Rhubarb: Healthy and Toxic?

Spring is rhubarb season. The low-calorie vegetables contain a lot of vitamin C and minerals, but can also be unhealthy due to the high oxalic acid content. This should be considered during preparation and consumption.

The rhubarb season lasts from mid-April to the end of June. Whether as a porridge with vanilla sauce or as a cake with a meringue crown – opinions differ when it comes to rhubarb: some love its sour taste, and others don’t like it at all. And the question of whether rhubarb is healthy or poisonous can also lead to discussions. First of all: Both are true! But the same applies here: the dose makes the poison.

In fact, rhubarb is considered a medicinal plant. However, it is not the stems that are used for medicinal purposes, but the dried roots of the plant. For short-term treatment of occasional constipation, for example, roots of so-called medicinal rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) and Chinese rhubarb (Rheum officinale) are used.

Vitamins and minerals: Rhubarb is so healthy

If rhubarb is not prepared with too much sugar or flour, it is very healthy and nutritious. 100 grams of rhubarb contain only 20 calories. The vegetables have a high content of minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Rhubarb also contains vitamin C and fiber such as pectin. Pectin supports digestion and the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.

The anthracoid also found in rhubarb are vegetable bulking agents that ensure that more liquid gets into the intestines. That is why rhubarb is also a traditional home remedy for constipation. The anthraquinones, or tannins, found in rhubarb root have a bitter taste and were used in traditional herbal bitters to stimulate appetite.

Rhubarb against herpes, arthrosis, and menopausal symptoms

In the form of drops, rhubarb extract can help with problems of the oral mucosa, herpes, or in the treatment of aphthae because of its anti-inflammatory and decongestant effect on the mouth and throat. The active ingredients from the rhubarb roots can also be helpful in creams for cold sores and osteoarthritis.

Rapontic or Siberian rhubarb is used to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, nervousness, or depression. It contains fewer laxative anthraquinones, but a so-called phytohormone with estrogen-like effects.

High oxalic acid content: be careful with quantity and preparation

On the other hand, the high content of oxalic acid in rhubarb is problematic. It can lead to health problems such as abdominal pain or nausea, but also worsen diseases such as rheumatism, gout, and arthrosis. Anyone suffering from kidney and gallbladder problems should be careful with rhubarb because oxalic acid promotes the formation of so-called calcium oxalate stones. The calcium bound in it is then not only missing from the bones but can also lead to kidney and gall stones.

Be sure to discard the water used to cook rhubarb. Because blanching or cooking reduces the oxalic acid content by allowing the toxin to escape from the sticks into the water. Incidentally, there is a particularly large amount of toxic oxalic acid in the rhubarb leaves to protect them from predators. They must therefore not be consumed under any circumstances.

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