For every illness, somewhere in the world exists a plant which is the cure,” philosopher Rudolf Steiner had said.
Bamboo technologist Samir Jamatia, 36, from Garjee village in Udaipur’s Gomati district of Tripura, can't agree more with Steiner’s famous words.
Jamatia, who holds a certificate in Non-Timber Forest Products on Bamboo Technology Production from Nanjing University (2008 and 2014) in China, returned to his homeland to devise ways and means to make most of the bamboo grown in the state, knowing well that the health benefits of bamboo are largely unexplored in India.
During his stay in China, he studied the process of making bamboo leaf tea. After cooking up a storm with bamboo rice, he is now busy brewing bamboo leaf tea. “Bamboo rice is a by-product of a dying bamboo shoot that flowers into a rare variety of rice seeds while bamboo leaves are handpicked, washed, dried, processed, powdered, packaged and sold as tea. The beverage is rich in antioxidants and has antibiotic and anticancer properties,” says Jamatia.
For thousands of years, bamboo leaves have been used for their medicinal values. They have the highest concentrations of silica in the plant kingdom. No wonder, a panda can survive only by consuming bamboo shoots or bamboo leaves because they are rich in antioxidants and high in fibre.
“On an average, bamboo leaf tissue contains protein and low percentages of tryptophan and histidine. It also contains relatively high concentrations of the macro-minerals such as potassium, calcium, manganese and iron, and low concentrations of boron and zinc,” says nutritionist Meghna Bajaj.
Silica from infused leaves strengthens hair and nails, increases bone density and resistance for all cells in the body. Teas made from bamboo leaves have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. They are also rich in protein and soluble fibre that benefit the digestive system and gut functions.
“It's good for hair and skin and promotes joint health. It reduces diabetic complications, cholesterol and oxidative stress. It can prevent cancer by free radical scavenging. It also reduces the spread of tumour and cleanses the colon,” says nutritionist Ayesha Jain of QUA Nutrition.
A sip of goodness
The medical effect is primarily attributed to the presence of bioactive compounds, phenolic that has a high-antioxidant capacity, which retards, prevents or removes oxidative damage to a target molecule in bamboo leaves. Oxidation reactions produce free radicals that can initiate multiple chain reactions and eventually cause cell death.
“Flavonoids, a major functional component in extracting bamboo leaves, are a large group of natural occurrence polyphenols that have a wide range of pharmacological activities. They provide health benefits with significant properties in treating cardiovascular diseases and different types of cancer,” adds Bajaj.
Recent studies have shown that bamboo leaves contain a large number of bioactive polysaccharides that promote immunity regulation and tumour prevention. “People with hypothyroidism should not consume it. Pregnant women should avoid it. People with allergies to bamboo shoots should avoid them. If consumed in excess, that is more than three cups a day for a long time, it may lead to digestive issues,” says Jain.
However, dietitian and lifestyle coach Deepta Nagpal has a word of caution for those keen on the brew. “It is rich in antioxidants like any other tea but there's a lot of adulteration too. It’s fine to consume it occasionally. Research on herbs is not extensive and so we don’t recommend it until we have a documented study.”
Bamboo leaf tea is hugely popular in China and a few other South Asian countries, Ghana, Europe and the US because of its health benefits. The bamboo leaf tea produced in Tripura has found a market in Europe. “The bamboo grown in the northeast doesn't require fertiliser, which is a major attraction for overseas purchasers. Despite the enormous potential, there's been little intervention at the highest level for establishing a large-scale bamboo leaf tea processing unit in India,” says Jamatia, who is working on different blends to add to the beverage.