Herb: Turkey Rhubarb


Latin name: Rheum palmatum


Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)



Medicinal use of Turkey Rhubarb:

Chinese rhubarb, called Da Huang in China, has a long and proven history of herbal usage, its main effect being a positive and balancing effect upon the whole digestive system. It is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. It has a safe and gentle action, safe even for children to use. The plant is also part of a North American formula called essiac which is a popular treatment for cancer. Its effectiveness has never been reliably proven or disproven since controlled studies have not been carried out. The other herbs included in the formula are Arctium lappa, Ulmus rubra and Rumex acetosella. The root is anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. The roots contain anthraquinones, which have a purgative effect, and also tannins and bitters, which have an opposite astringent effect. When taken in small doses, it acts as an astringent tonic to the digestive system, whilst larger doses act as a mild laxative. The root is taken internally in the treatment of chronic constipation, diarrhoea, liver and gall bladder complaints, haemorrhoids, menstrual problems and skin eruptions due to an accumulation of toxins. This remedy is not prescribed for pregnant or lactating women, nor for patients with intestinal obstruction. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of burns. The roots are harvested in October from plants that are at least six years old, they are then dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is prepared from the dried root. This is used especially in the treatment of diarrhoea in teething children.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

Flovering:
June
to July

Habitat of the herb:

Scrub and rocky places and by streams, 2500 - 4000 metres. Slopes and valleys at elevations of 1500 - 4400 metres in western and northern China.

Edible parts of Turkey Rhubarb:

Leaf stem - raw or cooked. The stem is superior in flavour to the common rhubarb and quite tender. An acid flavour, it is sometimes used as a cooked fruit substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

An insect spray is made from the leaves. This spray is also said to help prevent clubroot of brassicas. The cultivar "Atrosanguineum" can be used as a ground cover plant in a sunny position. Other forms can also be used, they are best planted about 1.8 metres apart each way.

Propagation of Turkey Rhubarb:

Seed - best sown in autumn in a shaded cold frame. The seed can also be sown in spring in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in the spring. Division in early spring or autumn. Divide up the rootstock with a sharp spade or knife, making sure that there is at least one growth bud on each division. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Scrub and rocky places and by streams, 2500 - 4000 metres. Slopes and valleys at elevations of 1500 - 4400 metres in western and northern China.

Known hazards of Rheum palmatum:

The leaves are poisonous. This report probably refers to high levels of oxalic acid found in the leaves. Perfectly safe in moderate quantities, oxalic acid can lock up certain minerals (especially calcium) in the body, leading to nutritional deficiency. Cooking the plant will reduce its content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.