Rhubarb - Effective Herb for Digestion

Rhubarb

Rheum palmatum Polygonaceae Also called Chinese rhubarb


Native to north-east Asia this species of rhubarb - unlike the more familiar garden variety - is used as a herbal remedy. A tall herbaceous plant it has very thick fleshy leafstalks and wide jagged palm-shaped leaves. Loose clusters of tiny star-shaped whitegreenish or reddish flowers appear in July and August,Jollowed by dry winged fruits. Only the bulky rhizome is of medicinal value.


Parts used

  • Rhizome
  • Although grown in Europe, the rhizome used in herbal medicine usually comes from China and Korea.
  • Rhizomes of plants between six to ten years old are dug up in autumn. . Dried rhizome is used to prepare infusions, decoctions, tinctures and powders, or is sold in fragments.

Constituents

The components in Chinese rhubarb that are responsible for its laxative action are anthracene derivatives, mainly consisting in the dried rhizome of anthraquinone glycosides. Flavonoids and tannins are also present. The latter are thought to be responsible for the constipation sometimes induced by low doses of rhubarb.


CAUTIONS

  • Chinese rhubarb should not be taken at the same time as other laxatives, and it is advisable to combine the treatment with exercise and changes in diet.
  • People suffering from an intestinal obstruction, arthritis, kidney disease or urinary problems should not use Chinese rhubarb preparations.
  • The plant is not recommended as a laxative for children aged between ten and fifteen, and should never be given to children under ten.
  • It is not advisable to take rhubarb when pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • People with known allergies should be cautious when using Chinese rhubarb preparations in casethey are sensitive to the plant.

PREPARATION AND DOSAGE

For internal use


TO TREAT constipation DECOCTION Boil 20g of dried or 40g of fresh rhubarb rhizome with 750ml water and simmer to reduce to around 500ml. Take 50-100ml in the early evening.


TO TREAT lack of appetite DECOCTION Take 10ml of the decoction (see above) twice a day.


IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST CONSULT A DOCTOR


Medicinal uses

Rhubarb is an extremely effective laxative, although very low doses have sometimes been known to cause constipation. Numerous studies have revealed how the plant stimulates the intestinal muscles and increases the absorption of water and electrolytes. However, rhubarb preparations should not be used for longer than ten consecutive days, because of the danger of developing laxative-induced illnesses, such as colitis, diarrhoea, electrolyte imbalances and hypokalemia (a reduction of potassium in the blood).


Recent studies in China have shown that rhubarb preparations can actually help to cleanse the blood by reducing excessive amounts of ureaand other nitrogenous waste prod ucts in it.


It is thought that this is due to direct action by the plant on the kidneys, which further research has revealed may also help to limit inflammation in cases of chronic renal failure.Chinese scientists have also shown that the plant can inhibit the chain of reactions in the body that leads to the constriction of blood vessels.Rhubarb is also used to stimulate the appetite and improve digestion, as well as to treat liver and gallbladder problems and to soothe inflammation and oral infections.


Cultivation

Chinese rhubarb can be grown from seeds, sown in late winter, or from root cuttings planted in late autumn. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, rich in humus, and exposure to plenty of sunshine.



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