Rhubarb, also called sweet round-leaved dock or pie plant, is usually thought of as a fruit, but it is actually one of the few perennial vegetables in existence. Ordinary garden rhubarb carries the botanical name of Rheum rhaponticum, though there are other members of this botanical group that are also used for medicinal purposes. Chinese rhubarb, which is called da huang in traditional Chinese medicine, has the botanical name Rheum palmatum. Chinese rhubarb has a much stronger taste and properties than the common American variety. Rhubarb is a member of the same family as buckwheat, the Polygonaceae family. It originally came from Mongolia in northern Asia, but was long ago introduced to both India and Turkey. It was formerly called India or Turkey rhubarb.
Rhubarb occurs in commerce under various names (Russian, Turkey, East Indian and Chinese), but the general geographical origin of all species is the same; the commercial names simply refer to the route by which the herb was formerly transported to European markets.
The origin of the name of Rhubarb's botanical genus, Rheum, is somewhat vague: Some believe that it is derived from the Latin words, Rha Babrum, an ancient name for the Volga River, where the plant grew in profusion; others claim that it comes to us from the Greek word, rheo, which means "to flow," an allusion to the root's purgative properties. In the first century A.D., Dioscorides, the most influential pharmaceutical writer of antiquity, spoke of a root known as rha or rheon, an herb that came from the Bosphorus Strait that separates Europe from Asia. Rhubarb Root was introduced to Europe in 1767, although specimens of another rhubarb species, Rheum palmatum (Turkey Rhubarb/Chinese Rhubarb), were cultivated as early as 1762, in the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh; and in the eighteenth century, cultivation of Rheum palmatum was given preference, but the two are frequently used interchangeably, with only minor variations in chemistry. The roots of Rheum officinale are much smaller than those of the Chinese/Turkey Rhubarb and appear more shrunken, spongier, and distinctly pink in color, bearing star-shaped spots and thriving in well-drained, moist, humus-rich soil in sun.
The familiar, edible garden Rhubarb that we include in our diets is a hybrid that was developed during the nineteenth century, and the roots have no medicinal value. Rhubarb Roots are lifted in autumn from plants that are at least three years of age, then dried and used in herbal medicine. Only the roots of this bitter, astringent, cooling herb are used medicinally; the leaves are highly poisonous. Current research in China is investigating the potential use of Rhubarb Root as an antineoplastic in Cancer therapy that may prevent the development, growth or proliferation of malignant cells and tumors. In animal trials, Rhubarb Root caused damage to sarcoma-27, and the emodin content inhibited melanoma growth. The herb is also an ingredient in the controversial Essiac formula, which is an herbal mixture that was invented by Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse, as a treatment for cancers (its efficacy has not been established, nor is its use sanctioned by the established medical community).
Some of the constituents found in Rhubarb Root include anthraquinone glycosides (the active purgative ingredient), tannins (astringents), a bitter principle, pectin, RUTIN, starch, catechin, phytosterols, physcion, gallic acid, oxalic acid, aloe-emodin, rhein (sennosides A and B) and flavones. Paradoxically, because of the opposing nature of the tannins and anthraglycosides, the health of the colon is supported by the dosage, and the effects vary, i.e., larger amounts treat Constipation, and lower doses treat Diarrhea.
Rhubarb Root is considered an "alterative" or agent that helps to gradually and favorably alter the course of an ailment or condition. It helps to modify the process of nutrition and excretion and restore normal bodily function, acting to cleanse and stimulate the efficient removal of waste products from the system. As such, it not only cleanses the intestinal tract and blood, but it is also thought to cleanse the liver by encouraging bile flow. The herb is said to enhance Gallbladder function and relieve both liver and Gallbladder complaints by releasing an accumulation of toxins.
The bitter principle included in Rhubarb Root is said to stimulate good digestion and improves the appetite. It is considered a "stomachic" that relieves gastric disorders, improves the appetite and gives tone and strength to the stomach. Rhubarb Root is thought to be particularly effective in treating atonic dyspepsia, helping the digestive organs when in a condition of torpor and debility. In addition, the herb is also believed to encourage gastric flow, which also aids the digestive process.
Rhubarb Root is considered an anti-microbial that has been used to treat internal pinworms, threadworms and ringworms.
Rhubarb Root may be used externally to fight inflammation and infection (skin eruptions, boils and carbuncles, etc.) and to promote healing (wounds, Cold Sores and burns, etc.).
Rhubarb Root has been used for over two thousand years as a mild, yet powerful and effective, laxative that empties the intestines and cleanses the bowels thoroughly. The anthraquinone glycosides (also found in SENNA, Buckthorn and Cascara Sagrada) are natural stimulants and produce a purging action, which make it useful for treating chronic Constipation. At higher doses, the anthraquinone activity is thought to predominate, resulting in more watery and more frequent stools. Its mild action has been considered suitable for children, and it is often used to soften stool in the presence of anal fissures and hemorrhoids and used post-operatively for recto-anal operations. In China, it is included in some standard bowel preparation programs for colonoscopy.comment be the first to comment