Can you eat rhubarb leaves?

In this brief guide, we will address the query “can you eat rhubarb leaves?”. We will also look at what rhubarb plant is, why are they considered inedible, the effects of oxalic acid poisoning, how much rhubarb leaves can cause poisoning, does rhubarb food poisoning occurs, the risk of rhubarb food poisoning and the levels of oxalic in common foods.

Can you eat rhubarb leaves?

Yes, you can eat rhubarb leaves. This, however, must be considered in moderation as the leaves of rhubarb are high in oxalic acid which is a poisonous and toxic chemical to humans. 

What is the rhubarb plant?

Rhubarb plant is a cold-loving plant native to hilly and temperate regions of the world, such as Northeast Asia. In Europe and North America, the species Rheum x hybridum is widely grown as a vegetable. 

The stalks are tall and fibrous, ranging from dark crimson to pale green. They are frequently diced and fried with sugar due to their sour flavour. Meanwhile, its enormous dark green leaves, which resemble spinach but are poisonous or inedible, are rarely eaten.

Why are rhubarb leaves considered inedible?

Rhubarb has a high quantity of oxalic acid in rhubarb leaves, thus they are deemed inedible. Both the stalks and the leaves contain oxalic acid, but the leaves contain significantly higher amounts than the stalk. 

Oxalic acid is a natural chemical present in many plants which include leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, chocolate and more. However, rhubarb has an oxalate content of 570–1,900 mg per 3.5 ounces or 100 grams. 

The leaves have the highest oxalate, accounting about 0.5–1.0 percent of the total leaf weight.

What are the effects of oxalic acid poisoning?

Oxalic acid consumption in excessive and lethal amounts can be detrimental to the health of humans. When one consumes much of these chemicals, they can lead to the production of kidney stones and, finally, renal failure in the kidneys. 

Excess oxalate in the body can cause hyperoxaluria, a condition in which excess oxalate is expelled in the urine. Calcium oxalate crystals might build up in the organs as a result of this. 

Vomiting and diarrhoea are usual symptoms of minor rhubarb leaf poisoning, which usually go away within a few hours. Sore throat, trouble swallowing, nausea, vomiting often with blood, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain are all symptoms of more significant oxalate toxicity.

How many rhubarb leaves can cause poisoning?

Since rhubarb leaves are comparably higher in oxalic acid than the stalks, it is important to consume within a safe dose to avoid oxalic acid poisoning. 

The typical lethal dose of oxalate has been calculated to be 170 mg per pound or 375 mg per kg of body weight, or 26.3 grams for a 154-pound or 70-kg individual. 

This suggests that, depending on the quantity of oxalate in the leaf, a person would need to consume between 5.7–11.7 pounds or 2.6–5.3 kg of rhubarb leaves to receive a potentially fatal dose of oxalate. This is pretty much a big salad to consume. 

Does rhubarb leaves poisoning occur?

Yes, rhubarb leaves are poisonous when excessive amounts are consumed. Here are some instances when rhubarb leaves poisoning occurs:

  • At the time during World War I, People were urged to eat rhubarb leaves as a substitute for unavailable veggies, which resulted in multiple poisonings and deaths.
  • In the 1960s, there were additional cases of poisonings, but because eating rhubarb leaves is unusual, there have been no reports of deaths from rhubarb leaves in recent years.

What are the risks of rhubarb leaves consumption?

Frequent and large consumption of rhubarb leaves poses a threat of either fatal or nonfatal poisoning. 

  • However, consuming large amounts of rhubarb stalks, which also contain oxalic acid, has been linked to kidney injury in certain persons.
  • Furthermore, certain persons are more prone to kidney stones and kidney injury as a result of oxalates.
  • People with specific genetic diseases, as well as those who have renal damage, a high vitamin C consumption, or a vitamin B6 deficiency, are at risk of oxalate poisoning.
  • It has also been hypothesised that anthraquinone glycosides, rather than oxalic acid, may be the source of both fatal and nonfatal rhubarb leaf poisoning. 

What are the oxalic acid levels of some foods?

Rhubarb is not the only plant food which contains oxalic acid. The following are the nutritional values for several common vegetables.

  • Rhubarb leaves has 0.5 g/100 g
  • Carrot contains 0.5 g/100 g
  • Chive contains 1.48 g/100 g
  • Parsley contains 1.70 g/100 g
  • Radish has 0.5 g/100 g
  • Spinach 0.97 g/100 g 

Most of these vegetables are consumed as part of our daily lives. If rhubarb leaves are dangerous to eat due to oxalic acid then we won’t be able to eat others like carrots are as they are as dangerous as rhubarb leaves. 

Spinach is twice as poisonous as rhubarb leaves. Tea, coffee, draft beer, chocolate, berries, and tofu are among other foods that are high in oxalic acid.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we will address the query “can you eat rhubarb leaves?”. We will also look at what rhubarb plant is, why are they considered inedible, the effects of oxalic acid poisoning, how much rhubarb leaves can cause poisoning, does rhubarb food poisoning occurs, the risk of rhubarb food poisoning and the levels of oxalic in common foods.

Citation

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/rhubarb-leaves#poisoning