top of page

The Remarkable Properties of Kiln-Fired Bamboo Salt

The Popular Korean Condiment, Jugyeom, Has Been Shown to Thwart Cancer in Mice

Jugyeom is produced from hand-harvested sea salt from Korea Bay salt ponds.  ©istock
Jugyeom is produced from hand-harvested sea salt from Korea Bay salt ponds. ©istock

An ancient Korean condiment known as jugyeom may be the world’s most expensive salt. In its most potent and expensive form, jugyeom has a distinct purple color and comes with a price tag of $100 per 8.5 oz.

Recent research suggests that the price might be worth it. While already attracting global attention for its distinct manufacturing process and health claims, jugyeom has now shown efficacy against cancer in mice.

Jugyeom and the Five Elements

The process for creating jugyeom, also known as bamboo salt, is ancient. But it gained a wider audience in 1980 when Il-hoon Kim, a doctor of Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM), published his book "The Universe and the Divine's Medicine."

Interactions of the 5 elements.  ©public domain
Interactions of the 5 elements. ©public domain

TKM recognizes the importance of the five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. The production process of jugyeom involves high-quality ingredients, including handcrafted sea salt from Korea Bay (water), bamboo stalks and Korean pinewood (wood), and clay from the Korean mountains (earth), all of which are roasted (fire) in a metal tray and kiln (metal).

Korean pine.  ©yeowatzup/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Korean pine. ©yeowatzup/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Originally, bamboo salt was roasted two to three times, but the number of roasting times rose to nine, as this number holds great significance in TKM for enhancing health and wellness. This “nine-times roasted” (9X) innovation was brought to life by the visionary Dr. Kim, who dedicated himself to refining and perfecting the process. 

The manufacturing process is a meticulous, multi-step procedure that spans several weeks and requires the utmost care and attention to detail at every stage.

The use of sun-dried sea salt sourced from Korea Bay, carefully packed into hand-selected three-year-old bamboo stalks, is just the beginning. These stalks are then sealed with mountain clay, creating a protective layer that preserves the integrity of the salt. The final step is high-temperature roasting of the salt in a metal kiln, which takes twelve to fourteen hours using the finest Korean pinewood as fuel, bringing out the full potential of the salt.

Bamboo stalks.  ©Pixabay
Bamboo stalks. ©Pixabay

With each roasting, the bamboo stalks undergo a transformation, infusing the salt with minerals and oils from the clay and bamboo, creating an ever-more-potent product. The salt columns that remain after each roast are ground down and repacked into new bamboo stalks, beginning the cycle anew. This process is repeated eight more times, leading to the last stage, which involves the use of a special kiln and temperatures that reach above 1,000℃ (1,832℉).

This ninth roasting melts the bamboo and salt into a single entity, which is then molded into a black, rock-like structure after a period of cooling.

The final step is the breaking apart of the structure by hand, resulting in the distinctive and highly prized 9X baked purple jugyeom.

Scientific Studies Show Efficacy

Bamboo salt is gaining attention from scientists and enjoying global popularity in the growing health and wellness sector.

A recent study conducted by Dr. Kun-Young Park explored the anti-tumor properties of bamboo salt by testing its effects on highly malignant sarcoma cells in lab mice.

The mice were given a diet that contained 4.7% of various salts, including 1X, 3X, and 9X baked bamboo salt, solar salt (evaporated from sea water), and purified salt. After seven to ten days, the results revealed that bamboo salt had an anti-cancer effect, with the 9X baked bamboo salt being the most effective in inducing apoptosis (cell death) and reducing inflammation. Moreover, the 9X bamboo salt showed the highest increase in immunity or lymphocyte proliferation.

Jugyeom has also been explored as a potential treatment for H. pylori-related gastritis. H. pylori is a bacterium that has been linked to several gastrointestinal issues. The current H. pylori triple therapy treatment regimen of antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor has been declining in effectiveness. A study involving H. pylori-infected mice found that bamboo salt had anti-inflammatory effects and exhibited antibacterial activity against H. pylori. It was also shown to inhibit gastric damage caused by aspirin and ethanol. With a higher alkalinity and mineral content than regular salt, bamboo salt has the potential to be a more effective treatment option for H. pylori-associated gastritis.

Bamboo salt’s higher alkalinity and mineral content gives it higher antioxidant activity.

Bamboo salt’s higher alkalinity and mineral content also gives it higher antioxidant activity. The results suggest that jugyeom has potential as a treatment for H. pylori-related gastritis when used in combination with additional therapy.

A clinical trial compared the effectiveness of bamboo salt herbal toothpaste to conventional non-herbal toothpaste.

The double-blinded, parallel, randomized controlled trial involved sixty dental students, aged eighteen to thirty, who were free of systemic diseases, allergies, smoking, orthodontic appliances, and untreated dental caries (demineralization and remineralization of hard dental tissues). The participants brushed their teeth twice a day for two minutes using the Bass technique and refrained from using fluoride-containing products or mouthwash.

The results showed that bamboo salt herbal toothpaste had a positive impact on oral health, reducing the count of Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus and showing potential benefits such as reducing plaque and gum irritations, whitening teeth, decreasing demineralization, decreasing tooth hypersensitivity, and strengthening tooth enamel.

Easy to Buy and Use

For those who appreciate bamboo salt’s premium ingredients, it is becoming increasingly popular not just in Asia, but in the Western world as well. And it is easy to find from top Korean brands at Walmart or Amazon.

Korean bamboo salt for sale in Germany.  ©
Korean bamboo salt for sale in Germany. ©

It is important to note that jugyeom costs more than regular table salt, but, if one is willing to invest in high-quality ingredients and in health and wellness, switching out regular salt for jugyeom is a delicious way to incorporate this unique ingredient into anyone’s diet.

The purest form, 9X baked bamboo salt, can be enjoyed by letting one to four grams melt gently on the tongue, while five to seven grams of 1X or 2X jugyeom can be added to any recipe for extra flavor. For those who love Korean cuisine, a kimchi jjigae (stew) recipe by Woodland Foods is a great place to start incorporating jugyeom into one’s cooking.

Kimchi jigae.  ©Alan Chan/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Kimchi jigae. ©Alan Chan/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

*Yuka Sakai is a fourth-year student at Wongu University of Oriental Medicine in Nevada, where she is studying to become a licensed Oriental Medicine Doctor in Nevada.

Sang Hyun Lee is the President of Wongu University of Oriental Medicine in Nevada and a licensed Oriental Medicine Doctor in Nevada.


Join Our Community

Sign up for our bi-monthly environmental publication and get notified when new issues of The Earth & I  are released!


bottom of page