Rhubarb: what it is, what it is for and how to use

Rhubarb is an edible plant that has also been used for medicinal purposes, as it has a powerful stimulating and digestive effect, used mainly in the treatment of constipation, due to its rich senoside composition, which provide a laxative effect.

This plant has an acidic and slightly sweet taste, and is usually consumed cooked or as an ingredient in some culinary preparations. The part of rhubarb used for consumption is the stem, because the leaves can cause severe poisoning by containing oxalic acid.

Main benefits

The consumption of rhubarb can provide several health benefits, such as:

  • Improve eye health, as it contains lutein, an antioxidant that protects the eye macula;
  • Prevent cardiovascular disease, as it contains fibers that reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine and antioxidants that prevent atherosclerosis;
  • Help regulate blood pressure and improve blood circulation, as it has antioxidants that provide an anti-inflammatory effect. In addition, it is rich in potassium, a mineral that helps to relax blood vessels, favoring the passage of blood through arteries;
  • Improve skin health and prevent pimples, being rich in vitamin A;
  • Contribute to cancer prevention, as it contains antioxidants that prevent cell damage caused by the formation of free radicals;
  • Promote weight loss due to low calorie content;
  • Strengthen the immune system, as it is rich in selenium and vitamin C;
  • Relieve symptoms of menopause, due to the presence of phytosterols, which help to reduce hot flashes (sudden heat);
  • Maintain brain health, because in addition to containing antioxidants, it also contains selenium and choline that help improve memory and prevent neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or senile dementia.

It is important to mention that these benefits are found in the rhubarb stem, as its leaves are rich in oxalic acid, a substance that can cause serious health problems, because when consumed in large quantities, it can be nephrotoxic and have a corrosive action. Its lethal dose is between 10 and 25 g, depending on the person's age.

Nutritional composition

The following table shows the nutritional information for 100 g of raw rhubarb:

Components100 g of rhubarb
Calories21 Kcal
Carbohydrates4.54 g
Proteins0.9 g
Fats0.2 g
Fibers1.8 g
Vitamin A5 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin170 mcg
Vitamin C8 mg
Vitamin E0.27 mg
Vitamin K29.6 MCG
Vitamin B10.02 mg
Vitamin B20.03 mg
Vitamin B30.3 mg
Vitamin B60.024 mg
Folate7 mcg
Calcium86 mg
Magnesium14 mg
Protase288 mg
Selenium1.1 mcg
Iron0.22 mg
Zinc0.1 mg
Hill6.1 mg

How to use

Rhubarb can be eaten raw, cooked, in the form of tea or added to recipes like cakes and pastries. Consuming it cooked helps to reduce the oxalic acid content by about 30 to 87%.

If the rhubarb is placed in a very cold place, such as the freezer, oxalic acid can migrate from the leaves to the stem, which can cause problems for those who consume it. Thus, it is recommended that rhubarb be stored at room temperature or under moderate refrigeration.

1. Rhubarb tea

Rhubarb tea can be prepared as follows:


  • 500 ml of water;
  • 2 tablespoons of rhubarb stem.

Preparation mode

Place the water and the rhubarb stem in a pan and bring to high heat. After boiling, turn the heat down and cook for 10 minutes. Strain and drink hot or cold and without sugar.

2. Orange jam with rhubarb


  • 1 kg of chopped fresh rhubarb;
  • 400 g of sugar;
  • 2 teaspoons of orange zest;
  • 80 ml of orange juice;
  • 120 ml of water.

Preparation mode

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the fire until the water boils. Then lower the heat and cook for 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Pour the jam into covered sterile glass jars and store in the refrigerator when it is cold.

Possible side effects

Rhubarb poisoning can cause severe and persistent abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, followed by internal bleeding, seizures and coma. These effects have been observed in some animal studies that have consumed this plant for about 13 weeks, so it is recommended that it not be consumed for a long time.

Symptoms of rhubarb leaf poisoning can cause decreased urine production, excretion of acetone in the urine and excess protein in the urine (albuminuria).

Who should not use

Rhubarb is contraindicated in people with hypersensitivity to this plant, in children and pregnant women, as it can cause miscarriage, in women during menstrual periods, in babies or in people with kidney problems.