Chinese Rhubarb

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  • Botanical: Rheum officinale
  • Family: Polygonaceae
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Chinese Rhubarb


Rheum officinale



Known as

yào yòng dà huáng, Essiac tea, Handlappiger Rhabarber, Handförmiger Rhabarber, Zier-Rhabarber, Kronrhabarberstaude, Tangutischer Rhabarber, Medizinal-Rhabarber, Arznei-Rhabarber, Chinesischer Rhabarber, Kanton-Rhabarber

Old Use

medical, culinary

Collection Times

Jul to August

Parts Used

herb, roots, sprout




abdominal pain, antiseptic, bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, bile weakness, cholesterol lowering, constipation, cramps, cramps stomach, diarrhea, digestion, gastritis, gastrointestinal, hemorrhoids, laxative, liver weakness, indigestion, infections intestinal, menstrual cramps, menstrual problems, stomach pain, vomiting, wounds

Heart & Circulation


Hormone & Sexual Organs

menstrual cramps, menstrual problems

Muscle & Joints


Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bladder disease, bladder weakness, bile weakness, constipation, diarrhea, digestion, gastritis, glucose lowering, gastric inflammation, laxative, indigestion, nausea, stomach pain, stomach cramps, stomach complaints, ulcers

Skin & Hair

skin damage, skin rashes


antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue


Herbs large, 1.5-2 m tall. Rhizomes and roots stout. Stem stout, hollow, finely sulcate, with white hairs, especially above and at nodes. Petiole of basal leaf terete, ca. as long as blade or slightly shorter, pubescent; leaf blade orbicular, rarely broadly ovate, large, 30-50 cm in diam., or longer than wide, abaxially pubescent, adaxially glabrous, rarely pubescent along veins, basal veins 5-7, base subcordate; palmatilobate, apex subacute. Stem leaves smaller upward; ocrea large, to 15 cm, broad, outside with dense hairs. Panicles large; branches spreading. Pedicel 3-3.5 mm, slender, jointed below middle. Flowers 4- or 5-fascicled. Tepals 6, green to yellow-white, elliptic or narrowly elliptic, 2-2.5 × 1.2-1.5 mm. Stamens shorter than perianth. Style deflexed; stigma inflated. Fruit oblong-ellipsoid, 8-10 × 7-9 mm; wings ca. 3 mm wide, with longitudinal veins near margin. Seeds broadly ovoid.

Properties & Uses

Rhubarb has a long and proven history of herbal usage, its main effect being a positive and balancing effect upon the whole digestive system. It is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. The root is anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. The roots contain anthraquinones, which have a purgative effect, and also tannins and bitters, which have an opposite astringent effect. When taken in small doses, it acts as an astringent tonic to the digestive system, whilst larger doses act as a mild laxative. The root is taken internally in the treatment of chronic constipation, diarrhoea, liver and gall bladder complaints, haemorrhoids, menstrual problems and skin eruptions due to an accumulation of toxins. This remedy is not prescribed for pregnant or lactating women, nor for patients with intestinal obstruction. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of burns. The roots are harvested in October from plants that are at least six years old, they are then dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is prepared from the dried root. This is used especially in the treatment of diarrhoea in teething children.

Other Uses

Plants can be grown for ground cover when spaced about 1.8 metres apart each way.

Leaf stem - cooked or raw. Rather medicinal. One report says that the plant contains 1.3% rutin. It does not specify which part of the plant, though it is likely to be the leaves.




Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the leaves of some if not all members of this genus contain significant quantities of oxalic acid and should not be eaten in any quantity. Oxalic acid can lock up certain minerals in the body, especially calcium, leading to nutritional deficiency. The content of oxalic acid will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition


Hills and forest understories at elevations of 1200 - 4000 meters in western China.

E. Asia - Tibet.


Anthranoids, especially anthraquinone glycosides: rhein (sennosides A and B), aloe-emodin, physcion, Oxalic acid, Tannins (5% - 10%): gallotannin, catechin, procyanidin.  Other: pectin, phenolic carboxylic acids

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For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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