Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum)

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Rhubarb Overview:

There are three species of Rhubarb used medicinally (Rheum palmatum, R. tanguticum, and R. officinale), all found in temperate zones around the world.

Rhubarb rhizomes have a strong, bitter flavour, mostly as a result of their high anthraquinone content. These anthraquinones are also what gives rhubarb its laxative and astringent qualities. It's important to consider safety when using any herb with anthraquinones. It should only be used under the guidance of a trained practitioner if using this herb for anything more than as a bitter in small doses.

Other parts of the rhubarb plant, such as the brightly colored leaf stallks are popular for their tart flavour when making soups and pie.

+ Indications

  • Constipation (higher dose)
  • Diarrhea (lower dose)
  • Dysentery
  • Functional dyspepsia

+ Contraindications

  • Avoid use if taking heart medications, especially cardiac glycosides and drugs affecting potassium loss.

Herbal Actions:

  • Bitter
  • Laxitive [1]
  • Cholagogue
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antineoplastic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Nephroprotective
  • Astringent (low dose)
  • Styptic
  • Stomachic (low dose)
 

Main Uses:

Rhubarb is mainly used as a bitter in small doses to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver/gallbladder and to aid digestion. It is also used for diarrhea in smaller doses, and for constipation in higher doses.

 

Daily Dosage

Liquid Extract

Ratio: 1:2

1.5-4 mL

Weekly Dosage

Liquid Extract

Ratio: 1:2

10-30 mL

 

Part Used

Rhizome

Family Name

Polgonaceae

Distribution

Rhubarb can be found all over the world in temperate zones, however, the main species used is Rheum palmatum (Chinese rhubarb), which grows in Northern China and Tibet.

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Constituents of Interest

  • Aloe-emodin
  • Chrysophanol
  • Calcium oxylate

Common Names

  • Rhubarb
  • Chinese Rhubarb
  • Da Huang (China)
 

Botanical Info:

Rhubarb is a member of the Polygonaceae family of plants. This family is also referred to as the buckwheat family. There are 1200 species in this family, and about 48 genera. Other noteable members of this family include Rumex crispus (yellow dock), and Fagopyrum esculentum (buckwheat).

 

Level Of Research:

 

Clinical Applications Of Rhubarb:

Rhubarb is reliable for promoting a change in bowel movements. It can be used on the smaller end of the dosage for treating diarrhea, and on the higher end of the dosage for constipation. Additionally, the intense bitter flavour of rhubarb makes it useful in small doses as a bitter for stimulating digestion and liver function.

One area deeming further research is for its ability to attenuate the blood brain barrier. This may be a useful mechanisms for antipsychotic medications, nervines, and nootropics in the future.

 

Cautions:

Avoid rhubarb if taking medications for a heart condition or medications that affect potassium loss through the kidneys.

 
 

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References:

See the full rhubarb monograph for a list of references.