Bamboo is everywhere these days. Fibers from the fast-growing plant -- which is technically a grass, not a tree -- are turning up in clothing, bedding, building materials, and other goods, including pillows.
Why buy a bamboo pillow? Some online sources claim that fabrics and pillows made from bamboo are naturally soft, durable, and breathable.
They also claim that bamboo is hypoallergenic. That means it's less likely than other materials to cause an allergic reaction.
There isn't much solid research on the health benefits of bamboo pillows. But there is evidence that bamboo fibers -- the ones used in bamboo pillows -- have many of the qualities talked about online.
What exactly is a bamboo pillow? It's partly made with bamboo fibers, which come from a crushed up, treated, and hardened mixture of bamboo leaves and trunk flesh. The bamboo portion of the pillow is in the casing, not the stuffing.
Some potential health benefits are:
Bamboo naturally wicks moisture and heat. The fibers of the bamboo plant are hollow, and the small gaps and holes in bamboo fibers absorb moisture. They also allow hot air to escape. Compared to other fabrics used to make pillows, bamboo may be better at keeping a sleeper's head cool and dry.
Bamboo fabrics are soft and static-free. Bamboo fibers are naturally anti-static and anti-cling. Woven into fabric, they also tend to be soft and lustrous, somewhat like cashmere or silk.
Bamboo may be antibacterial and hypoallergenic. There's some evidence that bamboo fibers naturally resist the growth of bacteria. This means they're less likely to harbor microorganisms that could lead to illness or smelly odors. But some studies that have looked at bamboo have not found that it's more anti-bacterial than cotton.
There is also some evidence that bamboo really is less likely to cause an allergic reaction compared to some other textiles.
Bamboo is easy to care for. Compared to cotton, bamboo materials are more wrinkle-resistant and less likely to shrink in the wash.
Bamboo can be eco-friendly. From an environmental standpoint, there are a few more benefits of bamboo. Compared to trees, bamboo absorbs much more carbon dioxide -- a greenhouse gas -- and makes more fresh oxygen.
Bamboo also grows back much more quickly than most plants. It's one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. It biodegrades easily, and it doesn't need much water. In most cases, rainwater is enough to sustain bamboo growth.
Unlike many other crops, bamboo doesn't need any pesticide treatments.
There are also lots of unknowns. Bamboo-made goods, including pillows, may provide perks over and above other materials. But so far, there's really no good research comparing the health benefits of bamboo pillows to other types.