Rhubarb Root (Rheum officinale/palmatum)
Rheum palmatum, the easier of the rhubarb species to locate for medicinal purposes, is a plant native to western China and eastern Tibet; Rheum officinale is currently cultivated only in gardens in temperate regions of the world.1 There is also Rheum rhababrarum and R. rhapositum, which are garden varieties used mainly in cooking.2 Only rhubarb’s taproot is used medicinally and it must be at least three years old, though it is suggested that roots six to ten years old are actually most effective.3
What it is used for: Rhubarb is well known as a gentle laxative, especially suitable for children, because it is so mild.4 In addition, ingestion of rhubarb promotes secretions in the bowel and stomach and stimulates propulsive contractions while simultaneously increasing the water and electrolyte content of the stool.5 It is known to fight infection and help eliminate worms from the intestines, enhance gallbladder function and promote the healing of duodenal ulcers, and is helpful in the treatment of constipation.6
Research Highlights: Rhubarb root’s main constituents are anthraquinone glycosides, including rhein, physcion, emodin, chrysophanol and aloe-emodin, each of which has a laxative effect.7 Tannins, flavonoids, starches and calcium oxalate are also present.8
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1. The Complete Guide to Natural Healing. (2000). International Masters Publishers, AB., 1:142.
2. Armstrong, D. (2001). Herbs That Work, Ulysses Press, pg. 128.
3. The Complete Guide to Natural Healing. (2000). International Masters Publishers, AB., 1:142.
4. Mowrey, D. (1986). The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine, Keats Publishing, pg. 171.
5. Armstrong, D. (2001). Herbs That Work, Ulysses Press, pg. 128.
6. Balch, P. & Balch, J. (2000). Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd ed., Avery Publishing, pg. 107.
7. The Complete Guide to Natural Healing. (2000). International Masters Publishers, AB., 1:142.