them may cause a reaction in those who are sensitive. The plants are toxic to pets.