Rheum officinalis

Rhubarb - Rheum officinalis (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.

It is used for nephritis in conjunction with other treatments. Rhubarb is able to improve uremic indices significantly. 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. One of rhubarb's constituents, emodin, has been shown to possess anticancer, antibacterial, diuretic, immunosuppressive, and vasorelaxant activities in research with animals. Mutagenicity of emodin has also been reported in a few experiments. Rhubarb was shown to suppress the secretion of hepatitis B virus surface antigen in vitro.

Contraindications: Chronic use of rhubarb will deplete electrolytes, especially potassium, bringing about muscle weakness and increased constipation. Potassium loss can disturb cardiac rhythm and potentiate cardiac glycoside toxicity as with digitalis use. Individuals who consume formulas with anthraquinones while taking cardiac glycosides should have their medication monitored by their physician to make sure they do not receive a toxic dosage of cardiac glycosides. Herbs with cardiac glycosides include pheasant's eye (Adonis) lily of the valley (Convallaria), fox glove (Digitalis), false hellebore (Helleborus), Strophanthus and Urginea.

Potassium depletion ca n lead to paralysis of intestinal musculature making the laxative less effective and the need for more of the laxative to receive the same effect. An overdose or overusage of anthraquinones may cause vomiting, intestinal spasms and bloody diarrhea. Anthraquinone-containing herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy, nursing mothers and individuals with damaged kidneys or kidney inflammation. Large doses can cause nephritis. Note: However, there is evidence that the whole herb, can help prevent kidney damage. This herb, as with all laxatives, should not be used in cases of intestinal obstruction when there is danger of an intestinal rupture. Rhubarb may cause discoloration of the urine from a yellowish brown to a reddish brown. It is also contraindicated for children under age 12 due to loss of water and electrolytes and in abdominal pain of unknown origin.

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