Rhubarb health benefits and therapeutic value


Native to Asia, rhubarb or Rheum rhaponticum is a perennial plant that boasts many health benefits and has a high therapeutic value.

Low in calorie intake and calcium-rich, rhubarb is an ingredient in many desserts.

Rhubarb and its health benefits and therapeutic properties

Due to its tartness and stringiness, rhubarb is almost always consumed cooked. When cooked, its flesh is melting and tangy.

  • Some of its properties aren’t much used today, mostly because we’re unaware of them. Rhubarb has appetite-enhancing, tonic and especially purgative properties. Rhubarb has a measurable impact on bile secretion.
  • Tannin compounds contained in rhubarb have astringent properties (at weak doses) which are effective against diarrhea.
  • Ongoing research in China seems to show that rhubarb could be effective against kidney deficiency.
  • Finally, rhubarb contains a powerful cholesterol biosynthesis key enzyme inhibitor, which supports traditional claims that it helps deal with disorders resulting from excess cholesterol.

In olden times, rhubarb roots were consumed for their laxative properties instead of their petioles.

  • Rhubarb roots are effective antibacterial agents and help fight Staphylococcus aureus. When applied on boils or used as a mouthwash in case of infected mucus membranes, rhubarb roots are (almost) miraculous!

Did you know…?

  • Ingestion

Rhubarb infusion: 1/6 to ⅓ oz (5 to 10 g) dried powdered rhubarb for ¼ quart (¼ liter) boiling water. Drink as a purgative in the morning before eating. Alternatively, prepare an unheated maceration with twice the dose.

Powdered rhubarb root: 0.04 to 0.15 oz (1 to 4 g) for purgative use and 0.02 oz (0.5 g) for use as digestive tonic.

Rhubarb tincture: 7 oz (200 g) crushed and chopped rhubarb. Macerate for 10 days in 1 quart (1 liter) 60% (volume) alcohol. Stir from time to time, then filter. 0.04 to 0.15 oz (1 to 4 g) for use as tonic, ⅓ to ½ oz (10 to 15 g) for use as a purgative.

Rhubarb wine: macerate 2 oz (60 g) of roots for 10 days in 1 quart (1 liter) Grenache wine. Ingest one or two table spoons for purgative use.

Rhubarb syrup: prepared with rhubarb, chicory, Chinese lantern (perennial ornamental plant with an orange-colored fruit), fumewort (medicinal herb that impacts digestive functions, specifically the gall bladder) and cinnamon. This syrup is also referred to as “mixed chicory syrup”.

  • External use:

Rhubarb flower decoction or powdered root decoction: such decoctions were used in the old days to lighten hair color and turn their color blond.

Growing rhubarb to benefit from its medicinal properties

To grow well, rhubarb requires rich, thick, cool, acidic and humus-rich soil. Best exposure: preferably full sun.

Watch out for the plant leaf’s toxicity

Never ingest rhubarb leaves. They contain oxalic acid that can lead to severe food poisoning.

Use rhubarb in your cooking to reap its health benefits

Rhubarb nutritional content

Rhubarb is rich in organic acids, fibers, calcium and magnesium. Rhubarb also has laxative properties.

Rhubarb petioles can be cooked with sugar (like fruits) or lightly fried with butter. Excellent pies, crumbles, sauces and jams can be prepared from rhubarb.

Savory ideas:

Honey-caramelized rhubarb to serve as a side for pork tenderloin… Hmm, that’s mouth-watering!

Blandine Merlin