Thursday, April 9, 2015

Health & Nutrition: Rhubarb

by M. J. Joachim

Upon learning that rhubarb leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid and are poisonous, I quickly moved my new rhubarb plant to the front yard, where kids and pets wouldn’t accidentally ingest it. Then I proceeded to research the health benefits of this plant. I have fond memories of eating rhubarb pie as a child, which is why I spontaneously picked up a couple of plants when I was at the garden store recently.

Rhubarb stalks are similar to celery stalks, containing lots of fiber and minimal calories. This loosely translates into the idea that they aid in digestion. Rhubarb is in fact a vegetable, but is considered a fruit in the U. S., most likely because we add sugar and use it more for culinary desserts and jams than anything else.

According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing by, Phyllis A. Balch CNC and James F. Balch M. D., (Rhubarb) “fights infection and eliminates worms.” Numerous sources claim it is eases constipation, helps heal colon, spleen and liver ailments and has a lot of necessary vitamins and nutrients necessary to fight various cancers and alzheimer’s disease. It is said to be high in calcium and rich in Vitamin K and essential B vitamins, as well. A U.S. government study conducted in 2009 indicates that rhubarb “has a noticeable antidiabetic effect and could potentially be used as a new agent to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus and its complications.

However, there is some contradiction in the research. It seems the ancient rhubarb plant, da huang, is one of the oldest healing plants in Chinese medicine. Used primarily for its root, and often sold as a powder in homeopathic and health food stores, this particular rhubarb is quite different from the species sold in grocery stores today. Several sources claim the high amount of oxalates in rhubarb promote kidney stone formation. High concentrations of oxalates is another reason to avoid eating rhubarb raw, as this can be problematic; processing helps break down oxalates in the cooking cycle. (Not to mention, rhubarb is very sour and bitter, thus making it almost mandatory to add some sort of sweetener before consumption.)

The beauty of the rhubarb plant is what prompted me to purchase it in the first place, that and the fond memories of rhubarb pie mentioned earlier. The leaves are broad, quite delicate and very pretty. Placed these on top of that bright red stalk, and it truly is a gorgeous plant. I may well cut the stalks and use them as filling for thumbprint cookies when my plants are fully mature. However, I don’t think I’ll be going crazy over this plant anytime soon, considering there are plenty of ways to get Vitamin B’s, K and fiber, without worrying about high concentrations of oxalates.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. And please leave a comment sharing your thoughts and knowledge about rhubarb with me.

M. J.

Food Your Miracle Medicine, Jean Carper ©1994
The Ultimate Calorie, Carb, and Fat Gram Counter, Lee Ann Holzmeister, RD, DCE ©2010
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch CNC & James F. Balch MD ©2000
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies, C. Norman Shealy MD, PhD ©2002

©2015 All Rights Reserved  Photo credit: M. J. Joachim, rhubarb, ©2015 All Rights Reserved