It is claimed that all the species of rhubarb originated from one particular species but the question yet remains unsettled from what precise plant it is derived. All that is known for certain is that it is the ROOT of one or more species of rheum. Their common names have been given them from their port of export.
The Rheum Fahnatum or Turkey rhubarb is considered official in the U.S. Although the various species are different in appearance, it is claimed their medicinal properties are about the same. The ROOTS are gathered when they are six years old.
The leafstalks of the different species of rheum have a pleasant acid taste and are useful in making tarts and pies.
Rhubarb has a peculiar aromatic odor, bitter, faintly astringent taste, and when chewed tinges the saliva yellow. Its coloring principle is absorbed and may be detected in the urine causing it often to become quite red. This is caused by the alkaline urine acting upon the yellow matter of the root.
Rhubarb yields all its active properties to water and alcohol. By boiling, the virtues of the medicine are diminished. Its most remarkable singularity is the union of a cathartic with an astringent power: the latter of which, however, does not interfere with the former as the purgative effect precedes the astringent. Rhubarb is one of our mildest and safest remedies in this class.
It is a mild stimulating tonic to the liver, gall ducts, and the alvine mucous membrane. It is not unpleasant to the taste and is generally well received by the stomach; in small doses it invigorates the powers of digestion.
Rhubarb cleanses the mucous membrane of viscid matter. In large doses, it is a simple and safe cathartic producing fecal rather than watery discharges; small and frequent doses are a tonic hepatic. Because of its astringent property, it is NOT the remedy to assist in overcoming chronic constipation but is valuable in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera infantum. Heat somewhat increases its astringency.
When the stomach is enfeebled and the bowels relaxed at the same time and a gentle cathartic is required, rhubarb, as a general rule, is preferable to all others. Hence its use in dyspepsia attended with constipation, in diarrhea even when purging is indicated in the secondary stages of cholera infantum, in chronic dysentery, and in almost all typhoid diseases when fecal matter is accumulated in the intestines or to prevent such an accumulation.
Owing to its tonic properties, it has found much favor in infantile troubles, especially in stomach troubles and looseness of the bowels, weakened digestion, irritation of the alimentary canal; also in diarrhea and dysentery, rhubarb is especially useful as a laxative, because of its mildness and tonic qualities.
As a general rule, rhubarb is not applicable to cases attended with much inflammatory action. Its griping may be counteracted by adding some aromatic or bicarbonate of soda to relieve the acidity.
The purgative properties of rhubarb are diminished by roasting while its astringency remains unaffected. For this reason, this method has been used in cases of diarrhea. By long boiling, the same effect is produced.
The dose of rhubarb as a purgative is from 20 to 30 gr. As a laxative and stomachic, 5 to 10 gr. The infusion is much used in cases of delicate stomach and is peculiarly adapted to children. The tincture or syrup is also highly useful. The tincture is chiefly used but the powder is effective and reliable. The tincture dose is 5 to 20 min. The simple infusion is made by steeping 11. cut root in 1 C. boiling water. Drink cold, 1 C. during the day.
The infusion is of a dark, reddish-yellow color.