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The Practical Herbalist


Every spring the first vegetable to pop up in many gardens is Rhubarb. The sour stalks are a favorite in desserts and baking. The root and rhizome of the rhubarb plant is one of the most powerful herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica. Known as Da Huang or "Big Yellow", Rhubarb is found in every Chinese herbalist shop.

Rhubarb root is classified as a purgative, because it strongly clears the bowels. As part of this function rhubarb also drains heat out of the body, and because of the moving quality of the herb it is used in trauma formulas to reduce pain. This ability to move energy down and out of the body is the reason why it is so valuable as a medicinal herb. Very few herbs can strongly move energy without being harsh.

That is not to say that there are no cautions when using Rhubarb root. The strong movement caused by Rhubarb root makes it inappropriate in patients who are pregnant, lactating, very weak or who have diarrhea. There are times when it is necessary to move energy down and out. Chronic dry hard constipation is one situation. Here Rhubarb root is mixed with other herbs that nourish fluids and other herbs that have a high oil content too help the body move the stool more freely. In cases of trauma pain, rhubarb is used as an adjunctive herb to other pain relieving and tissue rebuilding herbs. In our modern day this can be very helpful in helping a patient who is in pain and who also is experiencing constipation due to other pain medications.

Rhubarb also shows up in some formulas designed to treat cancer. These formulas are often over hyped to treat all types of cancer. Technically, Rhubarb based formulas for cancer are most appropriate to treat any type of cancer, marked by pain and signs of heat in the way of fever, redness, easy bleeding and depending on the cancer redness and swelling in the local area. Generally Rhubarb based formulas are not a good idea as a long term prophylactic supplement to prevent cancer. Long term use of Rhubarb can deplete energy from the body and weaken it.

The best way to use Rhubarb root is under the guidance of a Herbalist who can determine what your body actually needs and how the herb should be mixed with other herbs to truly address the root cause of the medical problem. Rhubarb root is one of the great herbs that just should not be used alone. It can be very powerful as a medicine, and requires caution in use.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066