Is rhubarb juice good for your liver?

Rhubarb has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to support liver health. Some claim that drinking rhubarb juice can cleanse and detoxify the liver. But does the science back up these claims? Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits and risks of using rhubarb juice for liver health.

How Rhubarb May Support Liver Health

Rhubarb contains compounds that may help protect and improve liver function in a few key ways:

Antioxidant effects

Rhubarb is rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, including flavonoids like quercetin. These compounds help neutralize damaging free radicals and may protect liver cells from oxidative stress.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Compounds in rhubarb have anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is a key driver of many chronic liver diseases. By reducing liver inflammation, rhubarb compounds could help support liver health.

Stimulation of bile flow

Some research shows that rhubarb can increase bile secretion from the liver and improve bile flow. Bile acts like a natural detergent to remove toxins from the liver.

Evidence on Rhubarb Juice for Liver Detoxification

There’s very limited research specifically on rhubarb juice for liver health. However, a few small studies provide some supportive evidence:

Animal research

In rats with liver toxicity, rhubarb extract lowered liver enzymes and improved antioxidant status. Researchers concluded it helped protect the liver from chemical-induced damage.

Human studies

A clinical trial in 47 people found that taking rhubarb extract for 4 weeks improved serum bile acid levels compared to placebo. Higher bile acid clearance may indicate enhanced liver detoxification.

Another study showed that combining rhubarb extract with mirabilitum (a laxative) improved liver function blood tests in people with liver cirrhosis due to hepatitis B.

While promising, human research is still very limited.

Possible Risks and Precautions

When used appropriately, rhubarb juice is generally considered safe. However, there are some potential side effects and precautions to keep in mind:

  • Oxalate content: Rhubarb contains oxalate salts that can accumulate in the kidneys. Those with kidney problems should avoid rhubarb.
  • Toxic leaves: Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous compounds. Only the stalks should be juiced or eaten.
  • Drug interactions: Rhubarb may interact with certain medications that are broken down by the liver.
  • Dose and duration: Stick to recommended doses and avoid prolonged daily use, as safety with long-term use is unknown.

Recommended Rhubarb Juice Dosage

There are no official guidelines on using rhubarb juice specifically. But here are some general dosing considerations:

  • Only use juice extracted from the rhubarb stalks, not leaves.
  • Start with a small dose, such as 1–2 ounces (30–60 ml) per day.
  • Monitor for side effects like diarrhea, upset stomach, or kidney problems.
  • Don’t exceed 4 ounces (120 ml) per day and avoid long-term continuous use.
  • Drink diluted with water. Don’t drink pure rhubarb juice.
  • Don’t use if you have kidney issues, take medications metabolized by the liver, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Speak to your healthcare provider before using rhubarb juice medicinally.

The Bottom Line

Some compounds in rhubarb may help stimulate bile flow and reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the liver. Small human studies provide preliminary evidence that rhubarb supplements may improve markers of liver function.

However, there is currently minimal clinical evidence on rhubarb juice specifically. The risks and optimal dosing are also unclear. At this time, there’s no solid proof that rhubarb juice can “detox” the liver or treat liver disease.

Rhubarb juice may potentially complement conventional treatment under medical supervision. But more research is needed before rhubarb juice can be routinely recommended as a liver tonic.

As with any supplement, speak to your healthcare provider before using rhubarb juice, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or take any medications.

The claims about rhubarb juice cleansing the liver are currently more hype than hard science. While some traditional medicine uses may be supported by science, there’s no evidence it can “detoxify” the liver as is often claimed.

Pros Cons
  • May stimulate bile flow
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Some human studies show minor improvements in liver function tests
  • Minimal evidence specifically on rhubarb juice
  • Optimal dosing unknown
  • Safety with long-term use unclear
  • Can cause side effects like diarrhea

In summary, while rhubarb shows some promise as a supportive liver remedy, currently there’s limited clinical proof that rhubarb juice specifically can heal, detox, or protect the liver as is often claimed. More research in humans is still needed.

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