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Alternate Names: Rheum palmatum, Chinese rhubarb, turkey rhubarb
Rhubarb root is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a laxative. Rhubarb contains powerful laxative compounds called anthraquinones, which irritate the colon and stimulate bowel movements.
Rhubarb root also contains tannins, which are believed to reduce inflammation in the colon. Small amounts of rhubarb are used in traditional Chinese medicine for diarrhea due to the tannin content.
Why Do People Use Rhubarb?
Constipation – Stool softener
Rhubarb can be found as capsules, liquid extracts, and dried root.
Bowel movements usually occur 6 to 12 hours after taking rhubarb.
This type of rhubarb (rheum palmatum) should not be confused with common rhubarb.
Side Effects and Safety
Rhubarb should not be used long-term for constipation.
Pregnant or nursing women should not use rhubarb. Children should not use rhubarb.
Rhubarb or other anthraquinone-containing herbs should not be used by people diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, severe hemorrhoids, blood vessel disease, congestive heart failure, heart disease, severe anemia, abdominal hernia, gastrointestinal cancer, recent colon surgery, or liver and kidney disease.
Rhubarb may interact with drugs called cardiac glycosides, such as digitalis and digoxin (Lanoxin).
Rhubarb may cause harmless discoloration of urine.
Side effects of rhubarb may include strong cramping in the abdomen (due to muscle contractions, electrolyte imbalance (loss of potassium) and loss of body fluids, and dark pigmentation in the colon, called melanosis coli with longer term use. Call your doctor if you experience bloody diarrhea or prolonged abdominal pain after using rhubarb.
Long-term use of anthraquinones has been linked to the development of colorectal growths (adenomas) and cancer.
Large doses of anthraquinones may cause bloody diarrhea or vomiting.