Dàhuáng – Rheum palmatum


Closeup of Dahuang leaf
  • 大黃, translates to “great yellow”
  • Turkey rhubarb root

Botanical Information

  • Rheum palmatum
  • We use the root, either cleaned & dried (unprocessed / sheng) or pre-boiled (shu), each has a different function
  • Member of the Polygonaceae family, a cousin of the edible rhubarb that goes great with strawberries

Chinese herb theory information

Dried Dahuang roots
  • Downward draining herb, cold purgative
  • Associated with the Large Intestine, Liver, Stomach and Heart organ systems
  • Depending on source, considered either Bitter or Salty in flavor. Note, “flavor” is more than just the taste one gets in the mouth from the herb.
  • Cold in nature / temperature, which means it tends to cooling action on the body
  • Non-toxic, but a strong herb that must be used with care to avoid severe diarrhea

Uses & Notes

Dàhuáng is one of the most commonly used purgatives in Chinese herbalism, used to treat most types of constipation. This includes constipation from many sources, and needn’t necessarily involve dry stool. In other words, patterns where the BM is normal in consistency, but where the patient is skipping days without BMs can be treated using this herb.

In its long boiled form, it can be used to treat conditions that involve “blood stasis” which is a situation where the normal flow of blood circulation has been interrupted for one reason or another – whether in a minor way (capillaries) or a major way (blood clots in veins). Blood stasis can lead to intense, static pain conditions, as well as gynecological and neurological dysfunction.

Dahuang has a bitterness, as the information above suggests, but also has an odd smoky flavor that some people find off-putting. It is generally used in small amounts, and because some people can be quite sensitive to it, your practitioner will likely advise you to start with a small dosage and increase over time to avoid complications.

Dahuang is non-toxic and can be combined with all kinds of pharmaceuticals, supplements, and even other constipation remedies. It is safer and less habit forming than the commonly used herbal laxative, senna.

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