oats / avena sativa

Rheum palmatum


Chinese rhubarb (Turkish rhubarb), called Da Huang in China, has a centuries’-old history of herbal usage (the first records found go back to 2700 B.C.). The herb also forms part of a North American formula called Essiac, which is a popular treatment for cancer. This perennial tall herb, which is indigenous to the area ranging from western China to Mongolia, should not be confused with garden rhubarb Rheum officinale Baillon, which is regarded by most people as a fruit although it is actually classified as a vegetable.

Parts used

Roots and rhizomes, dried.


The principal active ingredients in Chinese rhubarb are anthraquinones (which have anti-inflammatory properties, relieve pain, help repair damaged tissue, promote digestive health and have a laxative effect), flavonoids (disease-fighting anti-oxidants), phenolic compounds (help fight cancer), tannins and calcium oxalate.

Medicinal uses

Chinese rhubarb is one of few ancient herbs still used today in both Western and herbal medicine to treat constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, jaundice, nose bleeds, menstrual conditions and cancer. Controlled studies are needed to approve the herb’s effectiveness in treating cancer. The German Commission E approves Rheum palmatum as a treatment for constipation.

Rheum palmatum is used in synergistic combination formulas prescribed to:

  • Boost the immune system.
  • Promote digestive health.
  • Clean blood and help detoxify the body.
  • Help recovery after chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Fight bacteria such as staphylococcus and streptococcus, and the flu virus.
  • May lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Although safe to use, Rheum palmatum should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women, or by patients with intestinal obstructions. Chinese rhubarb roots have medicinal effects, but its leaves contain oxalic acid crystals which can impair breathing and constrict the airways, ultimately preventing breathing.

Flora Force Products containing Rheum palmatum


Domestic & culinary uses

No records have been found to confirm Rheum palmatum being used in domestic cuisine.


Native to the regions of western China, northern Tibet and the Mongolian plateau, Chinese rhubarb now grows well throughout the Western world, although plants are rarely available in South Africa.

Acknowledgements & credits

Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer


  1. Chinese Herbs Healing. Rheum palmatum. https://www.chineseherbshealing.com/rheum-palmatum-da-huang/
  2. Grieve, M. Rhubarbs. Botanical.com: A modern herbal. https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/rhubar14.html
  3. Plants for a future. Rheum palmatum. https://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rheum+palmatum
  4. Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Books, Pretoria, South Africa.


  1. Photo of Oats by Wayne Boucher (https://www.cambridge2000.com/) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.