Rhubarb Root Fights Cancer

Other Names: Rheum palmatum, Chinese rhubarb, turkey rhubarb

Rhubarb has a long history of herbal usage. The primary result of rhubarb root as an herbal medicine is a positive and balancing effect upon the digestive system. Rhubarb is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. The root is used as an anti-cholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. Rhubarb roots contain anthraquinones which have a purgative effect, and the tannins and bitters have an an effect that is opposite that of an astringent.

When taken internally in small doses, rhubarb acts as an astringent tonic to the digestive system, when taken larger doses rhubarb acts as a very mild laxative. The root can be taken internally for the treatment of chronic constipation, diarrhea, liver and gall bladder complaints, hemorrhoids, menstrual problems and skin eruptions due to an accumulation of toxins. Used externally, rhubarb root can be used in the treatment of burns.

People have further claimed that Rhubarb enhances the appetite when it is taken before meals in small amounts, that it also promotes blood circulation and relieves pain in cases of injury or inflammation, inhibits intestinal infections. and can also reduce autoimmune reactions. The impact of the rhubarb depends on how it is prepared. More recently there have been claims that rhubarb root (Rheum officinale) can be useful in treatment of Hepatitis B.

Rhubarb Cutting Cancer Risks

Rhubarb has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times and today it is still applied in various herbal preparations for health benefits. Reseachers from National University of Singapore studied the toxicological and anti-neoplastic potentials of the main anthraquinones from Rhubarb, Rheum palmatum.

It is interesting to note that although the chemical structures of various anthraquinones in this plant are similar, their bioactivities are rather different. The most abundant anthraquinone of rhubarb, emodin, was capable of inhibiting cellular proliferation, induction of apoptosis, and prevention of metastasis. These capabilities seem to act through tyrosine kinases, phosphoinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), protein kinase C (PKC), NF-kappa B (NF-kappaB), and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascades.

Aloe-emodin is another major component in rhubarb to have anti-tumor properties. Its anti-proliferative property is related to p53 and its downstream p21 pathway.

A recent study suggests that the molecular targets of these two anthraquinones are different, though both potentiate the anti-proliferation of various chemotherapeutic agents. Rhein another major rhubarb anthraquinone effectively inhibited the uptake of glucose in tumor cells, caused changes in membrane-associated functions and led to cell death in the study.

A study has shown that rhubarb help patients with gastric cancer to recover after operations. Patients in the study group were fed with rhubarb before operation, and at 1 day and 2 days after operation. Rhubarb positively modulated the acute inflammatory response, promoted the recovery of postoperative gastrointestinal motility, and benefited enteral nutrition support in patients who have undergone major operations for gastric cancer.

However, some test-tubes studies showed that some rhubarb ingredients might have mutagenic activities. But the clinical link between the use of rhubarb and the development of gastric cancer was not clear.

Diarrhea & Rhubarb Root

Rhubarb Root contains two major constituents which makes it extremely useful for relieving cases of diarrhea. The purgative constituents are responsible for increasing the contractions of the colon and cleansing. These constituents purge the bowel, removing the cause of the diarrhea.

The tannin constituents come through the colon after the cleansing process has been completed. These constituents act as an astringent cleansing the colon killing any of the left over infectious bacteria causing the diarrhea. “It is especially useful in cases of diarrhea, caused by an irritating body in the intestines: the cause of the irritation is removed and the after-astringent action checks the diarrhea”.

Constipation & Rhubarb Root

The purgative actions of Rhubarb Root make it effective in relieving bouts of constipation. The root stimulates the colon to contract, it is these contractions that move fecal matter through the colon.

When constipated the colon is not spontaneously contracting, therefore fecal matter sits and builds in the colon causing the constipation. It’s the purgative actions that will not only move the fecal matter but it will also tone the colon so it contracts on its own more regularly.

The colon does not become dependent on the Rhubarb Root to contract so once cleansed constipation should not return. “In large doses, Rhubarb powder acts as a simple and safe purgative, being regarded as one of the most valuable remedies we possess, effecting a brisk, healthy purge, without clogging the bowels and producing constipation, too often consequent upon the use of the more active purgatives”.

Internal Cleansing & Rhubarb Root

The combination of Rhubarb Roots purgative and astringing properties make it an extremely effective colon cleanser. The purgative actions work to increase the motility of the colon pushing fecal matter through. This helps to clean out any impacted fecal matter that may have been building up.

However, it’s difficult for the contractions of the colon to completely clean the colon. The intestines in the digestive tract are very long and winding, therefore pockets of debris may be left behind. This is where the astringent action of Rhubarb Root is important.

The astringent, tannin acid, comes after the purgative actions and does a thorough wash of the colon. Removing any left over pockets of fecal matter or infectious bacteria.

“Rhubarb Root has a purgative action for us in the treatment of constipation, but also has an astringent effect following this.It therefore has a truly cleansing action upon the gut, removing debris and then astringing with antiseptic properties as well”.

Rhubarb Root Weight Loss

There are a few reasons why Rhubarb root helps with weight loss. Because of its effect on the colon and digestive system, it helps process the foods you eat so that they exit the body properly. The intestinal action of Rhubarb root helps block the absorption of fat, which normally accumulates in the body cells.

Overall, Rhubarb root is extremely beneficial when used by those attempting to lose weight.

Rhubarb Root & Digestion

The bitter principle included in Rhubarb Root is said to stimulate digestion and improve the appetite. It is considered a “stomachic” that relieves gastric disorders, improves the appetite and gives tone and strength to the stomach. Rhubarb Root is thought to be particularly effective in treating atonic dyspepsia, helping the digestive organs when in a condition of torpor and debility. In addition, the herb is also believed to encourage gastric flow, which also aids the digestive process.

Rhubarb Root is considered an anti-microbial that has been used to treat intestinal worms, including internal pinworms, threadworms and ringworms.

Rhubarb Root & Menstrual Problems

Rhubarb Root has been used to relieve menstrual problems. The herb stimulates the uterus and is thought to move stagnated blood, which also helps to relieve pains and cramps. A special extract of Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum) has been used for many years to treat menopausal symptoms in Germany and elsewhere, and according to researchers, Rhubarb significantly reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in perimenopausal women. Until recently, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the most common treatment for menopausal hot flashes, but in the wake of negative side effects, there is much interest in finding a safe, alternative treatment for hot flashes and other symptoms caused by menopause, and Rhubarb extract may be a viable alternative treatment for women experiencing severe hot flashes associated with menopause and perimenopause.

Rhubarb Root is thought to possess antibacterial, antibiotic and antiviral properties. In modern medicine, Rhubarb Root has been found to be useful in treatment of hepatitis-B virus. In vitro studies, the anthraquinones in Rhubarb exhibited virucidal activity against HSV I, measles, polio and influenza virus; and the rhein component showed antibacterial activity against Bacteroides fragilis, but thus far, no conclusions have yet been published. Teas made from Rhubarb have been said to help relieve infection caused by bacteria.

Rhubarb Root may be used externally to fight inflammation and infection (skin eruptions, boils and carbuncles, etc.) and to promote healing (wounds, cold sores and burns, etc.).

Rhubarb Root Research Studies

Rhubarb may benefit circulation – vasodilation or vasoconstriction?

An aqueous extract of rhubarb (Rheum undulatum L) was found to exhibit a distinct vasorelaxant activity. This aqueous extract induced a concentration-dependent relaxation of the phenylephrine-precontracted aorta. After a series of experiments, researchers concluded that the extract dilated vascular smooth muscle and suppressed the vascular inflammatory process via endothelium-dependent NO/cGMP signaling.

On the other hand, rhubarb and Sanchi Powder were found to promote vasoconstriction, shortening the bleeding time and blood arresting. The combination could also increase the platelet count and improve the platelet aggregation.

A study of rabbits has demonstrated the beneficial effects on hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Researchers first injected living measles virus into the main pancreatic duct and the ear vein of the rabbits, leading to increased serum amylase. They then treated some rabbits with rhubarb. They found that rhubarb treated animals had a lower serum amylase.

There is also a report that it helps stop bleeding from upper digestive tract.

Rhubarb can be used in muscle contraction, in vitro studies suggested.

Rhubarb has exciting actions on isolated gastric smooth muscle strips of guinea pig. The exciting action of rhubarb is partly mediated via cholinergic M receptor, cholinergic N receptor and L-type calcium channel.

Rhubarb can stimulate the motility of isolated gallbladder muscle strips from guinea pigs. The stimulation of rhubarb was believed to be related to M receptor, Ca(2+) channel and alpha receptor partly.

Researchers also found that serum containing Rhubarb Mixture amplified the contraction amplitude of an isolated small intestinal smooth muscle of rabbit. The rate of change of contraction amplitude was elevated significantly after administration, while the frequency
of contraction did not change obviously.

Though there are some in vitro evidence that rhubarb may cause vasconstriction, it showed a protective measure for high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Researchers found that low doses of rhubarb prevented hypertension developed during pregnancy. Rhubarb (140 cases) or placebo (125 cases) was given to women at risk of hypertension consecutively from the 28th week of gestation till delivery, and another 68 pregnant women as control. Results showed that 5.7% of rhubarb treated women developed hypertension, a rate substantially lower than the 20.8% of the placebo group (P < 0.01).

Rhubarb may benefit those with high cholesterol.

Both experimental and clinical studies have indicated that a novel source of dietary fibre, produced from rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum) stalks, is potentially hypolipidaemic. Researchers found that rhubarb fiber could actually increase excretion of bile acids and induction of cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity in both the normal and the cholesterol-fed mice.

In a study of 10 patients suffered from high cholesterol, Canadian researchers supplemented the patients with 27 g of ground rhubarb stalk fiber per day for 4 weeks. They claimed that rhubarb fiber supplementation resulted in significant lowering of serum total cholesterol (8%) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (9%). These results signify the potential uses of underutilized rhubarb crop. Rhubarb (Rheum rhapontiam) stalk fibre was previously shown to be hypolipidaemic under clinical and experimental conditions. However, the rhubarb-fibre diet had no effect on the plasma cholesterol or triacylglycerol concentrations of diabetic rats.

Rhubarb showed anti-oxidant, anti-infammatory and anti-allergy effects.

The methanolic extracts from five kinds of rhubarb were found to show scavenging activity for DPPH radical and .O2.

Rhubarb supplements showed positive impact on liver inflamation. In a study of 44 patients of hepatitis, researchers supplied patients with rhubarb, while they supplemented another 20 patients with inosine, vitamin C and glucose as a control group. They found a satisfactory to marked improvement in 39 patients of the rhubarb-treated group, while only 10% of the control group showed improvements.

Japanese researchers found that the rhizome of Rheum undulatum inhibited the allergic reactions in an animal study and that these inhibitory effects might be partially attributable to the stilbenes.

Researchers from Kyoto Pharmaceutical University, Japan, demonstrated that stilbenes from the rhizomes of Rheum undulatum (Korean rhubarb) and the related compounds had anti-allergic activities. Active stilbenes such as piceatannol, 3,5,4′-trimethylpiceatannol, resveratrol, trimethylresveratrol inhibited ionomycin-induced beta-hexosaminidase release. And, piceatannol, 3,5,4′-trimethylpiceatannol, resveratrol, and trimethylresveratrol also significantly inhibited antigen-induced release of TNF-alpha and IL-4 in RBL-2H3 cells.

Rhubarb can exert protective effects on severe acute pancreatitis in rats, probably by inhibiting the inflammation of pancreas, improving pancreatic microcirculation, and altering exocrine secretion.

Rhubarb demonstrated immune modulation in some test-tube and animal studies.

Some studies showed rhubarb extracts may prevent stone formation. Rhubarb has shown benefits on renal failure or toxicity in test-tube and animal studies.

Researchers found that a rhubarb extract prevented calcium phosphate precipitation in a in vitro study. Thus, they suggested that supplementation of rhubarb extract may have benefit of preventing calculus formation.

Treatment of chronic renal failure with rhubarb and adjuvant drugs combined with other appropriate measures alleviates the suffering of the patients and improves the quality of their survival.

In a clinical trial of 38 patients, Japanese researchers found that rhubarb can retard the introduction-period of hemodialysis and can also inhibit deterioration of the chronic renal failure.

Rhubarb may have protective effects on lung, too; animal studies suggested.

In a study of rats, rhubarb and dexamethasone could significantly reduce the edema of the lung tissue, decrease the red blood cell exudation, neutrophil infiltration and plasma protein exudation in the alveoli and all the biological markers in comparison with the
acute lung injury model rats, indicating these two substances have protective action on vascular endothelium and alveolar epithelium.

A study of rats showed that the application of rhubarb and dexamethasone could decease the expression and ameliorate the lung damage induced by lipopolysaccharide injection.

Rhubarb was found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral effects from animal or test-tube studies.

Researchers from Japan found that rhubarb root (Rheum officinale)and its active ingredient-rhein had significant activities against bacteroides fragilis which is a major anaerobic microorganism in the intestinal flora of humans. ost patients can take care of themselves after treatment, and some can engage in half-day work. The treatment prolongs the life of the patient, and reduces medical expenses.

An animal study showed its effects on herpes simplex virus(HSV) infection.

Rhubarb Usage

Rhubarb is grown primarily for its fleshy petioles, commonly known as rhubarb sticks or stalks. The use of rhubarb stems as food is a relatively recent innovation, first recorded in 17th century England, after affordable sugar became available to common people, and reaching a peak between the 20th century’s two world wars.

Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with fruit juice. In most cases it is infused with strawberry juice to mimic the popular strawberry rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb root produces a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks. It is used in northern regions where walnut trees do not survive

Rhubarb Historical Medicinal Usage

Rhubarb can be used as a strong laxative. Its roots have been used as a laxative for at least 5,000 years. Rhubarb has an astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and the nasal cavity. The roots and stems are rich in anthraquinones, such as emodin and rhein. These substances are cathartic and laxative, which explains the sporadic use of rhubarb as a dieting aid.

Rhubarb roots are used in traditional Chinese medicine; rhubarb also appears in medieval Arabic and European prescriptions.

The rhizomes (‘roots’) contain stilbene compounds (including rhaponticin) which seem to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic mice.

Rhubarb Root

Rhubarb Roots first use can be traced as far back as 2700 B.C., at that time the Hopi Indians of China and Tibet used the root to treat colds. In addition to treating colds Rhubarb Root was also used by the Chinese to treat constipation and diarrhea.

In the 1600′s Marco Polo discovered Rhubarb Root during his travels in China, and he is responsible for the plants arrival in Europe. It became so popular in Europe that it was one of the more expensive herbs on the trading market. Its value as a medicine, on the trading market in Europe, was greater than opium. It wasn’t until the 1800′s that Rhubarb was also discovered for its food properties as well as its medicinal properties.

Rhubarb didn’t arrive in America until the late 1700′s early 1800′s. There are records of a Maine farmer acquiring the seed or the root stock from Europe. This farmer shared his knowledge of rhubarb with fellow farmers in Massachusetts where it grew in popularity and eventually showed up in produce markets.

Rhubarb Root Applications

TINCTURE: The action of the root varies considerably depending on dose. Low doses (5-10 drops) are astringent and can be used for diarrhea. A slightly higher dose (1 ml) acts as a good liver stimulant and gentle laxative. Very high doses (up to 2.5 ml) have a strong cooling and purgative effect. Use increasing doses (0.5 – 2 ml) of carminatives such as fennel or mint with higher doses of rhubarb to prevent cramps.

DECOCTION: A weak decoction (up to 0.5 g root per dose) can be used for diarrhea, while a strong decoction (3 g root per dose) is effective for chronic constipation or cramps with delayed menstruation.

WASH: The root is also antibacterial and astringent, and a strong decoction can be used on boils and pustules.

Rhubarb Recommended Dosage

For Standardized Extract 1%: Take two (2) capsules, two (2) times each day with water at mealtimes.
For Botanical Extract 10:1: Take two (2) capsules, two (2) times each day with water at mealtimes.
For Botanical Extract 4:1: Take two (2) capsules, two (2) to three (3) times each day with water at mealtimes.
For Botanical Powder: Take two (2) to three (3) capsules, two (2) to three (3) times each day with water at mealtimes.

Rhubarb Contraindications

Pregnant and nursing women should not use Rhubarb Root Herbal Supplement, nor should it be used by those who suffer from colitis or have intestinal obstruction.

Long-term use is not recommended, as it may cause dependence and tendency toward chronic constipation, nor should it be taken when the colon is already empty (do not take Rhubarb longer than eight to ten days).

People with a history of renal stones or urinary problems should avoid Rhubarb Root (and any herbs with oxalates).

Never eat or cook Rhubarb leaves as a food. Oxalates are contained in all parts of Rhubarb plants, especially in the green leaves, and are considered extremely toxic. There is some evidence that anthraquinone glycosides (the active purgative ingredient) are also present and may be partly responsible. The stalks and roots contain low levels of oxalates, so this does not cause problems.

Do not take Rhubarb without talking to your doctor first if you are taking blood thinning medicine: examples: warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), aspirin, enoxaparin (Lovenox), dalteparin (Fragmin) or blood disease medication (Sulfinpyrazone).

Children under twelve years of age should never take Rhubarb, except under the direct supervision of your family physician.

Using Rhubarb Root may temporarily cause the urine to appear yellow or red, but this is a common occurrence and no cause for alarm.

Baked Rhubarb Could Help Treat Cancer

Dr Gordon McDougall, from Scottish Crop Research Institute’s Plant Products and Food Quality program said, “Our research has shown that British rhubarb is a potential source of pharmacological agents that may be used to develop anti-cancer drugs.

“Current treatments are not effective in all cancers and resistance is a common problem. Cancer affects one in three individuals in the UK so it’s very important to discover novel, less toxic, treatments.”

Polyphenols abundant in anti-cancer properties. Studying the medicinal properties of rhubarb grown in South Yorkshire, the experts found that its anti-cancer properties are attributed to chemicals known as polyphenols. These chemicals could kill or halt the growth of cancer cells, and could be instrumental in the developing less toxic treatments for the disease where other cures have failed.

Scientific analysis of raw rhubarb revealed that it has over 40 polyphenol components including anthraquinone, stilbene, anthocyanin, and flavonol derivatives.

They used rhubarb grown indoors in candlelight that produces darker red stem which have higher polyphenols than the paler varieties.

Different ways of cooking compared.

To evaluate the health benefits of the components, the scientists compared four different ways of cooking rhubarb. These included blanching, slow cooking, fast cooking, and baking.

The investigators found that all the methods employed in cooking rhubarb elevated the polyphenol content, except when it was eaten in raw form, or when it was blanched.

The maximum benefit was derived when rhubarb was baked. However, over-cooking it can reduce the medicinal benefits.

Dr Gordon McDougall stated, “We have also shown that the levels of these anti-cancer and bioactive components increase if you cook it in a certain way. Baking was the most gentle, in that it didn’t destroy those components but released them from the material. It is almost the most common way that people cook rhubarb.”

He further added, “Baking for 20 minutes provided well-cooked rhubarb with the highest antioxidant capacity and the highest anthocyanin content.”

Giving some insight into the medicines made with hubarb, Dr Nikki Jordan-Mahy, of Sheffield Hallam University, said that they would be most effective if administered along with the prevalent cancer treatments.

However, she cautioned eating baked rhubarb by itself would not exhibit the same effect.

The joint study by Scottish Crop Research Institute with Sheffield Hallam University is published in the Journal Food Chemistry.

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Rhubarb Root Research Links

The Effects of Rhubarb Root and Antihyperlipidemic Drug on some Physiological Parameters in Male Rats.

Isolation and Identification of Anthralin from the Roots of Rhubarb Plant (Rheum palmatum)

Observation on therapeutic effect of Rhubarb and sanchi powder in treating patients with hemorrhagic fever in nephrotic syndrome complicated with digestive tract bleeding.

Rhubarb shows promise in fighting cancer.

Anti-cancer properties of anthraquinones from rhubarb.

Baked Rhubarb Could Help Treat Cancer: Scientists from Sheffield Hallam University and the Scottish Crop Research Institute discovered that baking British garden rhubarb for 20 minutes increased its levels of certain anti-cancer chemicals called polyphenols.

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