Are Rhubarb Leaves Toxic?

Rhubarb plants in garden
Photo credit: EESC
Q:

I had always been told that rhubarb leaves are extremely toxic, but my research has confused that notion! Some sources say that it is hardly toxic, while others say it is lethal. Do you know how toxic rhubarb leaves actually are?

- Benton County, Oregon
A:

Rhubarb leaves are toxic and humans should never ingest them. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health symptoms can include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Burning in the mouth
  • Burning in the throat
  • Coma
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye pain
  • Kidney stones
  • Nausea
  • Red-colored urine
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Severity is determined by Patient's age, weight, and condition; Variety of rhubarb; Time it was swallowed before treatment; and Amount swallowed.

Serious poisonings can result in kidney failure. Deaths have been reported, but are rare.

Oregon State University Horticulture staff also support the recommendation to not eat rhubarb leaves because they are toxic to humans.

The stems are safe to eat.

 

Glenda Hyde
Faculty/Instructor
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