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What other names is Rhubarb known by?

Chinese Rhubarb, Da Huang, Garden Rhubarb, Himalayan Rhubarb, Indian Rhubarb, Medicinal Rhubarb, Radix et Rhizoma Rhei, Rewandchini, Rhei, Rhei Radix, Rheum australe, Rheum emodi, Rheum officinale, Rheum palmatum, Rheum tanguticum, Rhubarbe, Rhubarbe de Chine, Rhubarbe Indienne, Rhubarbe Médicinale, Rhubarbe Palmée, Rhubarbe Potagère, Rhubarbe Turque, Ruibarbo, Tai Huang, Turkey Rhubarb.

What is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a plant. The root and underground stem (rhizome) are used to make medicine.

Rhubarb is used primarily for digestive complaints including constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, stomach pain, gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, and preparation for certain GI diagnostic procedures. Some people use rhubarb so they have to strain less during bowel movements; this reduces pain from hemorrhoids or tears in the skin lining the anal canal (anal fissures).

Rhubarb is sometimes applied to the skin to treat cold sores.

In food, rhubarb stems are eaten in pie and other recipes. Rhubarb is also used as a flavoring agent.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Stomach bleeding. Taking rhubarb by mouth as a powder or extract seems to help treat stomach bleeding.
  • Cold sores. Applying rhubarb along with sage to herpes cold sores seems to improve healing. It might be as effective as acyclovir (Zovirax) cream.
  • Kidney failure. Most research suggests that taking rhubarb extract, with or without captopril, improves kidney function in people with kidney failure.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Constipation. Early research suggests that taking rhubarb and Glauber's salt mixture improves constipation.
  • Gum disease. Early research suggests that rinsing with a rhubarb extract can help treat gum disease.
  • Gonorrhea. Early research suggests that taking tablets that contain rhubarb extract might reduce symptoms of gonorrhea.
  • High cholesterol. Early research suggests that taking rhubarb, alone or with water plantain, can reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in people with high cholesterol.
  • Cancer affecting the area behind the nose (nasopharyngeal cancer). Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing rhubarb and other herbs (Shenlong) along with radiation therapy does not improve healing in people with nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Kidney disease (nephritic syndrome). Early research suggests that taking a combination of 10 herbs including rhubarb daily for 3 months might improve kidney function in people with glomerulonephritis.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Early research suggests that taking a specific Chinese herbal medicine containing rhubarb, giant knotweed, dried green orange peel, and dried old orange peel (Danning Pian) might improve liver function in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Obesity. Some early research suggests 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.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy. Early research shows that taking rhubarb extract daily starting 28 weeks into pregnancy and continuing until delivery can reduce the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Life-threatening infection (sepsis). Early research suggests that taking rhubarb powder along with standard treatments might help cure and reduce the risk of death from a life-threatening infection called sepsis.
  • Recovery after surgery. Early research suggests that adding rhubarb to intravenous (IV) nutrition in people undergoing surgery for stomach cancer can improve recovery.
  • Indigestion.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of rhubarb for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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