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Rheum officinale L.
Rheum palmatum, Linn, . Rhabarbarum
English: Rhubarb, Turkey Rhubarb, Palmated Rhubarb
Mother Tincture Q Drug strength 1/10
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Caryophylliidae; Polygonales; Polygonaceae - Smartweed / Knotweed Family (Wichman Natural Relationships)
History and authority: Introduced by Hahnemann in 1805; Frag, d, vir. Med., 185; Allen: Encyclop. Mat. Med., Vol. VIII, 303; Hering: Guiding Symptoms , Vol. IX, 28. (Pharmacopea)
Description of the substance
Perennial herb, short with a thick vertical rhizome bearing fleshy, preading roots Leaves numerous, long - petioled, arising from upper part of the vertical rhizome amina cordate to somewhat orbicular, entire or coarsely dentate. Flowers greenish - white to red, on elongated leafy panicles. Fruit an achene with three broad thin wings and remains of the parianth at the base.
Macroscopical: Sub - cylindrical, barrel - shaped, conical plano - convex pieces, often perforated sometimes in cubes or rectangular pieces. Outer surface, smooth, longitudinally wrinkled or sunken, yellowish - brown and mottled with alternating striae ofgreyish - white parenchyma and brownish or reddish medullary rays. A few brown cork patches and branched scars (star - spots) of leaf - trace fibrovascular bundles present. Fracture, granular, uneven, fractured surface pinkish - brown or greyish, exhibiting numerous redish - brown points and lines on a white ground substance. Smoothened transverse surface exhibits a cambium line near periphery, traversed for a short distance by radial lines representing medullary rays; vascular bundles stellate, 2 to 4mm in diameter, and scattered irregularly. Odour unpleasent and aromatic; taste bitter and astringent, gritty, when chewed saliva turns yellow. When pulverised, a yellowish - brown powder is formed.
Identification: Take chloroform extract evaporate and dissolve the residue in alcohol , add a few drops of methanolic magnesium acetate (0.5 percent); pink colour is produced. (Pharmacopea)
Calyx petaloid, six parted, withering Stamens about nine, inserted into the base of the calyx. Styles three, reflexed. Stigmas peltate, entire. Achenium three cornered winged with the withered calyx at the base. Embryo in the center of the albumen ( Lindley ).
Leaves palmate, pointed, roughish, the sinus dilated at the base. Stalks absolutely furrowed above, rounded at the edge.
Rheum palmatum, known to gardeners as the True Turkey Rhubarb is a perennial plant. Leaves roundish cordate, half palmate, the lobes pinnatified, acuminate deep dull green, not wavy, but uneven, and very much wrinkled on the upper side, hardly scabrous at the edge, minutely downy on the under side; sinus completely closed, the lobes of the leaf standing forwards beyond it. Petiole pale green, marked with short purple lines, terete, obscurely channelled quite at the other end. Flowering stems taller than those of any other species ( Lindley )
The Roots from the different species. That which is called th China Rhubarb is used for homoeopathic purposes. According to Pereira (op. cit.) there are six kinds of Rhubarb of commerce, viz., Russian, Dutch trimmed, Chinese, Himalayan, English, and French.
Russian or Bucharian Rhubarb is imported from St. Petersburgh. It is said formerly to have been brought by way of Natolia, hence the name of Turkey Rhubarb, which it ordinarily bears in the shops. It is imported in boxes or cases covered with a pitched cloth. The shpaes of the pieces are various, being angular, rounded, and irregular, most of them perforated with holes; externally they are covered with a bright yellow powder, and beneath this the surface has a reddish - white tint.
Dutch trimmed or Batavian Rhubarb. - It is the finest quality of the Chinese Rhubarbs. It is imported from Canton and Singapore. Pereira says that it is probably Bucharian Rhubarb, of less pure quality, sent by way of Canton and which in consequence has been usually confounded by pharmacological writers with Chinese Rhubarb. In shape size, and general appearance it resembles the Russian kind. In the drug trade this Rhubarb is said to be trimmed.
China or East Indian Rhubarb is imported either directly from Canton, or indirectly by Singapore and other parts of the East Indies, and is probably the produce of China. It is imported in chests. The cortical portion of the root appears to have been scraped rather than sliced off, and hence the surface is not so angular. The pieces are generally perforated with holes, in many of which we find portions of the cords by which the pieces were suspended. The surface is more of a yellowish brown than reddish - white colour, and has coarser fibres than Russian Rhubarb. On the finer pieces, we notice numerous starlike spots, or depressions. The odour of this species is much less powerful than that of Russian Rhubarb, and is somewhat less aromatic.
Himalayan Rhubarb. - This is the produce produce probably of Rheum Emodi; it comes into India, according to Dr. Royle, through Kalsee, Almora, and Butan; it is less valuable than the China Rhubarb and has a very bitter, astringent taste.
English Rhubarb is made at Banbury, probably from the Rheum palmatum, and is generally found as dressed English Rhubarb, in angular pieces, like the Turkey Rhubarb and the common stick Rhubarb.
French Rhubarb. - This is procured from the Rheum Rhaponticum, undulatum, and compactum. These are cultivated at Rheumpol, a place not far from Lorient, in the department of Morbihan.
According to Brande, the analysis of Chinese Rhubarb gives pure rhabarberic acid; impure ditto; gallic acid, with some rhabarberic acid; tannin; colouring extractive; uncrystallizable sugar, with tannin; starch and pectine acid; gummy extractive, taken up by caustic potash; pectic acid; malate and gallate of lime; oxalate of lime; sulphate of potash and chloride of potassium; phosphate of lime, with oxide of iron; silica; woody fibre; water.
Rhubarb is very liable to adulterations. The fine qualities of the Eastern Rhubarb are easily known, when in pieces, by their strong aroma, their powerful bitterness and grittiness between the teeth, and their freedom from brown specks externally and internally. They are often adulterated with the inferior sort of home growth; these are easily detected while the drug is in mass, by their weaker aroma and want of grittiness when chewed; and if their surface has been rubbed over with turmeric to heighten their yellow colour, this will be discovered by boracic acid, turning the yellow to brown; the true yellow colour of Rhubarb is not thus altered ( Christison, op. cit. ) (Hamilton's Flora)
The leaves of the Turkey Rhubarb are palmate and somewhat rough. The root is thick, of an oval shape, sending off long, tapering branches; externally it is brown, internally a deep yellow colour.
The stem is erect, round, hollow, jointed, branched towards the top, from 6 to 10 feet high.
This species is distinguished from our familiar garden Rhubarb by its much larger size, the shape of its leaves, with their oblong, sharpish segments, and the graceful looseness of its little panicles of greenish-white flowers. The first buds which appear in spring are yellow, not red.
It was not until the year 1732 that botanists knew any species of Rheum from which the true Rhubarb seemed likely to be obtained. Then Boerhaave, the celebrated Dutch physician, procured from a Tartarian Rhubarb merchant the seeds of the plant which produced the roots he annually sold, and which were admitted at St. Petersburg to be the real Rhubarb. These seeds on being sown produced two distinct species: Rheum Rhaponticum, our Garden Rhubarb, and Rheum and R. palmatum, Turkey Rhubarb.
The Turkey Rhubarb grows remarkably quickly - a six-year-old plant was found to grow between April, when the stalk first emerged from the ground, to the middle of July, when it was at its greatest height, to 11 feet 4 inches. In one day it was observed to grow 3 inches and over 4 inches in one night. Many of its leaves were 5 feet long. The root, taken up in October, weighed 36 lb. when cleaned, washed and deprived of its small fibres.
'J. D. B. (31/10). - The rhubarb rhizome official in the British Pharmacopoeia, 1914, must be collected in China and Thibet. English-grown rhubarb is inferior to the official rhubarb in medicinal qualities.'
We still depend upon Northern China and Thibet for Rhubarb; that grown in the English climate, near Banbury, does not command a high price in the market, although its medicinal properties are the same as those of the Chinese roots. If English growers would endeavour to produce a more marketable root by experimenting with different soils and methods of cultivation, the results might meet with success. It is possible that English roots are harvested when too young, and that not so much attention is paid to trimming the roots for market as is done by the Chinese. It is never collected from plants that are less than six years old.(http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html)
Rhubarb is the root of different species of Rheum, growing in the mountains of the Western and North-western provinces of China and in the adjoining Thibetan terrtory.
Rhubarb occurs in commerce under various names: Russian, Turkey, East Indian and Chinese; but the geographical source of all species is the same, the commercial names of the drug indicating only the route by which it formerly reached the European market. Previous to 1842, Canton being the only port of the Chinese Empire holding direct communication with Europe, Rhubarb mostly came by overland routes: the Russian Rhubarb used to be brought by the Chinese to the Russian frontier town of Kiachta; the Turkey Rhubarb received its name because it came to us by way of Asiatic Turkey, through the Levant; East Indian came by way of Singapore and other East Indian ports, and Chinese Rhubarb was shipped from Canton. At the present day practically all is conveyed to Europe via Shanghai.
According to Lindley's Treasury of Botany, the technical name of the genus is said to be derived from Rha, the ancient name of the Volga, on whose banks the plants grow; other authorities derive the name from the Greek rheo ('to flow'), in allusion to the purgative properties of the root. (http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html)
The Mongolian Empire, China. East Indies. (?) Himalayas. (?) The exact locality from whence the True Rhubarb comes is still a matter of doubt. It is probable that the species of Rheum from which the officinal Rhubarb is made has never been described. "The genus Rheum, to which Rhubarb is unanimously referred by botanists and pharmacologists, comprises, numerous species, very widely diffused over the Asiatic continent; for its is met with as far west as the Caspian shores, as far east as within the Chinese wall, south on the Himalaya mountains which bound Upper India, and north along the Altai range, and towards Lake Baikal. The extent of country from which Rhubarb of one kind or another is actually collected though somewhat more limited than this, nevertheless reaches from Ludak, in 77∞ east longitude, to the Chinese province of Shen si, 29∞ further east; and from the Sue - chan mountains, in north latitude 26∞, upon the south western confines of China Proper, nearly to the frontier of Siberia, 24∞ northward. Further it would appear, from recent inquiries, that the best qualities of commercial Rhubarb are, in all probability, produced five or six hundred miles north of the British territories of Assam, in the very heart of Tibet" ( Christison, Disp., p. 780).