You might be astonished by the fact that ancient people used different beneficial herbs for healing and promoting healthy living. One such medicinal herb is rhubarb, also known as Rhei and Dahung. Its rhizome has been used as a medicinal plant since 270 BC in China.1 Scientifically, rhubarb belongs to the Rheum L. genus of the Polygonaceae family.1 There are around 60 types of rhubarb species found globally. Rhubarb is commonly grown in certain parts of Europe, North America, China and Asia.1 It is also grown in the Himalayan region of India.  

Rhubarb is a perennial plant with thick roots and erect stems with white-green and purple-red flower clusters on its branches. The leaves are triangular and poisonous, so they are not edible. The plant has edible, long and fleshy stalks that are cooked and known for their sour taste.

In temperate climates, it is the first plant that is harvested in mid to late spring. You can harvest the plant in around 2 years after the rhubarb seeds germinate. At this time the rhubarb stalks are 12-18 inches long and their colour is usually deep red to a bright green from the presence of anthocyanins. Keep scrolling to read more about rhubarb nutrition facts and health benefits!

Nutritional Value of Rhubarb:

Rhubarb has a high nutritional value with the following constituents present in it.

Nutrients Value (per 100gm)
Water 93.6 g
Energy 21 kcal
Protein 0.9 g
Total lipids 0.2 g
Ash 0.76g
Carbohydrate 4.54g
Total dietary fibre 1.8g
Sugars 1.1g
Calcium 86mg
Iron 0.22mg
Magnesium 12mg
Phosphorus 14mg
Potassium 288mg
Sodium 4mg
Zinc 0.1mg
Copper 0.021mg
Manganese 0.196mg
Selenium 1.1µg
Vitamin C 8mg
Thiamin 0.02mg
Riboflavin 0.03mg
Niacin 0.3mg
Pantothenic acid 0.085mg
Vitamin B-6 0.024mg
Folate 7µg
Choline 6.1mg
Vitamin A 5µg
Lutein + zeaxanthin 170µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.27mg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 29.3µg

Table1: nutritional value of rhubarb (100 gm)

Properties of Rhubarb:

The medicinal properties of rhubarb are as follows:

  • It might have properties to stop the growth of cancerous cells.
  • It might protect the inner lining of the intestine. It might also be beneficial for the maintenance of gut bacteria.
  • It might be effective against the growth of abnormal fibres in the kidneys and liver. It might show anti-inflammatory properties. It may have an anti-bacterial action.

Potential Uses of Rhubarb for Overall Health:

The existing studies show that you might get the following benefits for your health:

Potential uses of rhubarb for constipation

Constipation occurs when you find difficulty in passing the stools. A review study by Hong Xiang in 2020 showed that rhubarb powder, along with peppermint oil, can effectively relieve constipation caused by type II diabetes, acute stroke and thoracolumbar fractures.1 Rhubarb may have a strong purgatory tendency which may help in relieving constipation. However, it cannot be a substitute for alternative medication. You should consult a doctor and understand rhubarb benefits before taking rhubarb fruit for constipation.

Potential uses of rhubarb for the intestine 

The intestine plays an important role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The intestine has gut bacteria that aids in this process. A study by Hong Xiang in 2020 found that rhubarb promotes the digestion of food by promoting intestinal contractions and movements. It also maintains and regulates the microbial balance of the gut. Intestines protect the body from disease-causing organisms by forming a barrier called as intestinal mucosal barrier. It consists of epithelial, immune and chemical barrier. The study also shows that rhubarb protects this intestinal mucosal barrier and regulates its functioning.1 However, you should never self-medicate rhubarb as an alternate medicine. It is best to consult a doctor regarding the health benefits of eating rhubarb before taking it.

Potential uses of rhubarb for the microbial infection

Sepsis is a microbial infection that can affect the digestive tract. The invasion of bacteria may can lead to immune dysfunction and affect clotting process. A study by Hong Xiang in 2020 showed that rhubarb can prevent microbial infections by destroying their cell wall. It also shows that rhubarb can stop the bacteria from building resistance against any drug. This property of rhubarb might help in relieving the symptoms of sepsis and protect the body against microbial infections. However, you should consult a doctor regarding rhubarb benefits and side effects instead of self-medicating it.1

Potential uses of rhubarb for fibrosis

Fibrosis involves the formation of abnormal fibres in various organs. It may be seen in patients with kidney disease, liver injury, and lung diseases. A study by Hong Xiang in 2020 showed that rhubarb can act against formation of fibres. It might help in slowing down the progression of the disease. However, you should never use rhubarb as an alternative medicine for the underlying disease. It is best to consult a doctor regarding rhubarb uses and benefits for the effective treatment.1

Potential uses of rhubarb for severe acute pancreatitis

Severe acute pancreatitis (SAP) is a medical condition in which the pancreas becomes swollen. It further leads to multi-organ failure, if not treated correctly. A study by Hong Xiang in 2020 showed that rhubarb, when given with the SAP treatment may increase the treatment efficacy.1 However, if you have SAP, don’t self-medicate with rhubarb. It is advised to consult a doctor regarding the medicinal benefits of rhubarb and take the medications accordingly.

Potential uses of rhubarb for the cancer

Cancer is a condition where the body cells show uncontrolled multiplication and growth. It can affect any organ of the body and can be transferred to other organs too.  A study by Hong Xiang in 2020 found that rhubarb has a substance named emodin which can inhibit the multiplication of cancerous cells and the spread of cancer. It also has rhein which can cut off the nutrient supply to tumour cells leading to cell death of abnormal cells.1 The findings show that rhubarb may aid in cancer treatment. However, it should not be substituted for ongoing treatment. It is best to consult a doctor regarding rhubarb’s medicinal properties before consuming it.

Other potential uses of Rhubarb

The other potential rhubarb medicinal uses are as follows:

  • Rhubarb may be effective in lowering blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. Its rhizome extracts may be given orally to type 2 diabetes patients. This may significantly reduce fasting glucose level and excess body weight.1
  • It may be used in liquid form for expelling toxins in organo-phosphorus pesticide poisoning. It can be mixed with a powder called montmorillonite to remove toxins. It might reduce the adverse reaction caused by the poisoning, remove the toxins and shorten the hospital stay.1
  • Rhubarb might be used in conditions such as respiratory distress syndrome.1
  • Rhubarb may reduce liver inflammation in people who drink excessive alcohol.1
  • Taking rhubarb as a supplement might protect against metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes that are caused by a diet with a high fat content.3

Studies that showed rhubarb extract benefits in various conditions need to be revised, and further studies are needed to understand the full extent of the health benefits of rhubarb on human health.  

How to Use Rhubarb?

Rhubarb can be used in the following ways:

  • It can be used topically or applied directly to the skin for conditions such as herpes infections and gingivitis.4
  • It can be consumed orally in powder or liquid form as a medication for diabetes.
  • Rhubarb stalks can be cooked and used to prepare juices, sauces, desserts, jams and pies.
  • Rhubarb roots are used to make capsules and powders to relieve stomach issues.
  • Rhubarb stalks can be used to make tea. Rhubarb tea benefits the body by providing antioxidants.

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/ herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Side Effects of Rhubarb:

Although eating rhubarb stalks in moderate quantity is considered safe, but according to a study by Hong Xiang conducted in 2020, it might have the following side effects:

  • Reduction in kidney function.
  • Risk of developing kidney stones.
  • Risk of developing cancers like colorectal and gastric cancer.

Another study by Shanze Li in 2021 concluded that rhubarb may lead to liver damage and toxicity. Therefore, you should consult a doctor immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms after eating it.

Precautions to Take with Rhubarb: 

General precautions must be taken while consuming rhubarb. A few of the important precautions are as follows:

  • Do not consume rhubarb leaves as they are poisonous.1.Children should not consume rhubarb in excess amounts.1
  • Patients with liver inflammation due to illness or medications should consult the doctor before consuming rhubarb.1
  • Patients with kidney disease should consult the doctor before consuming rhubarb.1
  • It is essential to take extra caution along with a doctor’s advice before giving rhubarb to pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, elderly individuals and children under 12 years of age.

Interactions with Other Drugs:

  • A study by Jiang in 2016 showed that rhubarb might interact with melatonin which is used to regulate the sleep cycle.6
  • It might also interact with methotrexate and cyclosporin, which are immunosuppressants and are used for therapeutic purposes.7,8

Therefore, it is best to consult a doctor regarding the rhubarb’s nutritional benefits, especially if you are undergoing any treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are rhubarb leaves harmful to humans?  

Yes, rhubarb leaves are poisonous. They have high levels of chemicals that can lead to a burning sensation in the mouth, breathing problems, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhoea, seizures, eye pain, coma and even death. However, rhubarb leaves are used as a potent insecticide and pesticide.

How does rhubarb benefit skin and hair health? 

Rhubarb benefits for skin might include a delay in signs of ageing owing to its high antioxidant and vitamin content. It makes the skin healthy and youthful. Rhubarb benefits for hair might include improving hair texture and prevention of hair loss. Additionally, the quinones in rhubarb might be used in natural hair dye applications.9

What are the rhubarb juice benefits? 

The health benefits of rhubarb juice include protecting from infection-causing bacteria, promoting heart health and providing essential nutrients to the body to promote overall health. Additionally, rhubarb benefits the weight loss regime by promoting healthy digestion.

Which part of the rhubarb plant is edible? 

The edible part of the rhubarb plant is its stalk and roots. Its leaves are poisonous and must not be eaten. They can cause severe kidney damage and even death. Rhubarb root health benefits the body by protecting it against bacterial infections and inflammation. It also prevents heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer.1

What are the health benefits of eating rhubarb?  

Rhubarb has numerous health benefits. It can remove toxins from the body and is a natural laxative. Its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties protect the body from many health issues, including the risk of developing cancer, heart diseases, and others.1

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.


  1. Xiang H, Zuo J, Guo F, Dong D. What we already know about rhubarb: a comprehensive review. Chinese Medicine. 2020 Aug 26;15(1).
  1. Food Data Central [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from:

3. Régnier M, Rastelli M, Morissette A, Suriano F, Le Roy T, Pilon G, et al. Rhubarb Supplementation Prevents Diet-Induced Obesity and Diabetes in Association with Increased Akkermansia muciniphila in Mice. Nutrients. 2020 Sep 24;12(10):2932.

4. Rhubarb [Internet]. PubMed. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; 2006 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from:

5. Li S, Wang Y, Li C, Yang N, Yu H, Zhou W, et al. Study on Hepatotoxicity of Rhubarb Based on Metabolomics and Network Pharmacology. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 2021 May;Volume 15:1883–902.

6. The natural anthraquinones from Rheum palmatum induced the metabolic disorder of melatonin by inhibiting human CYP and SULT enzymes. Toxicology Letters [Internet]. 2016 Nov 16 [cited 2021 Jul 13];262:27–38. Available from:

7.  Shia C-S, Juang S-H, Tsai S-Y, Lee Chao P-D, Hou Y-C. Interaction of Rhubarb and Methotrexate in Rats: In Vivo and Ex Vivo Approaches. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2013 Jan;41(06):1427–38.

8.  Yu C-P, Lin H-J, Lin S-P, Shia C-S, Chang P-H, Hou Y-C, et al. Rhubarb decreased the systemic exposure of cyclosporine, a probe substrate of P-glycoprotein and CYP 3A. Xenobiotica. 2015 Dec 4;46(8):677–82.

9. Cui H, Xie W, Hua Z, Cao L, Xiong Z, Tang Y, et al. Recent Advancements in Natural Plant Colorants Used for Hair Dye Applications: A Review. Molecules [Internet]. 2022 Jan 1 [cited 2022 Dec 6];27(22):8062. Available from:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *