Rhubarb is one of the most ancient, commonly used and important herbs in Chinese medicine. The modern researches of rhubarb clarified the efficacies, ingredients and mechanisms in a more scientific and rigorous way. The main chemical compositions of rhubarb include anthraquinones, anthrones, stilbenes, tannins, polysaccharides etc. These compositions show extensive pharmacological activities including regulating gastrointestinal, anticancer, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, protecting cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and so on. This paper reviews the recent studies on the active ingredients, pharmacological effects, clinical application and functional mechanism.