Lighten Your Hair with Rhubarb

Nov 19, 2018
Rhubarb Root


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Fading blond? Mousy brown? Bring on the rhubarb! Here’s how to naturally lighten your hair using nothing but rhubarb and water.

You’ve heard of champagne blond, strawberry blond, and honey blond. Since it’s rhubarb season here in New England, let me introduce the Rhubarb Blond.

But first a bit of background. Rhubarb has a history of medicinal and cosmetic use that spans more than 3,000 years, and people didn’t even begin eating rhubarb stalks until the late 1700s.

Rhubarb originated in Central Asia and still occupies a revered place in traditional Chinese medicine. Scientists around the world continue exploring various rhubarb species for their potential in treating ailments as diverse as dermatitis, pancreatic cancer, and diabetes. (Note: The Rheum genus contains at least 60 species and many hybrids; the succulent species that we bake into pies differs from the medicinal rhubarbs, which are generally considered inedible.)

Because of its high concentration of oxalic acid (the compound that makes the leaves and roots toxic to eat), rhubarb has also found use as an agent for cleaning metal, tanning leather, and controlling insects.

One of the more intriguing uses for the root (actually a rhizome) of this ancient plant: as a lightening agent for blond or light brown hair. The oxalic acid serves as a fixative, so a rhubarb rinse will last much longer than most herbal rinses.

Rhubarb dye rinse

Rhubarb Rinse Recipe

Brave enough to give it a try? Purchase some dried, chopped rhubarb root in a local health food store; if you have rhubarb growing in your garden, dig up a chunk of the rhizome, scrub it well, and dice it.

Herbalists say that the strongest dye comes from the medicinal rhubarb species, but the roots of homegrown pie rhubarb will work, too, with a milder effect. Keep all rhubarb root away from children and pets.

Simmer 3 to 4 tablespoons of dried rhubarb root or half a cup of fresh, chopped root in a quart of water for 20 minutes in a covered stainless-steel pot. (Don’t breathe the steam.) Let the decoction steep overnight, then strain in the morning.

Test the liquid dye on a strand of hair first to see if you like the color. If you do, wash your hair as usual, then pour the rhubarb dye through it, catching the liquid in the pan and repeating two or three times. Air dry without further rinsing.

Did I try it myself? Yes! It gave a soft, golden glow to my tired gray-white locks.

Want to learn more about rhubarb? Check out our Rhubarb Plant Page.

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

Reader Comments

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Something to chew on...or try in your hair...

Thank's for your post about Rhubarb's lightening properties--I'd been wondering if oxalic acid would work on hair. Now for another experiment: Docks and sorrels are in the same family as rhubarb, and share higher levels of oxalic acid. Since the rhubarb crop was really, REALLY bad this year, I'm going to try using dock root, and maybe sorrel leaves later.
One final question: have you tried sitting in the sun during the dry time? Would it work the same way that lemon juice or vinegar rinses do?

Good question!

I haven’t used it often enough to know, Aimee. I usually shake my hair dry in the sun (if it’s out), but I’ve never compared cloudy/indoor drying with sitting in the un. Give it a try and let us know!

Could other parts of the plant be used?

Hi! Just wonder if it should be the root or if other parts of the plant can be used and if the effect will be the same? :)

Sorry for the late reply

No, you won’t get the same results from the stalks and leaves, Kristine. Dig the roots, or buy roots of the the medicinal variety at a natural food store. Good luck!

I love the idea of "natural

I love the idea of "natural color" in hair dyes! thank you for the tips, anything else for rhubarb?

I love using natural things

I love using natural things instead of checmicals for everything. I will try this from the rubarb in my garden. And Margarte I too think your hair looks lovely

Thanks, Tammie. And keep

Thanks, Tammie. And keep seeking out those simpler, less toxic cosmetics, and personal-care products and housecleaning products. Good for you, good for the environment.

Great Idea!

I enjoy using natural plants from the garden to lighten my hair. I'll try the rhubarb thanks to you. And I think you look quite lovely as well : )

Rhubarb blonde

Margaret, thanx for the info. I didn't know there was medicinal rhubarb. Something new to search for.
P.S. I think you look lovely!


I have tried chamomile, Andy. Works well as a temporary rinse, especially if you let your hair dry in the sun. But, than again, a decoction of almost any blossoms makes a gentle hair rinse, and some impart soft color highlights.
Right on, Organicguy46240! I'm  with you. I'll have to hire a photographer (and a beautician) before my next beauty-product post.


I know honey lightens hair and chamomile and lemon too. Never heard of rhubarb but I don't really have rhubarb in my area. Every tried chamomile? Does it really work?


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