Tabasheer (Hindustani: तबाशीर or طباشیر) or Banslochan (बंसलोचन, بنسلوچن), also spelt as Tabachir or Tabashir, is a translucent white substance, composed mainly of silica and water with traces of lime and potash, obtained from the nodal joints of some species of bamboo. It is part of the pharmacology of the traditional Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine of the Indian subcontinent. It is also an ingredient in many traditional Chinese medicines.
Tabasheer that has a blueish tint (usually called neel or neelkanth) is considered superior to tabasheer that has the "more plain" yellow or white color.
Not all bamboo stems contain tabasheer. Likely candidates are found by shaking bamboo stems, which can make the mineralized tabasheer inside produce a rattling sound. These stems are split open to extract the tabasheer.
Although a part of the ancient Ayurvedic system of medicine, it has been postulated that the use of tabasheer originated in the Adivasi aboriginal tribes of India. Tabasheer was extensively exported from India for thousands of years, including through Arab traders during the medieval period. The town of Thane, close to the west coast of India, was famous as a clearing center for tabasheer in the twelfth century CE. It was called σάκχαρον in the writings of Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek pharmacologist who practiced in Rome in the time of Nero.
Etymology and alternative names
Tabasheer is referred to as Tvaksheera (त्वक्षीर) in Sanskrit, which means bark milk. Other Sanskrit-derived names have been applied to tabasheer as well, including bamboo sugar (vans-sharkar), bamboo camphor (vans karpoor) and bamboo manna. It is called Tian Zhu Huang in Mandarin, which means "heavenly bamboo yellow."
- The National druggist, Volume 37, H. R. Strong, 1907, "... 'Tabasheer' or 'banslochan' is sold in all Indian bazars ... originated among the aboriginal tribes ... article of commerce with early Arab traders ... silica, with traces of lime and potash ..."
- G.K. Ghosh, Bamboo: The Wonderful Grass, APH Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-81-313-0369-6, "... 'Tabasheer' or 'Bangsa Lochan' used in Unani and Ayurvedic medicines ..."
- Heather Newman, Tabasheer, Virtual Herbarium, retrieved 2010-09-19, "... Called “tian zhu huang” in Mandarin, which translates to “heavenly bamboo yellow,” tabasheer is a versatile, highly demanded substance described to be cold in nature and sweet in taste ..."
- Sir George Watt, Edgar Thurston, A dictionary of the economic products of India, Department of Revenue and Agriculture, Government of India, 1885, "... the σάκχαρον of the Greeks was tabasjeer 'beyond all controversy' ... The Sanscrit name for tabascher is tvakkschira, bark milk ... called Bansolochan (or tabashir) is supposed to be efficacious in paralytic complications, flatulency, and poisoning cases ... a stimulant and aphrodisiac ... a febrifuge ..."
- Edited by Edward Smedley, Hugh James Rose, and Henry John Rose, Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, B. Fellowes, 1845, "... On shaking the Bamboo a rattling noise is perceived, as if small stones were contained in the cavity ... that reckoned the best if of a bluish-white color ..."
- Sir Norman Lockyer, Nature: international journal of science, Volume 35, Macmillan Journals Ltd., 1887, "... splitting open those bamboo stems which give a rattling sound when shaken ..."
- The National druggist, Volume 30, H. R. Strong, 1900, "... Bamboo manna derives its name from the Sanskrit words - Tvak-kshira, 'bark milk'; Vansa-sarkara, 'bamboo sugar'; and Vansa-karpura, 'bamboo camphor' ... known to the early Arab travelers in the East, and the port of Thana, on the western coast of India, was famous for this product in the twelfth century ..."
- Nasir Ahmad Khan, Jadeed Hindi-Urdu Shabdkosh: Pa-Ha, Qaumi Council Bara-e-Farogh-e-Urdu Zabān, New Delhi, India, 2005, ISBN 978-81-7587-114-4, "... तबाशीर और ..."