Chinese rhubarb has long been hailed as a go-to natural remedy for constipation. It is also sometimes used to get relief from hemorrhoids, indigestion, and diarrhea, as taking it regularly is thought to regulate the digestive system. While some have used this as a weight-loss supplement, strong oversight is recommended as it can simulate dangerous laxative abuse among people who are highly motivated to lose weight. As an anthraquinone laxative, prolonged use can cause dependence. That is why Chinese medicine suggests only taking Da Huang until the first bowel movement then switching to a bulking laxative.
Other studies suggest that taking Chinese rhubarb can help people recover safely from heatstroke (meaning it’s an ideal medicine-cabinet-inclusion for folks in the south, southwest, and more equatorial climates). Plus, Chinese rhubarb may have other (unrelated) benefits for alleviating menstrual and postmenopausal symptoms.
PREPARATION & ADMINISTRATION
Chinese rhubarb has different effects based on how long it is cooked and how it is prepared. To get the laxative effects, the dried root should be simmered for no longer than 5 minutes as the anthraquinones will be inactivated if cooked longer. Longer cooking, however, does allow the other benefits to be accessed without bowel stimulation. The dried root can be purchased wine-fried to get rid of severe inflammation or fever.
It can also be purchased as a laxative formula supplement. Since the herb is quite powerful, use the dry sliced roots only under the supervision of a trained TCM practitioner.
There are several medications that may cause adverse interactions with Chinese rhubarb:
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
- Medications for inflammation (Corticosteroids)
- Medications that can harm the kidneys (Nephrotoxic Drugs) interacts with RHUBARBSome 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.
- Stimulant laxatives interacts with RHUBARBGiven Rhubarb is a type of laxative , taking with other laxatives, such as bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), cascara, castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others, is not recommended.
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Water pills (Diuretic drugs) interacts with RHUBARBThis includes, but isn’t limited to, chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.
Like most laxatives, the biggest risks of taking Chinese rhubarb come from overdosage and over-usage — both of which can lead to dehydration, stomach cramps, dizziness, nausea, and (if severe and untreated) serious health consequences. Do not take Chinese rhubarb if you have or suspect you have a bowel obstruction or appendicitis, as doing so can make your condition dramatically worse (and fast).
You should consult with a certified herbalist, physician or other qualified healthcare professional before taking Chinese rhubarb.
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Gu QP, Liu JJ, Xie JF. Clinical observation on 100 cases of chronic constipation treated by rhubarb combined with Lactobacillus in Elderly. Strait Pharm J. 2015;27:118–119
Lombardi, N., Bettiol, A., Crescioli, G. et al. Association between anthraquinone laxatives and colorectal cancer: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. Syst Rev 9, 19 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-020-1280-5
“Rhubarb: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.” WebMD, WebMD
Wan, Ying, et al. “Adjuvant Rhubarb Alleviates Organs Dysfunction and Inhibits Inflammation in Heat Stroke.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, D.A. Spandidos, Aug. 2018