CHINESE RHUBARB (Rheum palmatum) a.K.a Ornamental Rhubarb
Although often mistaken for the more familiar species of ï¿½ï¿½R. rhubarbarumï¿½ï¿½, Rheum palmataum differs from it considerably in terms of shape and size.
Whereas the more common garden plants can only grow up to a few feet, Chinese Rhubarbs can mature as much as much as six to ten foot in length. The leaves of the plant are large, jagged and shaped like hands.
The flowers are usually yellow or white but may bloom to a beautiful red when mature. Chinese Rhubarbs ideally require a rich and moist soil to grow effectively. One can easily identify a Chinese Rhubarb by its thick and deep roots, which is discernable from other species of garden plants.
The Chinese Rhubarb is one of the very few plants that has managed to sustain its medicinal function from the early civilizations.
In ancient China, its use as an effective cure for stomach aches, constipation and fever was well known. There are several records from ancient Chinese writings dating as far back as 2700 B.C that document the use of the plant for its medicinal effects.
Apparently the plant was used to cure an Emperor in the Liang Dynasty apart from serving as an effective cure from the plague during the Song Dynasty.
The chronicles of cure soon spread to other parts of the world and very soon, Chinese rhubarbs became one of the most traded items along the Silk Route. Curiously, even with the huge leaps of medical science, Chinese rhubarbs are still used as a treatment for many diseases.
While cultivating Chinese rhubarbs, the most important factor should be the careful preparation of the soil.
As it is the thick root and rhizome of the plant that serves as its medicinal use, the preparation of the soil should be of the highest importance. The soil should be rich, moist and well drained for the effective growth of the plants.
It is grown either from the protective seed coat or by the root division method during autumn and spring. The plant cannot be effectively cultivated in extreme temperature conditions but is well suited to thrive in moderate temperatures.
Consequently, the plants have been efficiently cultivated in the West because of the proper climatic conditions.
The root of the plant is mostly used for its medicinal purposes. The root contains tannin which is effective as cures for diarrhea, dysentery, and other such intestinal disorders. Moreover the herbs can be dried or crushed and applied externally to cure fevers and edema.
The chemical constituents of the Chinese rhubarbs, mostly associated with its extensive medicinal use may include anthraquinones (3-5%), emodin (the most active ingredient of the root associated with its medicinal use), flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins (5-10%) and calcium oxalate.
Uses Of Rheum Palmatum
The root of the Chinese rhubarb is the most important part of the plant extensively used for medicinal purposes.
The active constituents in the root may function as an anti-inflammatory, laxative or as an antibacterial during toothaches, shingles, hypertension, burns, acute appendicitis, acute infectious hepatitis, conjunctivitis, swelling of gums, and sores of the mouth or tongue. Moreover, the root of the plant has been used over many centuries to cure stomach and intestinal disorders, fevers and edema.
The herbs can be crushed and dried sometimes to be applied externally during fevers.
The Chinese Rhubarb can be used in making pies and jams, adding a wonderful flavor to them.
It is also added to tonic wines.
The root, if consumed in high doses can be poisonous as the oxalic acid crystals present in the leaves can be risky for the health.
It can be especially harmful for those who are suffering from arthritis, kidney problems, inflammatory bowel disease, or intestinal obstruction. Also, pregnant women should also avoid taking this as it may cause uterine stimulation.
Rheum palmatum is referred to by using many common names such as Turkey rhubarb, Indian rhubarb, East Indian Rhubarb, Russian rhubarb or simply rhubarb root.
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