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When it comes to bamboo, there are always conflicting statements as to whether or how poisonous it is. Generally, there are bamboo species that contain toxins, but the good news is that neither species is deadly. However, it should not be taken lightly if children or pets accidentally eat some of the bamboo. The concentration is not the same in all parts of the plant, especially young sprouts in the raw state are questionable, but only problematic in larger quantities.


Bamboo has a complex composition of ingredients, many of which have not yet been described in detail. It is known, however, that above all the sprouts hydrogen cyanide contain. Prussic acid is a glycoside that can be fatal to both humans and animals. The plants also contain some bitter substances and flavonoids. The flavonoids are non-toxic and can be found in almost all plants.
Hydrocyanic acid in particular has a strong effect on the human body and can lead to the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • Bitter almond odor on breath
  • dizziness
  • Vomit
  • fainting

In animals, the symptoms are similar and poisoning manifests itself primarily through dizziness and vomiting.

notice: The prussic acid glycoside is destroyed by cooking and a bitter almond flavor remains. Other toxic bitter substances contained in the bamboo plants can also be neutralized by cooking.

Beware of cats

Cats are known to love to nibble on fresh greens. The advantage is that the toxins contained taste rather unpleasant and the animals only rarely get such a high concentration that it poses a health risk to them. Indoor cats often eat bamboo plants because they mistake it for cat grass. Therefore, caution is particularly important here. This also applies to dogs, which also eat the bamboo plants.
If you buy bamboo plants for your home, you should consider the following:

  • choose a non-toxic variety
  • Plant should be organically cultivated
  • Bamboo should be from a local breed

In this case, it doesn't matter if a dog or cat eats the plants. However, you should not eat them in large quantities. Pet owners should always provide suitable alternatives, because not only do they not touch the bamboo, but they also protect other indoor plants.
To be on the safe side, grids can be placed around the plants, especially when they are sprouting or forming seeds. In this country, bamboo plants only rarely form flowers and fruits, but even the seeds of otherwise harmless species can be poisonous.

children and bamboo plants

Even with pets, it rarely happens that something actually gets into the digestive tract from the bamboo plants. It's similar with children, who may cost a little bit, but that's usually it. The reason for this is that raw hydrogen cyanide has a bitter and unpleasant taste. It is therefore not uncommon for children to spit out small parts immediately because they simply do not like the bamboo.

In fact, some bamboo species would even be edible. Some may know the bamboo shoots from Asian dishes. In cooked form, the bamboo shoots themselves are no longer poisonous. Because heating decomposes the hydrocyanic acid and a light almond aroma remains. However, children and pets usually come into contact with the raw plants. This is not a problem as long as the plant remains unharmed. The hydrocyanic acid is actually a protection against feeding for the bamboo plants and only forms when the bark is damaged.

First aid

Even if it is very unlikely that a child or pet would consume parts of the bamboo plant at a dangerous level, there is a possibility that something will still enter their digestive tract. If this is the case or if there is a suspicion that parts of the plant have been eaten, parents should first and foremost remain calm. The body can process smaller amounts without any problems, but with larger amounts it has to rescue chain to be activated.

In the beginning, animals and children should be observed to see how they react. Prussic acid is in itself a relatively fast-acting toxin, which means that the first symptoms such as shortness of breath would appear very quickly. In this case, the following first aid measures are taken:

  • keep the airways clear
  • Remove vomit from oral cavity
  • Put the person/animal in a stable lateral position
  • Activate the rescue chain - for people: call an ambulance/for animals: contact a veterinarian
  • if possible check how much plant material was consumed

notice: There is a stable lateral position not only for humans, but also for animals. Similar to humans, it ensures that the respiratory tract remains free.
If there are no reactions even after a few hours, there is no danger. Parents and pet owners who still want to be on the safe side can contact their family doctor or pediatrician and, in the case of pets, their veterinarian to discuss how to proceed.

However, parents should be careful if a child has previous illnesses. This also applies to pets with general health problems or chronic diseases. In such cases, you should act immediately and, if necessary, contact the doctor in the case of a child or visit the veterinarian in the case of a pet.

Don't ban bamboo plants

A child as well as a dog or cat get along very well with a bamboo. So you don't have to ban him from your home or garden. In the spring, you can also check the shoots for damage when they are being driven out, as this is an indication that animals may have eaten them. In addition, it is precisely at these injured areas that hydrogen cyanide escapes, which is why you should not touch the injury until the plant has regenerated and the wound has closed.
So that there is no danger in the first place, you should pay attention to suitable species when you buy them. These include, for example:

  • Chinese wonders
  • Blue Dragon
  • FreshGreen

The "Blue Dragon" variety is even declared as edible. But even if a variety is not poisonous, it should not necessarily be eaten. There is often a lack of specialist knowledge of how the plants are prepared. Some types of bamboo can only be eaten if they are properly prepared.

tip: Anyone who already has bamboo plants in the garden and is not sure whether it is a questionable or harmless variety should have it determined. Experts can be found, for example, in well-stocked perennial nurseries.

No verifiable deaths

Even if dogs or cats or children get more than one leaf from the bamboo, this is usually not a problem because it is only slightly poisonous. This is also shown by the statistics, because so far there have been no documented deaths due to bamboo poisoning. This may also be due to the fact that the poisonous varieties are really only problematic for a limited period of time. During this time, garden owners should only observe simple safety measures and simply make access more difficult. As a result, living together with the bamboo is not dangerous.

notice: The content of the ingredients can vary, influenced by various factors. This includes, for example, the climate or the location, which can favor a more or less high concentration of hydrocyanic acid, which is why a low concentration can occasionally be detected even in non-toxic species.

In the dried state, such as in the form of bamboo sticks, it generally no longer poses a danger, since the toxin has already been broken down. In this case, even the dog can chew on a bamboo stick without hesitation.

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