Chinese Rhubarb

Rheum officinale or R. palmatum

The homeopathic remedy rheum is derived from the herb Chinese rhubarb, also known as Turkey rhubarb, East Indian rhubarb as well as ornamental rhubarb. This plant is native to the mountainous regions of China and belongs to the family of Polygonaceae. Although there are a number of dissimilarities in the sub-species, they are all native to north-west China.

This plant is intimately related to the garden Rhubarb (botanical name Rheum rhaponticum) and when ingested, has a purgative effect on the human body.

Chinese rhubarb is a perennial plant and blossoms during mid- to late summer. Plants of this genus grow up to a height of three meters producing large leaves of the size of an umbrella.

Chemical analysis of the Chinese rhubarb has revealed that it encloses elements, such as anthraquinones, tannins and stilbenes. The anthraquinones are present in the form of glycosides and have been recognized as chrysophanol, aloe emodin, emodin, and rhein. Other substances contained in the Chinese rhubarb comprise of phenolics (for instance, gallic acid, catechin and glucogallin) as well as sennosides A, B and C.

The remarkable purgative or laxative effect of the herb Rheum palmatum is attributed to the presence of sennosides and rhein in the plant. The sennosides work on the large intestine and enhance motility (ability to move spontaneously) when it is debased owing to microorganisms present in the colon.

Such augmented laxative actions seem to be associated with the presence of sennoside in the herb. On the other hand, the presence of anthraquinones in the herb has shown laxative as well as anti-microbial effects.

In fact, scientists have studied the rhubarb extract in treating persistent renal failure in rats. According to the findings of one such study, rhubarb is effective in diminishing the acuteness of proteinuria (presence of unusually great quantities of protein in the urine), while it is also useful in lowering the intensity of BUN (the concentration of nitrogen in the blood in the form of urea) as well as soothing the acuteness of glomerulosclerosis (scarring within the renal glomeruli, a deteriorating process that occurs together with renal arteriosclerosis or diabetes).

Rhein and emodin present in the herb slows down the energy production by mitochondria. To a great extent this explains the effect of rhubarb extract in inhibiting the renal growth. Hypermetabolism (an essential procedure of organic functioning) is involved in the beginning of residual kidney scarring.

It has been found that patients suffering from upper GI hemorrhage actually experience an increase in blood vessel constriction as well as promotion of hemostasis (stoppage of bleeding) when they use the herb rhubarb. However, scientists are yet to ascertain the mechanism by which the herb performs this action.

The homeopathic remedy rheum is generally related to the treatment of chronic, acerbic-smelling diarrhea. People suffering from this health condition excrete foul-smelling stools that may be yellow or green in color. At the same time, the stools of such patients are likely to be frothy or fermented.

In addition, some of the usual symptoms associated with chronic sour-smelling diarrhea may include a bitter taste to all foods along with an acidic-smelling breath which together may result in loss of appetite. In addition, rheum may also be used to treat nausea as well as colicky pain (spastic pain in the abdomen or bowels), which worsens when the patient is standing for long and usually occurs together with trembling and the urgent need to pass stools.

The herb Rheum palmatum has been used in Chinese medicine since ages especially as an effective laxative. Even the European physicians adopted the non-culinary variety of rhubarb for therapeutic use way back in the 18th century.

Parts used

The root of the herb Rheum palmatum is used to prepare the homeopathic remedy rheum. The roots are first dehydrated and macerated or mashed in alcohol to obtain the solution which is a useful homeopathic remedy.


The herb Rheum palmatum has been used for therapeutic purposes since ages. Precisely speaking, the medicinal use of rhubarb has its origin in Ancient Chinese Medicine and from China, it spread to Arabia and finally Europe traveling through India, Russia and Turkey. Although this herb has been traditionally used to treat different health conditions, its primary use was to treat health conditions associated with the digestive system and related organs, such as the liver and spleen.

For centuries, the Chinese rhubarb has been used therapeutically as an anti-diarrheal as well as laxative agent. In addition, this herb was also used traditionally to cure indigestion, conjunctivitis, jaundice, GI bleeding, menstrual complaints and traumatic or shocking injuries.

Chinese rhubarb has also been effectively applied topically to heal scabs, burns injuries and sores. Herbal medicinal practitioners have also used Chinese rhubarb as a styptic or an astringent to stop hemorrhages.

It is interesting to note that it was found that a combination of the Chinese rhubarb, captopril and an ACE inhibition proved to be more effective as well as superior in inhibiting the progression of renal failure compared to any of these agents being used alone.

In fact, using rhubarb in concurrence with any other adjuvant or auxiliary drugs was also found to produce similar effects. Actually, researchers in China have confirmed that this kind of therapy may be used as an intermediary measure while treating chronic or persistent renal disease prior to initiating more radical or deep-seated medications.

When administered to patients suffering from GI bleeding, it was found that rhubarb was effective in controlling hemorrhages, diminishing loss of blood, lessen the requirement for clotting agents, cure fever, enhance peristalsis (the progressive gesticulation of tightening and loosening of a tubular muscular system) of the colon with no effect on the duodenum or stomach and, at the same time, facilitate elimination of excessive bleeding.

Scientists studied the effect of rhubarb stalk fiber in men who are hypercholesterolemic (having the presence of an excessive amount of cholesterol in the blood) and it was found that the herb was useful in reducing the serum total cholesterol as well as the LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels.

The homeopathic remedy rheum is considered to be most appropriate for individuals who have bitter moods and are inclined to be simple and introvert and, at the same time, be restless while sleeping. In fact, this homeopathic remedy is also beneficial for children, especially those who are full of apprehensions, crying and restive during nights. This medication is also useful for adults as well as children who become exhausted very fast.

Undemanding individuals having a tendency to a bitter and acerbic temperament respond best to the homeopathic remedy rheum. Such people are usually very introvert and reserved and never make any demands on others around them. Such patients are also restive and have disturbed sleep. Turning to rheum helps them to get relief from such bothersome symptoms.

However, when such people become sick, they seem to be more demanding and irritable. In addition, such patients also get exhausted quite easily and have an inclination to lose interest in anything they might be doing very fast. All bodily discharges, especially sweat, of such patients have a foul or sour smell.

In fact, the sour smell of their sweat is obvious even soon after they have a wash. It appears that the sour smell is persistent and would not leave these patients. However, using the homeopathic remedy rheum is highly effective in alleviating these problems.

Worsening of symptoms: The general symptoms of people who respond to the homeopathic remedy rheum worsens when they are exposed to heat and/ or when they consume sour fruits and foods.

Improvement of symptoms: The conditions or general symptoms of people who respond to rheum best improve when they are in fetal position, resting and exposed to warmth.


Although this herb - Rheum palmatum - is indigenous to the rocky regions of China, currently it is grown almost at all places in the world. While some disparity exists among the different sub-species of this herb, they all are known to have their origin in north-west China.

People in England use the tender leaf stalks of the sub-species English rhubarb to prepare a sweetish-sour dessert dish. This variety of the herb is seldom used for therapeutic purposes.

As discussed earlier, the herb Rheum palmatum is a perennial plant occurring every year and blossoms during mid-summer to late summer. It may be noted that Rheum palmatum as well as the different species found in Asia, which are basically sub-species of Rheum, are used to prepare the homeopathic remedy rheum.

All these varieties of Rheum are generally larger plants compared to the common garden rhubarb. Generally, these plants grow up to a height of three meters and bear leaves that are almost of the size of umbrellas.


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