Rhubarb has a long medicinal history.  Its use spans Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to Galenic and Islamic medicine.  Indeed this powerful little purgative (meaning it moves the bowels) is not an herb that is likely to disappear.  Today, rhubarb’s rhizome (root) or Da Huang (big yellow) is still used extensively in classical and newer Chinese formulas to move the bowels and release excess heat and damp conditions in the liver.

But enough of the roots, we going to talk about the stalk or stem.

Though rhubarb’s broad leaves are toxic, the stem offers a surprising array of vitamins and minerals.  The stems vary in color from deep red, pink, white to green and have a similar shape to celery stalks. Like celery, rhubarb is a vegetable despite the fact that it ends up in many desserts.  Let’s take a closer look at what rhubarb has to offer besides a very tart flavor.

Calcium–Rhubarb is loaded with silicon an important component in the absorption of calcium.  And it’s packed with calcium itself, boasting about 30-35% of the RDA based on a 2,000 calorie diet–wonderful for your bones, teeth and heart without building up a bunch of phlegm.

Vitamin K, A, C & E-Vitamin K is essential to helping blood clot and aids your body in the absorption of vitamin D and many other nutrients.  Rhubarb rocks nearly 60% of your  RDA of K  in a single cup.  It also sports a healthy amount of vitamins A, C and E–the antioxidants that clear the body of disease and free radicals. Sounds kind of liver oriented, doesn’t it Chinese medicine practitioners?

The B-Vitamins- Small amounts of the B’s are present in rhubarb, but its enough to take note of these include thiamine, riboflavin and folate, niacin, vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid.

Other nutrients and trace minerals-A single cup of rhubarb provides small amounts of magnesium which plays a role in utilizing calcium, vitamin D and potassium.  Potassium in rhubarb helps to balance out fluid and minerals–out with gout.  And the phosphorus helps to keep teeth and bones strong. Rhubarb offers some iron, supporting blood health.  And trace amounts of copper, slenium, manganese and zinc appear as well.

Now that we’ve fractionalized the poor rhubarb–let’s look at it from a whole, Chinese energetic perspective.

Rhubarb is cold energetically, it drains downward and removes excess heat and damp from the Liver, Stomach, Heart and Intestines and promotes bowel movements.  The sour flavor specifically enters the Liver, moving out congestion and dampness.

Shall I simplify?

Heat in the Liver–  What this looks like is liver qi congestion, anger, frustration, digestive stagnation, pms, ringing in the ears, –check out  Liver yang rising.  Patterns like Hep C, mono and high cholesterol are damp heat in the liver and gall bladder.

Heat in the Stomach-We see burning sensation in the stomach, acid reflux, GERD, bleeding gums, excessive thirst and bad breath.  This can also be a component in constipation caused by heat.  Yep, there is more than one pattern that can cause constipation.

Heat in the Heart-Anxiety, palpitations, nervousness, thirst, anxious and excessive speech and dream disturbed sleep.  You might actually have a burning sensation on the very tip of your tongue.

Heat in the Intestine-Heat anywhere will dry up the fluids in the system, making you thirsty.  With lack of fluids in the intestines the body cannot properly move the bowels aka, constipation.

Wonderful– Put this all together and rhubarb is a fantastic food to help purge out excess heat from the system, especially if you indulge in too many animal proteins which are hot!  Great for spring cleaning.  But before you go noshing on your plant, there are a few contraindications.

A note of caution–rhubarb is a laxative, avoid use if you are nursing, have diarrhea,  loose stools, or are very deficient.

Be well,


reposted with permission from aprilcrowell.com