Bamboo shoot growing out of the ground

Is bamboo edible or is it toxic?

When planting bamboo in a garden, it is important to know whether it is toxic to your family or pets. Some parts of the bamboo plant can even be eaten.

Some bamboo carries a toxin that creates hydrogenic cyanide when chewed or digested. Proper cooking or preparing gets rid of cyanide (cyanogenic glycosides) so that it’s safe to eat or use.

You do not have to bother with the canned shoots because they are absolutely harmless with no further cooking required. How is this possible? And what about the bamboo in your garden? Can it be toxic for your pets?

Is bamboo edible?

The answer is: yes and no. Bamboo shoots are the only part that is edible and only from certain species. The shoots are new bamboo plants that shoot up in spring to develop new culms. They are roughly 1 inch / 2-3 cm (some might be bigger) and have a yellowish color.

Commercial products are usually harmless. The species used and preparation should not allow for high amounts of cyanide. Most of them have been previously treated as well. Bamboo has been consumed by people even in ancient times. Mushrooms and bamboos have something in common. Most of them are poisonous but there are also edible varieties.

There are over 1000 identified species globally, but only 110 varieties are registered to have consumable shoots. The cyanide in bamboo shoots is, in fact, taxiphyllin. It is unique because it degenerates quickly in boiling water. That is why boiling or cooking bamboo shoots should eliminate the problem. But don’t worry, taxiphyllin is also very bitter. This is a great warning because who wants to eat something bitter, right?

How does the cyanide disappear to make them edible?

Boiling bamboo shoots for half an hour at 208°F (98°C) eliminates approximately 70%. Therefore even the highest amount of cyanide would be detoxified after boiling for two hours. The optimal cooking procedure is 208-215 °F (98–102°C) for 148–180 min (97% cyanide reduction).

Other ways of processing bamboo would be soaking and drying. If bamboo shoots are soaked for 72 h, they potentially lose 90% of the cyanide. Drying takes way longer but is effective as well. If you are looking into crafting with bamboo, a combination of soaking and sun-drying might be your best option. You don’t need to worry if you are building something but for water vessels, cups, drinking water pipes, etc. I would make sure that cyanide won’t become an issue. Just as bamboo straw producers do, soak them for 2-3 days and then set it in the sun to dry for about a week.

Fresh bamboo shoots are edible for around 2 weeks. If they are not stored properly, they will produce a bitter taste. Keep them refrigerated and away from sunlight. Raw shoots need to be blanched, boiled or immersed in water overnight before cooking. This process can reduce any risk of ingesting harmful toxins.

Canned shoots are absolutely safe. They are a great replacement for fresh shoots and is packed with water. Don’t forget to rinse it before eating. If you notice an unusual smell, just boil them for a few minutes. Dried shoots require a prolonged soaking time and gradual, separate cooking before combining them to a dish.

Edible bamboo shoots on a plate and canned in a glass jar
As long as it is prepared properly, you can enjoy bamboo as you please

Is it poisonous to pets?

Several household plants can be dangerous to pets, but not bamboo. Some curious pets may chew bamboo plants. It is okay because it is non-toxic to your dogs, cats, and horses.

However, lucky bamboo and heavenly bamboo are dangerous to cats and dogs. They are commonly mistaken as bamboo but they don’t belong to the bamboo species. These plants may cause intestinal discomfort, drooling, dilated pupils, and increased heart-rate. They may manifest some symptoms of depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, and incoordination. So keep your lucky bamboo out of reach or give it to a pet-less home if you are too sceptical.

What is the first aid for pet poisoning from bamboo-like plants?

Once you see some of the symptoms listed above, you should act immediately. Different poisons need a specific first aid response. Give activated charcoal to your pets immediately. It will help maximize the absorption of poisons and help expel the poisonous lucky bamboo. You can find activated charcoal biscuits online and at most local pet stores. You might as well save it in your pet’s first aid kit.

The only trustworthy approach to induce vomiting is using 3% hydrogen peroxide. That will be roughly 1ml for every 1lb of weight in less than two hours after ingestion.

The safest way is to see a veterinary immediately though. Tell the vet that you have lucky bamboo and that your pet may have eaten it.

Lethal to us, but what about pandas?

Fresh bamboo has cyanide and if ingested, it will cause an average human body to be seriously sick. It can also be deadly if you consume higher amounts.

Pandas, on the other hand, have broader capabilities. They are appreciated as a charming big beast or a representation of Chinese diplomacy, and an endangered species. It is not shocking that pandas are perceived as lazy creatures, but in reality, they have a pretty impressive ability. Their bodies can neutralize cyanide.

Giant pandas consume more than 65% of cyanide in bamboo shoots. However, their bodies are capable of turning 80% of the absorbed cyanide into a weak toxic chemical called thiocyanate and pandas can simply pee it out.

Panda eating bamboo leaves

What are the edible bamboo species?

Like I mentioned above, there are only a few species that can be eaten which are also commercially prepared. The apparent difference is size. They have to be peeled and treated before they can be sold fresh in sterile vacuum packs for extended freshness. They can also be canned sliced, whole, or shredded. You can try dried, dried and salted, or frozen bamboo shoots.

See all bamboo species with edible shoots here!

Old Hamii or Bambusa oldhamii

This bamboo has a smaller shoot and is known as the sweet edible shoot. Its sugary smell is similar to freshly cut sugarcane.

Giant Bamboo or Dendrocalamus latiflorus

Giant Bamboo is native to Taiwan. It has a thicker shoot than Asper. It is perfect for pickling especially when the weight is between 14oz (400g) to 141oz (3kg).

Asper Bamboo or Dendrocalamus asper

Asper is one of the largest of the bamboo species. It has a texture that looks like an apple. It is somewhat less bitter than other varieties. Most people like it for salads and other summer recipes.

Madake Running Bamboo or Phyllostachys bambusoides

This has a lightweight shoot that belongs to the running species. It is also known as pigskin bamboo. You will enjoy it the most when it is roasted and in tapas.

Moso Running Bamboos or Phyllostachys pubescens

Moso running bamboos are native to China. It is recognized as a specialty by many shoot critics. They are an authentic ingredient in nigiri sushi recipes. The shoots are somewhat challenging to harvest because they are hidden underneath the surface.  

Can bamboo be toxic to pets or humans? How can bamboo be eaten if it is toxic? We give you the answers! #bamboo #food #healthyfood #healthyeating #petcare

What are the benefits of eating bamboo shoots?

Excellent weight loss diet

Bamboo shoots are low in sugar, calories, carbohydrates and high in protein. A half cup has only 20 calories. There are barely 3g to 4g of carbohydrates for every 100g (3.5oz) meal. Bamboo shoots contain less sugar than other fruits and vegetables. It’s only 2.5g per 100g (3.5oz) serving.

Lowers cholesterol

A bamboo shoot diet can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, according to studies. The diet can reduce the atherogenic index which is an indicator for a cardiovascular disorder.

Potassium-rich food

There are about 800mg of potassium in a can of bamboo shoots. A medium banana has only 400mg. Bamboo shoots have higher potassium than other vegetables, except for spinach.

Stabilizing hormone levels

Bamboo shoots contain lignans which are responsible for stabilizing hormone levels. It helps balance the estrogen levels in women. And in men, it helps help balance testosterone. Lignans are transformed by beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

Learn more about the health benefits of bamboo shoots here!

Cooked, edible bamboo shoots on a plate

Which bamboo shoots are edible?

There are hundreds of edible bamboo varieties. But only a few of them can be eaten and even fewer are sold in markets. There are different sizes and preparations to choose from. Here are some of them:

Fresh bamboo shoots

Unprocessed shoots are usually accessible in Southern California. The taste of fresh bamboo is best if vacuum bagged and a lot tastier if canned. The preparation is time-consuming but worth it.

Prepared bamboo shoots

Bigger markets can prepare them whole, chopped or crushed. They are peeled and cooked long enough to treat them properly for no toxication. They are processed and cooked in Asia, and then exported to North America in sterile bulk boxes.

Winter bamboo shoots

They are from giant bamboo that rises to approximately 100 feet high. They are collected in the wintertime when they are shorter but sweeter and softer than the Hairy spring shoots. They are white in color and bigger in size. Nowadays, they are commonly marketed whole in sterile vacuum packs.

Green bamboo shoots

The shoots are white in color although the name would indicate differently. The name came from a family of bamboo called Green Bamboo. They are regularly firm and can easily be sliced into any shape you desire. They are sold at a premium rate, though.

Thin bamboo shoots

These shoots from P. bambusoides species are long and thin. The seasoned shoot is pretty long at 72 feet high. These are sold in vacuum packages or canned. They are a little more fibrous than the bigger ones and have a sharp and lightly bitter taste.

Bulk bamboo tips

They are from the budding tips of more developed stems like palm hearts. They are safe to eat with great flavor. These shoots are firm but not dense. The tips are prepared only from bulk containers due to their size.

Salted dried bamboo

This traditional shoot preparation wraps the shoot usually in a bamboo splint case filled with dried bamboo leaves. However, because of the current technology, this product is placed in a plastic vacuum pack container. This is made from thin shoots that are dried and salted. Before using, they have to be immersed in water.

Unsalted dried bamboo

Most dried bamboo in stores is of this kind, whether it is cut broad or thin. They are regularly treated with sulfur dioxide or another sulfite to preserve and keep color. Some of those goods, particularly the ones from China are dark yellow in color.

Smoked dried bamboo shoots

They were used as a food but nowadays, they are mainly made into a seasoning with sesame seeds or peanuts. The pieces are cooked to clean them. Then joints are cut out and the parts between the joints are chopped into little bits. Sesame seeds or peanut paste and salt are combined and boiled until it becomes soft.

Sour bamboo shoots

In Southeast Asia, salt fermented shoots are pretty common for use as a seasoning ingredient in soups and other dishes.

Would you eat bamboo shoots?


  • Hi, my daughter and a friend want to make water vessels out of cut sections of bamboo stalks. From what I read in your article it sounds like that would be poisonous. Is that correct?

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for reverifying. I don’t assume that you are going to eat the water vessels, are you? So it should be safe to use. When building them, wear gloves (which you should anyways when constructing something). I haven’t used bamboo for construction yet (still planning a project) but you can boil it (if possible) in a boric water solution. It will also make the vessels last longer by making it rot-resistant. I hope this helped!

  • I have seen videos of getting fresh water to drink (in survival situations) from out of large bamboo…would it be toxic with traces of cyanide ?

    • Hi Georgia, that’s an interesting question! However, I cannot answer it. I don’t know how much cyanide would be transferred into the water. I will do my research and update this article as soon as I can. I do know that there are bamboo species that have less cyanide or (actually) taxiphyllin than others. So, it may be possible with certain species. But like I said, I will have to do my research first before I say something very wrong.

  • What would be the best bamboo species for bamboo tea.

    • Hi Jacqueline, this is a good question! I haven’t heard of bamboo tea before. I just researched this a bit and it seems like you could use any of them. However, you want a short species so that you can pick the leaves easier. This means Sasa, Pleioblastus, Indocalamus, and some Fargesias.


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Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

We are James and Natalie – newly-weds & nature lovers!

We want to give you the best information possible on bamboo. Get inspired to grow bamboo or to switch to natural bamboo products!