Turkish Rhubarb

Scientific Name/Common Name: Rheum palmatum / Turkish rhubarb

Part(s) Used: Root

Constituents/Active Ingredients: 3-12% anthraquinones including 60-80% chrysophanol, emodin, aloe-emodin, rhein, physcionin, citreorosein, chrysophanol 1, emodin1, aloe-emodin 8-glucoside; 10-25% dianthraquinones: sennosides A, B, C, D, E, & F; naphtalins, 1% stilbenes; 5-10% tannins; and 2-3% flavonoids including rutin and several polyphenols.

Overview: The root of Turkish rhubarb, not to be confused with common garden rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) has been used traditionally to improve both digestion and loss of appetite. The bitter tea is rich in tannins that increase the flow of saliva and gastric secretions and can be used as an astringent or stomachic at a low dosage to stop diarrhea (0.1-0.2 g). Formerly, the root was an important drug in many army camps, said to stop the deadly scourge of dysentery in its tracks. At a higher dosage (1.0-2.0 g) the anthraquinones that it contains function as a safe and effective laxative. This is an example of a plant that can be used for opposite purposes depending upon the dosage. The German Pharmacopoeia recommends the root against constipation and for all disorders in which defecation with a soft stool is desired, e.g. anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and after rectal operations. It also recommends a small dose for stomach and bowel catarrh. Today the drug is mostly used as a laxative and is a component of many choleretic drugs (a choleretic increases the flow of bile into the intestines and is recommended in cases of liver and biliary disorders that often cause constipation). The active glycosides are hydrolyzed in the gut into their aglycones at least in part by the action of bacterial enzymes; by influencing the water and electrolyte transport in the colon, these aglycones are responsible for the laxative action.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: Digestive tonic; bitter; stimulant laxative; anti-inflammatory.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Rhei radix – Turkish rhubarb root (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 415-418.

Cirillo C, Capasso R. Constipation and Botanical Medicines: An Overview. Phytother Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):1488-93. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5410. Epub 2015 Jul 14. Review.

Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.