Additional notes (click to expand)


The only species in the genus Nandina although there are numerous cultivars. Originating in Japan, it has become an invasive weed in North America both through seed and rhizomatous spread.


It has no licensed or unlicensed uses in humans.


Although called 'Heavenly Bamboo' it is a member of the Family Berberidaceae and not a bamboo.
H.F. Oakeley note

Other use

Contains cyanogenic glycosides which liberate hydrogen cyanide when damaged. Nothing eats it. Pharmacists have also found a chemical in the sap, called nantenine, which is a potential antidote to poisoning by ecstasy with which it shares the same molecular shape.
Oakeley, Dr. Henry F. (2013). Wellcome Library notes. link


It contains the alkaloid Nantenine which is an antagonist at alpha1 adrenergic receptors and 5-HT2a Serotonin receptor. While an antidote to the effects of ecstasy in animals it has no licence for human use as the problems of testing any medicine in children who take ecstasy are almost insurmountable.
Wikipedia (August 2019)


Cyanide is liberated from damaged leaves by enzymes acting on cyanogenic glycosides in the leaf tissues. This toxicity doubtless contributes to the lack of predators affecting the plant. It is not eaten by rabbits or deer so is useful in gardens where these are a problem. Birds may eat the seeds, but excessive ingestion kills them - the birds at the College do not eat the seeds so they remain decorative most of the year.
H.F. Oakeley note

Geographical distribution

  • Asia-Temperate, Eastern Asia, Japan

Nandina domestica Thunb.

Genus: Nandina
Species: domestica Thunb.
Common names: Sacred Bamboo; Heavenly Bamboo
Distribution summary: C. China; Japan
Habit: Shrub
Hardiness: H5 - Hardy; cold winter
Garden status: Currently grown
Garden location: Far East (L)
Reason for growing: Medicinal, prescription only medicine

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