Bamboo may be hollow on the inside, but it’s also filled with surprises. Bamboo has been used for so many purposes and for so many centuries, it truly boggles the imagination. The multitudinous uses of bamboo could fill a book, but here are a few unexpected uses that will fill you with laughter and wonder.

Surprising uses for bamboo

1. Water purification

Clean drinking water has always been a precious commodity, and in the modern age of municipal tap water, many are concerned about the chemicals and contaminants they may be consuming. Most cities add chlorine and fluoride to the drinking water. And in drier parts of the country, including Southern California, the water from the faucet often has a strange tinge to it.

So some people install filtration systems in their homes, others drive to the water store every week to purchase jugs of reverse osmosis water, and some have it delivered regularly to their house.

Another great option is bamboo charcoal, and it’s as easy as dunking a slab into a jug of water. Within 3-4 hours, the bamboo leaches the impurities from your tap water.

Available from Amazon, IPPINKA Bamboo Charcoal Water Filter is a product of Japan, and it reliably removes chlorine from your water, for a cleaner and better tasting refreshment. They come three sticks in a box, and each stick lasts about a month or two. Just boil the stick once a week for ten minutes to keep it fresh.

2. Boo Kraut

Fermented foods are all the rage these days, for the benefits of probiotic microbes and to promote good gut health. Whether you’re eating raw sauerkraut, fresh kimchi or cultured sourdough, your G.I. tract will be quivering with gratitude and satisfaction.

Another fermented snack that has yet to go fully mainstream is fermented bamboo, or what I like to call Boo Kraut (although Sour Boo might make more sense). Asian cultures have been consuming fresh and tender bamboo shoots for thousands of years. And one of the best ways to prepare them is through fermentation.

There are a variety of ways to do this, but the easiest is to simply jar your freshly harvested shoots with brine (1 tbsp sea salt per pint of purified water). Keep in a cool place away from direct sunlight, and check every few days. Within a week or so your shoots should taste sour rather than salty. Refrigerate once they achieve a flavor that you like, to stop the fermentation process. Bon appétit!

3. Bamboo labyrinth

For your a-maze-ment, here’s a trick with bamboo topiary that you’ve probably never seen. But if you’ve ever gone with a 6-year-old to the Bambouseraie in southern France, you will surely have enjoyed their fantastic bamboo labyrinth.

Bambouseraie bamboo garden labyrinth

This meticulously cultivated hedge can bring hours of entertainment. I’m still not sure which is worse: When they get lost inside the maze, or when they have so much fun finding their way out that they refuse to leave!

4. Bamboo skivvies

If you’ve ever visited a serious bamboo shop, like Bambu Batu in San Luis Obispo, then you should know about bamboo boxers and bamboo panties. But if you’re just a casual gardening enthusiast, they might come as a bit of a shock.

What’s really surprising though, is just how comfortable these are. Nothing like the rigid, woody grass from which it’s made, bamboo underwear is phenomenally soft and comfortable. Not only that, but the fabric from bamboo is also antimicrobial, temperature regulating and odor-resistant, which are some pretty fine benefits.

5. Black toothpaste for whiter teeth

This one still blows my mind, but bamboo charcoal is a remarkable product. In the same way that it’s used to purify water (see above), bamboo charcoal can also clean your teeth with spectacular results.

You might wince to see the black cream as it comes out of the tube. But you’ll be smiling bright once you’ve had the pleasure of brushing with bamboo charcoal toothpaste, also available on Amazon. And you’ll enjoy whiter teeth and a cleaner conscience, knowing that what’s on your toothbrush is made from natural, organic bamboo.

You can also find a great selection of bamboo toothbrushes that use activated bamboo charcoal in the bristles, for the same purifying properties.

6. Erosion control

Ardent proponents of bamboo like to tout the fact that bamboo can produce 30 percent more oxygen than an equal area of trees. But less talked about are bamboo’s benefits for the ground we walk on. As industrialization, construction, and climate change continue to reshape the earth’s surface, landslides and harmful erosion are growing concerns, especially in areas more susceptible to heavy rains.

Bamboo’s complex and tenacious network of rhizome roots make it ideal for holding the topsoil in place and preventing erosion. If you’ve ever tried to uproot or remove a well-established bamboo plant, you know just how much they prefer to stay put.

7. May the Sporks be with you

Like the bamboo boxers and panties mentioned above, this one will be quite familiar to our regular customers. But the first time you see a reusable bamboo spork, you’ll be scratching your head. We’ve even had more than one casual observer mistake the spork for a hair pick.

Bamboo Spork from Amazon

In fact, the bamboo spork is a fantastic way to help eliminate your use of single-use plastic utensils. Portable and practical, the spork fits easily into a pouch, purse or lunch box. Next time you go for a picnic or order a meal to go, skip the disposable fork and spoon, and pack a spork instead!

8. Panda Pooh Paper

No matter how many tablets of paper you’ve thumbed through, you’ve never never seen one that makes you chuckle like a pad of Panda Poo Poo Paper. Sure, your first reaction will be to recoil in disgust. But if you think about it, the deforestation and harsh chemicals that go into conventional paper making are far more offensive.

And what do panda bears eat? They eat bamboo and nothing else. And what goes in must come out. You won’t find a more renewable product than this.

You can also find paper products made from plentiful Elephant Pooh Paper from Mr. Ellie Pooh and Donkey Pooh Paper for the environmentally conscious and politically savvy. All available from Amazon.

9. Enhanced interrogation

Last, and possibly least, here’s one use for bamboo that we would never condone or endorse. But we’ve had a lot of people ask about it, so here it is.

It’s hard to say when this practice first originated, but stories of bamboo torture were fairly common during World War II. Apparently, the Japanese would slip thin strips of bamboo under the fingernails of enemy prisoners while pumping them for military secrets. As the questioning went on, the prisoners would soak their hands in water. And as they did so, the bamboo strips would slowly expand, to produce an excruciating sense of discomfort. After a couple hours of this, the soldiers would pretty much confess to anything.

Learn more

These fun things you didn’t know about bamboo are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s virtually no limit to how we can use bamboo to live a cleaner and more sustainable life on this fragile planet. The need for alternative resources and more responsible environmental stewardship has never been greater, and bamboo is one of the most valuable alternatives at our disposable. To learn more about bamboo’s many uses and its astonishing potential, check out some of these other popular articles.

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