Chinese Rhubarb (Da-Huang) Root

Plant Parts Used: In herbal medicine, it is the roots of the plant that are used and not the stems or leaves.

The leaves are poisonous and should never be eaten or fed to animals. The dried root is ground into a yellowish-orange powder.

Chinese Rhubarb as Herbal Medicine
Chinese Rhubarb as Herbal Medicine
Therapeutic Uses and Claims of Chinese Rhubarb
Chinese Rhubarb – Medicinal Herb
Chinese Rhubarb – Medicinal Herb ©The Herbal Resource
It was cultivated as a medicinal plant in China as early as 2700 BC. Trade between Venice and the Orient brought Chinese rhubarb to Europe where it was used medicinally beginning in the 17th century.
The traditional use of the herb has been as a laxative, to relieve constipation and purgative.

It is also been used in folk medicine as an astringent and to treat stomach tumors. Some of the medical compounds present in the root (not the stems or leaves) of Chinese rhubarb do in fact have multiple applications in medicine.

The active chemical compounds in Chinese rhubarb are aloe-emodin, chrysophanol, emodin, physcion, rhein, and sennoside –a and –b. Chemical analysis has most often be performed on two of the three species: R. palmatum and R. officinale.

The chemical composition of R. tangutucum is less well-known – perhaps because it is less used in traditional herbalism and therefore has not attracted as much interest from scientists and drug developers.
Rhubarb’s efficacy as a broad anti-septic is also well-established both by traditional use and scientific study. The root contains a number of bactericides and viricides and some of these chemicals, such as chrysophanol and rhein, are also active against yeast (Candida).

Additionally, the root has been used to treat some of the symptoms associated with menopause.

Learn more about herbs for yeast infection.
Learn more about herbs for menopause.
There are a few studies in recent years that point to the potential of using [easyazon_link identifier=”B00EUGQDRO” locale=”US” tag=”herbal-resource-20″]Chinese rhubarb root extract[/easyazon_link] to regulate weight and treat type 2 diabetes.

The substance stilbene rhaponticin found in the herb was found to be effective in experiments on rodents, either as a single chemical agent or in combination with other herbal extracts.[6]
Learn more about herbs for diabetes.
Learn more about herbs for weight loss.
Chinese rhubarb root has been studied as a source of possible cancer medicines. Because the medicinal root has long been used as a ‘cathartic’ or body cleanser it has also attracted the attention of scientists and physicians looking at how early cancerous or pre-cancerous cysts and tumors might be eradicated.

The candidate anticancer agents in Chinese rhubarb root are aloe-emodin, chrysophanol, emodin, gallic acid, and rhein.

The chemical action of the anthraquinone emodin is described in a review of Chinese herbs for cancer treatment. The authors conclude that emodin can be a useful herbal treatment alongside conventional chemotherapy. Interestingly, the herb has proven able to lower the multi-drug resistance of cancer cells.