Phytochemistry Reviews

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 573–609 | Cite as

Rheum australe, an endangered high-value medicinal herb of North Western Himalayas: a review of its botany, ethnomedical uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology

  • Shahzad A. Pandith
  • Riyaz Ahmad Dar
  • Surrinder K. Lattoo
  • Manzoor A. Shah
  • Zafar A. Reshi


Rheum australe (Himalayan Rhubarb) is a multipurpose, endemic and endangered medicinal herb of North Western Himalayas. It finds extensive use as a medicinal herb since antiquity in different traditional systems of medicine to cure a wide range of ailments related to the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, respiratory and skeletal systems as well as to treat various infectious diseases. The remedying properties of this plant species are ascribed to a set of diverse bioactive secondary metabolite constituents, particularly anthraquinones (emodin, chrysophanol, physcion, aloe-emodin and rhein) and stilbenoids (piceatannol, resveratrol), besides dietary flavonoids known for their putative health benefits. Recent studies demonstrate the pharmacological efficacy of some of these metabolites and/or their derivatives as lead molecules for the treatment of various human diseases. Present review comprehensively covers the literature available on R. australe from 1980 to early 2018. The review provides up-to-date information available on its botany for easy identification of the plant, and origin and historical perspective detailing its trade and commerce. Distribution, therapeutic potential in relation to traditional uses and pharmacology, phytochemistry and general biosynthesis of major chemical constituents are also discussed. Additionally, efficient and reproducible in vitro propagation studies holding vital significance in preserving the natural germplasm of the plant and for its industrial exploitation have also been highlighted. The review presents a detailed perspective for future studies to conserve and sustainably make use of this endangered plant species at a commercial scale.


Rheum australe Anthraquinone Stilbenoid Flavonoid Anticancer Antidiabetic Antimicrobial Antioxidative Anti-inflammatory 



Coumaric acid: CoA ligase


Mitochondrial membrane potential


2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid


Alkaline phosphatase


Acetyl-CoA carboxylase


Activator protein-1




Ascorbic acid equivalents


Glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase


Glutamate pyruvate transaminase


Butylated hydroxyanisole


Butylated hydroxytoluene




Cinnamic acid 4-hydroxylase


Chalcone synthase


Chalcone isomerase


COP9 signalosome


Casein kinase II




Estrogen receptor




Flavanone 3-hydroxylase


Flavonoid 3′-hydroxylase


Flavonoid 3′,5′-hydroxylase


Flavonol synthase


Glutamate pyruvate transaminase


Glucose transporter 2




Hydrogen peroxide


High-performance liquid chromatography


3-Indolebutyric acid


Indole-3-acetic acid


Isopentenyl diphosphate




Lactate dehydrogenase


2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate pathway


Mevalonic acid pathway


Minimum inhibitory concentration


Matrix metalloproteinases


Monoamine oxidase


Nuclear factor κB


1-Naphthaleneacetic acid


O-Succinylbenzoic acid


Phenylalanine ammonia lyase


Polyketide synthases


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors


Plant natural products


Quality of life


Reactive oxygen species




Severe acute respiratory syndrome


Safoof-e-Pathar phori

TCA cycle

Tricarboxylic acid cycle




Tumor necrosis factor alpha


Visual analog scale


Verbal multidimensional scoring system


World Health Organization



Work in the SP laboratory is supported by Department of Science and Technology (DST), India, under the INSPIRE Faculty Scheme [DST/INSPIRE/04/2016/001059]. S.K.L., M.S. and Z.A.R are acknowledged for their useful comments and discussions. We thank R.A.D. for assistance with manuscript writing.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shahzad A. Pandith
    • 1
  • Riyaz Ahmad Dar
    • 1
  • Surrinder K. Lattoo
    • 2
  • Manzoor A. Shah
    • 1
  • Zafar A. Reshi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of KashmirSrinagarIndia
  2. 2.Plant Biotechnology DivisionCSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative MedicineJammu TawiIndia

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