Bamboo is a flowering perennial evergreen plant that belongs to the Poaceae family. It’s thought to have originated from Central China where people have used it for thousands of years.
There is significant anecdotal evidence that suggests this, but when it comes to the empirical kind we are quite sure that bamboo has been used for hundreds of years in construction, health, medicine, and even for beauty purposes, including hair care (1).
This article will discuss the benefits of bamboo extract, which will include a look at how it might help your hair. I will also explain how bamboo’s main component – silica – plays a significant role in these healthy hair processes and how you can begin using the supplement for your own benefit.
Bamboo Extract: The Next Best Supplement for Hair Loss?
Bamboos are the fastest growing plants in the world, and this quality of theirs has everything to do with their main compound – silica – a naturally occurring composite chemical.
So, what proof is there of silica’s (and bamboo extract, as a result) potential benefits?
One study, while not focusing on silica alone, followed the hair growth progress of females with alopecia (9). The supplement that women in the treatment group received was Viviscal, and it contained:
AminoMar C™ marine complex, a proprietary blend of shark and mollusk powder, an organic form of silica derived from Equisetum sp. (horsetail), vitamin C derived from Malpighia emarginata (acerola cherry), microcrystalline cellulose (E460), natural orange flavor, magnesium stearate, hypromellose, and glyceron.
While the placebo group’s average hair density remained the same throughout the study, the treatment group showed significant improvements. This included an increase in vellus hairs:
There were no reported adverse events during the study.
In the end, the researchers concluded that the oral supplement and its various ingredients – including silica – can be an effective method for stimulating hair growth.
The Power of Silica
The extract that makes these products work is derived from the edible parts of the plant, mainly the leaf and the stalk.
These components are rich in silica, a compound that plays an essential role in human biology (10). As a trace, ionic mineral, the body does not need a whole lot of it. This means that any kind of deficiency involving this micronutrient is extremely rare.
On the other hand, the small amount that our bodies need plays a very crucial part in our physical development.
Those who think that silica and silicon implies the presence of the same compound are mostly right.
They are one and the same, with a slight difference – silica is basically the natural form of silicon that went through an oxidization process, or in other words, got exposed to oxygen.
The reason why it’s extremely hard to develop a silica deficiency is the fact that a healthy, balanced diet is more than enough to get an ample amount of the compound into our body.
There a wide variety of foods that include the compound, and they are really not exotic in their nature. A compound this important is usually found in many different foods, though to varying degrees.
The main dietary sources of silica include (11):
- Cereal crops (millets)
When it comes to the nutritional profile of the edible products containing bamboo extract, the water content is usually high, and on average, these products contain 2.7 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of sugar.
How Silica-Based Products Can Help Your Hair
While the overall benefits of silica are now clear, let’s look at how these products can help your hair.
- Increase the volume of the hair
- Improve the density of the hair
- Make your hair stronger (12)
- Eliminating the damaged skin cells on the scalp
- Promoting collagen production (13)
- Adding shine to the hair
Other Roles of Silica
Many people argue that there is no life without this compound and, indeed, silica could very well be the most important trace mineral within the human body (14).
It plays a crucial role in various internal processes, including the body’s ability to absorb minerals which is in direct correlation with aging.
The average amount of silica contained within the human body is 7 grams.
While this may seem a miniscule amount, its quantity exceeds most of the other compounds that can be found within the human body, including iron.
Bamboo vs. Horsetail
Equisetum (also known as horsetail or snake grass) is the only existing species of the Equisetaceae, a group of vascular plants that reproduce not with the help of seeds, but spores.
Since it is the only remaining genus of his family, it is also called the “living fossil.”
Quite possibly the best attribute of this plant is its silica content, which – depending on the plant itself – can be up to 25 percent of the plant’s dry weight (16).
While that’s still impressive compared to other plants, it is nothing compared to bamboo.
While, just like bamboo, it has silica, there is a huge difference between the two plants. The horsetail plant only contains the above mentioned percentage of the compound, but bamboo can be as high as 70 percent (17).
This means that, theoretically, a single capsule with bamboo extract could contain more active substance than five to six horsetail capsules.
In addition to these two products, there are two other forms of silica on the market: colloidal silica and orthosilic acid.
Based on the contents, we can safely say that bamboo-based products are usually superior to the alternatives providing several health benefits that go beyond the realms of cosmetics.
Bamboo Extract Applications
Bamboo extract can be used in various forms including dietary and external solutions. The list includes vitamins, dietary supplements, shampoos, conditioners, and many other products.
Bamboo supplements are absorbed through the intestines before ending up in the blood. The body then delivers it to anywhere where it could be potentially helpful, including the hair follicles.
When used externally, the products – shampoo, conditioner, gels – are absorbed through the skin, including the scalp.
How Much Should Be Taken
As a food additive, silica is allowed to be added to foods up to 2 percent, whereas that number is even higher in Europe where it’s currently at 5 percent.
As far as its supplementary and cosmetic applications go, there is no known regulation and this doesn’t come as a surprise considering that it is a naturally occurring compound that can be found in many foods.
Silica-based products are considered safe for being used as supplementation or as an external, cosmetic application as long as recommendations are followed.
How Long Does It Take to Work?
Some bamboo-based products promise results within a short period of time (19). However, the results you see will vary and so too will the length of time.
There is evidence that suggests that oral supplements tend to work better in the long run, but the efficiency of external products is supported by science too.
By the standards of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), products containing bamboo extract aren’t considered to be dangerous (20).
There is no known hazardous quality that could endanger the health of the eyes, lungs (inhalation), or skin.
In case of eye contact, simply use water and, if necessary, seek medical attention. The products should not be used by those who are pregnant or breastfeeding unless your doctor gives the green light.
Products – be they supplementary or cosmetic – that use bamboo extract and silica as their main ingredients aren’t known to cause major side effects or to have severe allergenic qualities (21).
Silica-based supplementary pills, shampoos, and lotions are all recognized by the FDA as safe products.
Nevertheless, some side effects – especially when taking oral supplements – could occur.
- Lowered blood sugar levels.
- Vitamin deficiency if the supplement was made from horsetail (silica products are usually made either from bamboo extract or horsetail).
- Skin rush, but being allergic to bamboo or bamboo extract is relatively rare, it’s usually another ingredient that causes the problem.
- Problem with digestion including diarrhea, a rare occurrence.
- Can be dangerous if combined with alcohol.
It’s always best to speak with your physician before you start a new supplement.
The main compound found in bamboo – silica – has been established as a necessary micronutrient for the proper functioning of the body. And as it relates to hair, it’s known to play a key role in collagen formation (22).
As we age, however, our bodies’ collagen levels deplete naturally.
Using quality bamboo extract supplements and other products one can strengthen their connective tissues (ligament and muscles), bones, and promote healthy hair growth.
Do you have questions about bamboo extract or silica? Please leave a comment.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Anil Simhadri.