Though there is oxalate in all the parts of the rhubarb plant, the leaves are said to contain most and are believed to be poisonous. While no one knows what is the reason for the leaves of the rhubarb to be poisonous, it is surmised that two compounds -- oxalate and anthraquinone glycosides -- which are also found in rhubarb plants, when combined together make the leaves poisonous.
The stalks of the rhubarb plant have lower levels of oxalate, and hence, they are edible. Rhubarb is said to contain a type of chemical known as sennoside, which has laxative properties. And, if you ingest a large quantity, it could lead to higher levels of dehydration and could be another reason for poisoning.
People who have a history of stones in the kidney could be most affected by rhubarb leaves.
The symptoms of poisoning from rhubarb leaves are weakness in the whole body, burning in the mouth, difficulty while breathing, death because of cardiovascular collapse or the respiratory system, burning in the throat, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, burning in the gastrointestinal system, diarrhea, convulsions and even coma.
Some of the precautions you can take while growing rhubarbs are trimming the leaves from the stalks the moment they start to appear, avoid using the stalks of the rhubarb plant that have been frost bitten, and wash regular stalks well. If you have children who eat rhubarb stalks, they should be taught the importance of eating only the stalks and strictly under adult supervision.
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