Spring comes & a young man’s fancy turns lightly to….RHUBARB….. if he’s
a fair-weather gardener, that is. If he’s a true obsessive, he’s probably
already harvested his first sticks! Mine are still fighting the battle with the

Love it or hate it – you’ve got to admit its versatile and easy to grow. Now
I knew you could eat it (cooked of course, yum, and so good for those of us on a
low GI diet (1), you can clean your burnt pots with it by cooking said rhubarb in
them (it’s the oxalic acid yah know) and you don’t want to cook it in
galvanised iron pots, for fear of poisoning yourself as the acid leaches out the
zinc. But now apparently you can use it as an antiseptic mouthwash! (2).
Whatever next.
Apparently the rhubarb extract is better than yarrow or chamomile but not so
effective as straight chlorhexidine, the standard antiseptic in commercial mouthwashes. Still the authors seem encouraged and intend to pursue
this line of investigation. I came across this article during
"screening": that’s the name we editors use for selecting articles for
abstracting/indexing in our databases. Of course we also sometimes refer to it
as *****. 

The  abstract should be on Global Health by the middle of May, so
keep an eye out for it!

So I wondered, what else is on Global Health, Global Health
Archive and CAB Abstracts, our  three
databases: is rhubarb even more versatile than I thought? Well the
rhizomes contain a smooth muscle relaxant (3),  it was used to control
post-dysentery diarrhoea in 1st world war hospitals (4), they’ve
investigated it as a treatment for lip herpes (5), the anthraquinones in the
uncooked roots of Chinese rhubarb, which is used in traditional medicine as a
purgative amongst other uses, 
can be nephrotoxic (6).

There’s even a paper comparing the pharmacokinetics
of oral dosing of rhubarb
extract  vs enema (7). Such
information is relevant as apparently rhubarb extracts are useful in reducing
Blood Urea Nitrogen  in patients with chronic renal failure and may prevent
or delay progression to end stage uremic syndrome.

me guys, I’m sticking to mine by mouth.


Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, Vol. 76, No. 1, pp. 281S-285S

2. Majallah
i Dandanpizishki (Journal of Islamic Dental Association of Iran), 2006,
18 No.6, 
    [persian article with
english abstract, NOT yet on the database but soon will be]
3. Phytotherapy
Research, 2007, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 186-189
4. Jl.
Roy. Army Med. Corps., 1918, June, Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 593-394

5. Zeitschrift
für Phytotherapie
2005, Vol. 26, No. 6
6. Journal
of Ethnopharmacology, 2006, Vol. 107, No. 2, pp. 308-311
7. American
Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2005,
Vol. 33, No. 6,
pp. 839-850


1 Comment

  1. Ruth on 24th April 2008 at 11:13 pm

    I love rhubard and have to admit after reading this, for a short second I lost my craving. I agree, I’ll stick to mine by mouth. Does anyone know anything about cranberries? I’m just curious. There seems to be so much out there about their benefits.

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