rhubarb preparation (generic name)
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SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Side Effects and Warnings
Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous oxalic acid. Oxalic acid may form insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in the blood that may be deposited in the kidneys, leading to kidney stones. Excessive consumption of rhubarb leaves may cause abdominal pain, electrolyte loss (especially potassium), hyperaldosteronism (overproduction of the hormone aldosterone), edema (swelling), burning of the mouth and throat, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), cardiac toxicity, diarrhea, seizures, bone deterioration, muscular weakness, nausea, vomiting, seizures and death.
Rhubarb may cause bright yellow or red urine. Chronic use of rhubarb stalk or root may cause dependence with possible need for increased doses. It may also lead to electrolyte depletion (especially potassium), hyperaldosteronism, accelerated bone deterioration, edema, inhibition of gastric motility, pseudomelanosis coli, intestinal griping, colic, melanosis coli, and atonic colon. Avoid using rhubarb for more than two weeks. Although not well studied in humans, rhubarb anthraquinones may cause nephrotoxicity (kidney damage).
Short-term use of rhubarb may cause uterine contraction, hematuria (blood in the urine), elevations of serum ALT levels, spasmodic cramps, watery diarrhea, impaired hemostasis, hemorrhaging, and neonatal jaundice. High tannin levels of rhubarb root may increase the chance of hepatic necrosis (death of liver cells). Increased gurgling sounds, abdominal discomfort, increased stool passage, mild abdominal pain before defecation, nausea and vomiting has occurred with short-term use of rhubarb. The adverse effects of Pyralvex® (contain rhubarb) short-term use include abdominal pain, slight burning and dark discoloration of the gums. Use of rhubarb during menstruation may impair hemostasis.
Handling rhubarb leaves may cause rash.
Use cautiously in patients with bleeding disorders or using coagulation therapy, as rhubarb leaves may impair hemostasis and there was report of one patient having severe hemorrhaging because of respiratory tract infection and fever.
Use cautiously in patients with pre-eclampsia, rhubarb may interact with pre-eclampsia drugs.
Use cautiously in patients with constipation because the astringent effects of rhubarb may exacerbate the condition.
Avoid using rhubarb if fever, inflammation and abdominal pain of unknown origin are present or in cases of appendicitis, due to possible rupture of inflamed viscus, such as the appendix.
Avoid using rhubarb with diarrhea, due to the chance of electrolyte disturbances.
Avoid in patients with insufficient liver function, as rhubarb may be hepatotoxic (liver damaging).
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Rhubarb is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific research. In theory, rhubarb may have uterine stimulant effects. Due to anthraquinone alkaloids, which are potentially, mutagenic and genotoxic, rhubarb may be risky during breastfeeding. In case reports, rhubarb has also caused neonatal jaundice. Pregnant women considering taking rhubarb should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, to check for interactions.