Rhubarb Root - Rheum Officinale

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This Rhubarb(Rheum officinale) monograph is an excerpt from the 1999, first edition of Dr. Sharol's book "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth." You can purchase the 2020, third edition of this book with additional herbs, as well as updated and expanded information in Dr. Sharol's Book Store. You receive free shipping in the USA.

Rhubarb - Rheum officinale in the Polygonaceae or Buckwheat family

Part used: Root.

Taste/smell: Bitter, sour, astringent.

Tendencies: Cooling, drying.

Dosage: 1:5 dry strength liquid extract: 20-60 drops 1-4 times per day.

Mental picture and specific indications: Rhubarb is indicated for people who smell sour or have sour smelling feces. Symptoms are worse from uncovering, after eating and moving. The tongue is elongated and reddened at the tip and edges.

Use: (a) Stimulating laxative, (b) Cathartic, (c) Astringent, (d) Antioxidant, (e) Mild stimulating tonic to the alimentary mucous membranes, the liver and gall bladder.

Rhubarb has a laxative action due to its irritant effect on the large intestine. It produces a bowel movement about 6 to 10 hours after administration. Rhubarb differs from other anthraquinone purgatives in that the tannin present exerts an astringent action after purgation; with small doses the astringent action predominates and it is therefore used as an astringent bitter.

Rhubarb increases glomerular filtration and it is used for nephritis in conjunction with other treatments. Rhubarb is able to improve uremic indices significantly. 244, 364, 397 It may have a specific use in diabetic nephropathy since research in animals shows it decreases blood glucose as well as improves the urinary and serum indices associated with kidney failure. It has been found in a clinical trial to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in chronic kidney failure patients.

Contraindications:Anthraquinones will deplete electrolytes, especially potassium, bringing about muscle weakness and increased constipation. Potassium loss can disturb cardiac rhythm and potentiate cardiac glycoside toxicity, as found in digitalis usage. Individuals who consume formulas with anthraquinones while taking cardiac glycosides should have their medication monitored by their physicians to assure the dosage of cardiac glycosides is not toxic. Herbs with cardiac glycosides include Pheasant’s eye - Adonis vernalis,  Lily of the valley - Convallaria majalis, Fox glove - Digitalis purpureaFalse hellebore - Veratrum (various species), Ouabain - Strophanthus gratus and Squill - Urginea maritima/indica. Potassium depletion can lead to paralysis of intestinal musculature, making the laxative less effective. Additionally there may be damage to the mesenteric plexus.  Therefore this herb should not be used for more than 8 - 10 consecutive days. An overdose or over-usage of anthraquinones may cause vomiting, intestinal spasms and bloody diarrhea. Anthraquinone-containing herbs should not be consumed by pregnant women or nursing mothers, due to the  possibility of the herb being passed to the baby through breast milk.  An overdose can cause kidney inflammation. These herb, as with all laxatives, should not be used for cases of intestinal obstruction when there is danger of an intestinal rupture. Additionally it is contraindicated in ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and inflamed hemorrhoids. It is contraindicated for children under age twelve due to loss of water and electrolytes and in abdominal pain of unknown origin. Emodin has also been reported to be a mutagen in a few experiments, although since 2001 many studies have shown it to have an antitumor effect.

Rhubarb may cause discoloration of the urine from a yellowish brown to a reddish brown. Rhubarb contains oxalates. They are highest in the leaves but the roots also contain them and should be avoided by people with a history of calcium oxalate renal stones.

If you are looking for directions on making teas or tinctures, please see our "Making Herbal Products" page.

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Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.

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