As many as 42% of Americans report using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and massage is the most popular CAM procedure used. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provided this statistic, classifies massage that manipulates soft-body tissues as a body-based method. Body-based methods include chiropractic approaches, massage and yoga. According to the NCCAM, the majority of people using CAM rely on it to complement conventional care, rather than as an alternate to traditional care. In recent years, bamboo massage has come to be recognized as an effective form of therapeutic massage with properties similar to those of deep tissue massage.
In an ongoing NCCAM clinical trial, Yihui He, a researcher at the Beth Israel Medical Center, is studying the glucose-lowering properties of the ethanol extracts of bamboo shoot sterols. These properties have already been demonstrated in rodent studies. Salts of bamboo are another area of research. Bamboo salts are created by rubbing salt into the bamboo stub and baking them. Bamboo salts are being studied worldwide for their anti-viral properties and as chemotherapeutic agents for use in various cancers.
For more than a thousand years, bamboo has been used in China, Korea, Japan, India and Indonesia for its beneficial effects on fertility, strength, peace, and prosperity. In recent years the plant has come to be associated with good fortune and a promoter of life energy.
What Sets Bamboo Massage Apart
The medicinal properties associated with the bamboo plant, particularly the stem, make it the perfect aseptic massage tool while its oil has been shown to be an effective topical massage medium. For many years, hollow, organically-treated bamboo canes have been incorporated as therapeutic tools in shiatsu, Thai massage, deep tissue massage and lymphatic drainage massage.
Bamboo massage protocols used in North America are based on the work of French-trained massage therapist Nathalie Cecillia, who now practices in Florida and Ernesto Ortiz from the Upledger Institute. In recent years bamboo massage as introduced by these therapists has become increasingly popular in Bamboo Massage, Tian di Bamboo Massage (developed by Ortiz), Exotic Bamboo Fusion Massage or similar Bamboo-Fusion therapies. Similar to stone massage, the therapist uses the heated hollow cane as an extension of the hands to deeply massage tissue.
The therapies all rely on heated bamboo sticks of different sizes depending on the tissue that is being massaged. For instance, the largest piece, approximately 12 inches, is used to roll out tension in the fascia surrounding larger muscles. The smallest rattan tools, which are covered with fabric, are used in a tapping motion to improve circulation.
In Tian Di Bamboo Massage, the Chinese five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water are incorporated into the protocol, which includes cupping techniques and stroking (Gua sha technique).
Sessions can vary from 30 to 90 minutes, and they can be done in conjunction with other massage techniques. Whatever variation is used, the client may benefit from the medicinal properties associated with bamboo as well as the added pressure to myofascial tissue provided by the sturdy stem. The ability to use smaller sections of bamboo allows the therapist to effectively massage small areas such as the back of the neck. Benefits specific to bamboo massage include:
Increased sense of relaxation and well being Enhanced blood and lymphatic circulation Reduced musculoskeletal pain Improved skin suppleness Relief of muscle and tendon tightness Improved flexibility and range of motion Revitalization of the mind and body DetoxificationSources:
Bubhuti Dharmanda, "Bamboo as Medicine," Institute for Traditional Medicine, December 2004.
Expanding Horizons of Healthcare, The Five-Year Plan, NCCAM News, December 2011
Sonia Osorio, "Bamboo Massage, A Meeting of Past and Present," Massage and Bodywork Magazine, May/June 2008.