Rhubarb is used for digestive complaints including constipation, diarrhea, or stomach pain, symptoms of menopause, menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), swelling (inflammation) of the pancreas, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
In food, rhubarb stems are eaten in pie and other recipes. Rhubarb is also used as a flavoring agent.
How does it work ?
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Possibly Effective for
- Canker sores. Some research shows that applying a solution containing rhubarb to canker sores reduces the time it takes for the sores to heal by 3 days. However, it does not seem to be as effective as silver nitrate, a conventional medication.
- Cold sores (herpes labialis). Applying a cream containing rhubarb and sage to herpes cold sores seems to improve healing. It might be as effective as acyclovir (Zovirax) cream.
- Symptoms of menopause. Some research shows that taking a rhubarb root extract by mouth improves symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, sweating, sleep, mood, quality of life, fatigue, and sexual problems.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Rhubarb powder given through a tube directly into the intestines might help to reduce pain and other symptoms of pancreatitis. It might also decrease the length of a hospital stay for pancreatitis. Rhubarb might also be helpful for preventing pancreatitis in people who have had a specific type of surgery (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, ERCP) that puts them at high risk for pancreatitis.
Insufficient Evidence for
- A sudden and serious lung condition (acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS). Early research shows that taking rhubarb daily for 7 days help people with ARDS to breathe better.
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Early research shows that taking rhubarb powder might reduce pain during menstruation.
- Bleeding in the stomach or intestines. In some people with bleeding in the stomach or intestines, a tube covered in a drug called norepinephrine is placed down the throat to stop the bleeding. Using a tube covered in rhubarb powder seems to work better than norepinephrine.
- High cholesterol. Early research shows that eating ground rhubarb stalk for 4 weeks might lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in some people with high cholesterol.
- Long-term kidney disease (chronic kidney disease or CKD). There is not enough reliable information to know if rhubarb helps people with CKD. Some research shows that it might be helpful, but other research shows no benefit. Nearly all of the studies are low quality and at high risk of bias.
- Cancer of the upper part of the throat behind the nose (nasopharyngeal cancer). Early research suggests that taking a specific Chinese herbal product (Shenlong) containing rhubarb and other herbs along with radiation therapy does not improve healing in people with nasopharyngeal cancer.
- Obesity. Some early research shows that taking rhubarb extract 1-3 times daily for up to 3 months might reduce body weight in obese people. However, other research shows that taking rhubarb with other herbs does not reduce weight.
- Pesticide poisoning. Exposure to large amounts of pesticides can result in poisoning. In people with pesticide poisoning, early research suggests that adding rhubarb to regular treatments for poisoning might reduce symptoms and help with recovery.
- Blood infection (sepsis). Early research suggests that using rhubarb along with standard treatments might help reduce the risk for certain complications from sepsis. But rhubarb doesn't seem to reduce the risk of death from sepsis.
- Stroke. Low-quality research suggests that using traditional Chinese medicine that contains rhubarb root and rhizome, in combination with regular stroke treatments, improves function and reduces damage to the brain better than the regular treatments alone in patients who have had a stroke. Higher-quality research is needed to confirm.
- Build up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD).
- Stomach pain.
- Other conditions.
Rhubarb leaves are POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which can cause abdominal pain, burning of the mouth and throat, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and death.
Rhubarb can cause some side effects such as stomach and intestinal pain, watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rash, and uterine contractions. Long-term use can result in muscular weakness, bone loss, potassium loss, and irregular heart rhythm.
There is a report of kidney failure in someone who took a product containing rhubarb. But it's not known for sure if rhubarb was the actual cause of kidney failure.
When applied to the skin: Rhubarb is POSSIBLY SAFE when used for up to 14 days.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Diarrhea or constipation: Rhubarb can make diarrhea or constipation worse, depending on the preparation used.
Gastrointestinal (GI) conditions: Don't take rhubarb if you have a bowel obstruction; appendicitis; unexplained stomach pain; or inflammatory conditions of the intestines including Crohn's disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Kidney disease: There is a chemical in rhubarb that might harm the kidneys. In fact, a supplement that contained rhubarb has been linked to one report of kidney failure. If you already have kidney disease, don't risk making it worse by taking rhubarb.
Kidney stones: Rhubarb contains a chemical that the body can convert into kidney stones. If you have ever had kidney stones, don't take rhubarb.
Liver problems: Rhubarb can make liver function worse in people who already have liver problems. People who have liver problems should avoid rhubarb.
Digoxin (Lanoxin) interacts with RHUBARB
Rhubarb is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the risk of side effects of digoxin (Lanoxin).
Medications for inflammation (Corticosteroids) interacts with RHUBARB
Some medications for inflammation can decrease potassium in the body. Rhubarb is a type of laxative that might also decrease potassium in the body. Taking rhubarb along with some medications for inflammation might decrease potassium in the body too much.
Some medications for inflammation include dexamethasone (Decadron), hydrocortisone (Cortef), methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisone (Deltasone), and others.
Medications that can harm the kidneys (Nephrotoxic Drugs) interacts with RHUBARB
Taking rhubarb might harm the kidneys in some people. Some medications can also harm the kidneys. Taking rhubarb with medications that can harm the kidneys might increase the chance of kidney damage.
Some of these medications that can harm the kidneys include cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune); aminoglycosides including amikacin (Amikin), gentamicin (Garamycin, Gentak, others), and tobramycin (Nebcin, others); nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, others), indomethacin (Indocin), naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn), piroxicam (Feldene); and numerous others.
Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs) interacts with RHUBARB
Rhubarb is a laxative. Laxatives can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs. Decreasing how much medicine your body absorbs can decrease the effectiveness of your medication.
Stimulant laxatives interacts with RHUBARB
Rhubarb is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. Taking rhubarb along with other stimulant laxatives could speed up the bowels too much and cause dehydration and low minerals in the body.
Some stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), cascara, castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others.
Water pills (Diuretic drugs) interacts with RHUBARB
Rhubarb is a laxative. Some laxatives can decrease potassium in the body. "Water pills" can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking rhubarb along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.
Some "water pills" that can decrease potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.
Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with RHUBARB
Rhubarb can work as a laxative. In some people rhubarb can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin do not to take excessive amounts of rhubarb.
Be cautious with this combination
- For symptoms of menopause: A specific rhubarb root dry extract (ERr 731, Anderson Global Group) 4 mg per day for up to 2 years.
- For swelling (inflammation) of the pancreas (pancreatitis): Rhubarb powder 6 to 45 grams daily in warm water given by a healthcare provider through a tube going directly into the small intestine for up to one week.
- For canker sores: A solution containing 5% rhubarb extract applied to the sore one time.
- For cold sores (herpes labialis): Cream containing rhubarb extract 23 mg and sage extract 23 mg in every gram of cream, applied every 2 to 4 hours while awake. Treatment starts within one day after symptoms appear and continues for 10 to 14 days.
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