The health and wellness industry is booming, and natural solutions are in vogue. Many people are turning to organic products to deal with their health issues. So, the news that natural ingredients from ordinary plants like rhubarb may help with some health concerns should be sweet music to many ears. Moreover, research proves that our bodies absorb plant-based minerals and vitamins more easily than their synthetic counterparts.
So, let’s explore a unique herb called rhubarb. Unique because this plant is both beneficial and poisonous. This article focuses on the good vibes only – rhubarb’s properties, health benefits, and usage.
- Rhubarb root is rich in compounds with wide-ranging properties.
- There is compelling evidence that it has substantial health benefits, including promoting gut health and alleviating menopausal symptoms.
- Despite its potential health benefits, long-term use (more than two years) is bogged by controversy.
- There are claims long-term use could lead to liver cirrhosis, hypokalemia, and kidney stones. But more research is needed to confirm these claims.
What is rhubarb root?
Rhubarb is the collective name for a plant species of the Rheum genus. There are over 60 different types of rhubarb plants. Most are native to Southern and Eastern Asia, Northern tropical Asia, and Eastern Europe. But thanks to its medicinal and dietary uses, this plant is now cultivated in most parts of Europe and North America.
Apart from the leaves (which are toxic), every other part of rhubarb is harvested for various uses. Its long, fleshy, succulent stalk is used to make pies and other food due to its tarty flavor. The underground stem (rhizome) and roots are widely used for their medicinal value.
In traditional Chinese medicine, rhubarb root is used to treat stomach problems like constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, gastrointestinal bleeding, and inflammation. However, recent research studies propose that rhubarb root may also help alleviate sepsis and menopause symptoms. That’s because it contains various medicinal compounds such as:
- Anthraquinones, e.g., emodin, chrysophanol, aloe-emodin, and rhein.
- Anthraquinone glycosides (laxatives)
- Antioxidants, e.g., catechins
- Phenolics, e.g., glucose gallates and naphthalenes
The leaves contain oxalic acid salts – a toxic substance that isn’t broken down by heat when cooking. This, the English discovered the hard way since they ate every part of the plant. The ensuing health complications (nausea, stomach cramps, or death) made them shun rhubarb for the next two centuries until they found out the stalks were the edible parts.
Some common rhubarb varieties include:
- Chinese rhubarb
- Syrian rhubarb
- Garden rhubarb
- Rhapontic or false rhubarb
Types of rhubarb root
Rhubarb roots are typically classified by the color of their stalk – red, speckled, or green. The red-stalked type is a favorite among most people, although the green ones tend to be more productive.
Perhaps it is because people often associate red with sweetness, but color and taste are not always related. In most cases, one variety can acquire different names as the plant moves around while adopting new color variations.
The way to go about choosing rhubarb is by what you want it for. For example, if you want to make an open-face tart, the red-stalked varieties are ideal. However, the green or speckled ones will do just fine for double-crust pies and rhubarb bars.
Also, the condition of the stalks gives a rough idea of the quality of the roots. Go for stalks that are unbent or bruised, firm, and with a light sheen. If the leaves are still attached to the stalk, check that they are not wilted or have started rotting.
What is Rhubarb Root Good For
Chinese rhubarb is one of the best-known plants in traditional medicine. The first documented use of this herb dates back to circa 200 AD during the Han dynasty. Then, it was used as a purgative and laxative to treat constipation and diarrhea, depending on the amount taken.
Larger doses were used to purge toxins from the digestive system, while smaller doses were more effective in lubricating the digestive tract lining, thus improving tone. The tannins found in the roots were particularly effective in binding the bowel. Subsequently, Chinese rhubarb was one of the go-to herbs to stop GI bleeding.
But as research on rhubarb and other medicinal plants continue, many of its medicinal properties have been discovered. These have various health benefits, as discussed in the following section.
Benefits of Rhubarb Root
Here are some research-backed properties and potential benefits of rhubarb root.
Rhubarb demonstrates broad anti-bacterial activity against various bacteria, including:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Escherichia coli
- Helicobacter pylori
- Drug-resistant H. pylori and S. aureus
Concentrated rhubarb extract exhibits strong anti-bacterial action against a wide range of bacteria, e.g., Listeria, E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, etc. In fact, research suggests that it may even be stronger than conventional antibiotics.
Its strong anti-bacterial activity, e.g., preventing the growth of S. aureus, stems from its ability to destroy the cell wall structure of bacteria and change their cell membrane’s permeability. This effectively kills the bacteria.
As regards multidrug-resistant bacteria, research shows that rhubarb can impede bacterial biofilms from forming by suppressing transduction systems and regulating DNA binding protein levels as well as transcription factors (TFs). Pardon the scientific jargon!
Indeed, bacterial biofilms are a leading cause of drug resistance in bacteria. For example, Streptococcus suis is a swine pathogen noted to cause persistent human infections because it’s resistant to most antibiotics.
Other rhubarb compounds like emodin have been shown to prevent bacteria like Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa from forming biofilms. On its part, aloe-emodin can degrade bacterial membranes by affecting the proteins used to build them.
Another well-established benefit of rhubarb is observed in the gut. An optimal gut microbiota is typically necessary to prevent pathogenic bacteria from growing in the digestive system. It also contributes to metabolic homeostasis, maintaining energy and supporting the immune system.
A 2018 study showed intestinal E. coli and Bifidobacteria populations grew after rhubarb was administered to chronically sick patients. Other studies also show that rhubarb helps maintain a healthy gut environment by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Consequently, this herb demonstrates potential therapeutic benefits for ulcerative colitis, liver inflammation, and gut homeostasis.
Rhubarb’s anti-inflammatory effects have been the subject of many scientific inquiries. A 2019 review of its anti-inflammatory properties concluded that this effect was induced by chemical compounds—rhaponticin and aglycone rhapontigenin—which inhibited the activation of various pro-inflammatory proteins.
Other anti-inflammatory rhubarb compounds are rhein, emodin, aloe-emodin, and chrysophanol.
When treating inflammatory conditions, rhubarb supports the structural and physiological recovery of organ functions and improves their cure rate. The chemicals emodin and chrysophanol, for example, can induce cell apoptosis, reverse mitochondrial damage, promote the growth of acinar cells, and reduce pancreatic damage.
Fibrosis can result from chronic kidney disease, liver injury, pulmonary interstitial disease, and many other chronic conditions. It is usually caused by the degeneration and subsequent death of parenchymal cells.
Research shows that rhubarb can alleviate fibrosis by reversing or preventing parenchymal cells from degenerating and eventually dying by:
- Reducing the deposition of collagen
- Preventing monocytes from migrating to damaged tissues
- Stopping fibroblasts activation
- Triggering collagen degradation
While inflammation is the body’s natural way of fighting a pathogenic invasion, it also damages parenchymal cells. However, rhubarb compound emodin can help reduce the negative effects of inflammation by regulating inflammatory responses, autophagy, and oxidative stress.
Rhubarb’s most known function appears to be the processing of residual food. These are “residues” that come from undigested food that eventually makeup stool. If you produce less food residue, you reduce bowel movements.
Rhubarb compounds such as anthraquinone, rheinosides, and sennosides, among others, have laxative effects that stimulate movement and contraction in the intestines. Others, like tannin, play an antidiarrheal role due to their ability to promote protein coagulation.
Many experiments show that rhubarb supports gastrointestinal function by:
- Protecting the mucus barrier of the intestines
- Maintaining a healthy gut microbiota
- Reducing mucosal damage by regulating intestinal permeability
- Regulating intestinal immune function
- Promoting the secretion of immunoglobulin A
- Triggering the proliferation of goblet cells in the intestines. These cells produce mucus, thus reinforcing the mucosal barrier in the intestines.
In sum, rhubarb displays wide-ranging pharmacological effects in the GI tract. The potential areas where rhubarb’s medicinal qualities have clinical applications include constipation, severe acute pancreatitis, sepsis, and chronic renal failure.
Rhapontic rhubarb root extract for menopause
Rhubarb also demonstrates a potential therapeutic effect on menopausal symptoms. A clinical trial investigating the qualities of rhapontic rhubarb found that it reduced the severity and frequency of hot flashes leading to a better quality of life.
Besides reducing hot flashes, rhapontic rhubarb also reduces anxiety in women getting into menopause.
How to Take Rhubarb Root
Rhubarb exists in various forms, typically made from the plant’s rhizomes and roots. These include:
- Dried root pieces
- Tablets and capsules
- Traditional Chinese remedies
The dosage varies depending on the extract type and disease severity, among other factors. Clinical trials generally use between 50 mg to 50 grams a day.
A common dosage of Chinese rhubarb in powder form is 10-30 grams daily. For supplements like rhapontic rhubarb, 1 tablet per day is the recommended dose.
Rhubarb Root Topicals
Rhubarb root topicals are another way to take this medicinal herb. These are applied to the skin to help with wide-ranging health issues such as inflammation, pain, and swelling.
To spare you the trouble, we’ve done the donkey work and developed a Cooling Balm that contains full-spectrum hemp CBD and several herbals like rhubarb root, myrrh, menthol, corydalis, and other Chinese herbs to offer immediate relief from acute pain and injury.
This balm is expert-formulated to absorb easily into the skin and provide a cool, soothing sensation deep into muscle tissue.
Rhubarb Root tea
You can easily make rhubarb root tea by mixing around 1 to 1.5 tsp of powdered rhubarb root in 1 cup of water to make rhubarb tea.
Boil the mixture, then simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Take the tea twice a day (morning and evening) or at convenient times, depending on your routine.
Where to Buy Rhubarb Root
Quality is the key to having natural fixes work for you. But because the FDA does not regulate natural/herbal supplements, safety and quality remain pressing issues. That’s why we recommend getting the benefits of rhubarb root from a credible brand like Dragon Hemp, and our Cooling Balm.
We also have a wide array of organic products that may help with various health concerns. So, check our range of natural health and wellness products here and make an order today!