Turkey Rhubarb, also known as Da Huang, is a large perennial plant in the Polygonaceae family native to Western China and Tibet that can grow up to ten feet in height. It grows in scrub communities and in rocky places by streams at elevations of 8000-13,000ft, and in slopes and valleys at slightly lower elevations. It has large green to red ovate to cordate palmate leaves with shallow lobes and long, thick petioles, prominent midribs and veination, with a crinkled margin. It’s stem is purple and branching, round, and hollow, and extends past the leaves. It flowers in densely clustered panicles of small, greenish white to red summer flowers. It’s thick, fleshy, root stalk is brown on the outside but yellow on the inside, and is the part used medicinally. It is best gathered in the early fall off 6-10 year old plants. It does best in well-drained, moist, loamy to clay soils with neutral to alkaline pH, and prefers part shade to full sun.
Parts Used: Rhizome
Turkey rhubarb is a strong digestive purgative, acting to relieve constipation while removing debris from the guts. Following this purgative action, it has an astringent and antiseptic effect, making for a great intestinal cleanser and protecting the tone of the colon. It also functions as a diuretic. In addition, it is helpful in the treatment of dysentery, hemorrhoids, staph infection, pin and threadworms, and duodenal ulcers. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is used externally as a vulnerary, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compress to promote healing of burns, boils, and ulcers, counteract blood clots, and encourage menstruation. Internally it is used to cleanse the liver and treat jaundice, skin eruptions, and fevers. It is also thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
It is added to tonic wines in small doses as an appetite and digestive stimulant. The rhizome of the plant is also used to remove rust stains, de-scale pans, and as a permanent yellow dye. The fresh leaves of the plant are highly toxic and cannot be eaten, but can be boiled and used as an insecticide. The garden varietal is commonly grown for it’s tart, delicious, edible red stems, whose leaves are similarly toxic.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Bitter, astringent, cooling, pungent
As a laxative, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of boiling water, infused for about 10 minutes, taken in the mornings and evenings. As a tinctures, 1-2 ml three times daily. To cold extract, soak the roots in cold water for 8-10 hours. For diarrhea, 1/8-1/4 teaspoon per cup of water is recommended. It is safe and effective for children, as it seldomly causes irritation. Avoid during pregnancy.
Combine with any carminative herbs to prevent griping; preferably sweeter ones for flavor such as ginger, fennel, mint, and licorice. For the elderly, it can be combined with sweet, bulking laxatives such as licorice, psyllium, or flax. It’s strength is increased when combined with epsom salts.
(s) 1, 3, 8, 12, 13, 15