Freitag, 19. Juni 2015

Old Plants and Herbal Wisdom: Rhubarb - Rheum rhabarbarum (Rhabarber)

The term "rhubarb" is a combination of the Ancient Greek rha and barbarum; rha refers both to the plant and to the River Volga.
Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a species of plant in the family Polygonaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial growing from short, thick rhizomes. It produces large leaves that are somewhat triangular, with long fleshy petioles. and small flowers grouped in large compound leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescences.
The value of rhubarb can be seen in Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo's report of his embassy in 1403–05 to Timur in Samarkand: "The best of all merchandise coming to Samarkand was from China: especially silks, satins, musk, rubies, diamonds, pearls, and rhubarb..."

Historical cultivation
Rhubarb has been used for medical purposes by the Chinese for thousands of years,  and appears in The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic which is thought to have been compiled about 2,700 years ago. Though Dioscurides' description of ρηον or ρά indicates that a medicinal root brought to Greece from beyond the Bosphorus may have been rhubarb, commerce in the drug did not become securely established until Islamic times. During Islamic times, it was imported along the Silk Road, reaching Europe in the 14th century through the ports of Aleppo and Smyrna, where it became known as "Turkish rhubarb". Later, when the usual route lay through Russia, "Russian rhubarb" became the familiar term.

 (Picture taken in beginning of June)
(These pictures were taken at the end of March) 
Medicinal uses of 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. Rhubarb roots are harvested in the fall from plants that are at least six years old. The roots are then dried for later use. The root is used as an anticholesterolemic, 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. Note that this remedy should not used by pregnant or lactating women, or patients with intestinal obstruction. 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.










For centuries, the plant has grown wild along the banks of the River Volga, for which the ancient Scythian hydronym was Rhā. The cost of transportation across Asia made rhubarb expensive in medieval Europe. It was several times the price of other valuable herbs and spices such as cinnamon, opium, and saffron. The merchant explorer Marco Polo therefore searched for the place where the plant was grown and harvested, discovering that it was cultivated in the mountains of Tangut province.

In culinary use, fresh raw petioles (leaf stalks) are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong, tart taste. Most commonly, the plant's leaf stalks are cooked with sugar and used in pies and other desserts. A number of varieties have been domesticated for human consumption, most of which are recognised as Rheum x hybridum by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Rhubarb is usually considered a vegetable. In the United States, however, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits.
Rhubarb contains anthraquinones including rhein, and emodin and their glycosides (e.g. glucorhein), which impart cathartic and laxative properties. It is hence useful as a cathartic in case of constipation.

(Sources "rhubarbinfo" and Wikipedia)
More informations:
The Rhubarb Compendium:  More than you ever wanted to know about rhubarb

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