The stalk of the rhubarb plant is used as both a food and medicinal supplement. Health applications of rhubarb supplements include relief of constipation, stomach ulcers, skin sores, and menopausal and allergy symptoms. More research is needed to examine these purported health benefits of rhubarb in humans. As a food, rhubarb is deemed safe and doesn't cause side effects. At larger, therapeutic dosages, however, rhubarb may cause mild to severe health problems. Before taking rhubarb as a supplement, seek additional guidance from your medical provider.
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Due to its laxative effects, rhubarb may cause stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea in certain people. Diarrhea may be accompanied by abdominal cramping, bloating or appetite loss. Prolonged episodes of diarrhea may increase your risk of becoming dehydrated. Talk with your doctor if stomach discomfort persists or if you experience diarrhea for more than two or three days.
Severe Side Effects
If you use rhubarb medicinally for longer than eight days, you may be at risk of developing severe side effects. Long-term treatment with rhubarb may result in bone loss, weakness, potassium loss and heart rate irregularities. Rhubarb also contains high concentrations of oxalic acid, a chemical associated with the development of kidney stones. Contact your physician if you experience body aches, weakness, sudden or severe back or abdominal pain, dizziness or heart rate changes to ensure you receive prompt and appropriate care.
Treatment with rhubarb isn't appropriate for everyone. Women who are pregnant shouldn't use rhubarb medicinally because this supplement may cause uterine contractions. Avoid treatment with rhubarb if you have a personal history of liver disease, arthritis, bowel disease or obstruction, or kidney-related health problems including kidney stones. In addition, people with hormone-sensitive health problems, such as ovarian cancer or uterine fibroids, shouldn't take rhubarb because this supplement may have estrogen-like effects on the human body.
Rhubarb supplements may interfere with your body's ability to absorb medications you take orally. You may be at an increased risk of developing low potassium levels if you take rhubarb in conjunction with digoxin, diuretics or corticosteroids. Avoid taking rhubarb if you're also using warfarin, a blood thinner, because this treatment combination may increase your risk of bleeding. In addition, do not take rhubarb with other laxatives or medications that may harm your kidneys, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and cyclosporine.