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The rhubarb plant produces poisonous leaves that are not used in the medicines mentioned. Its roots and stalks are prepared, and are known to contain rhein, and emodin, which contain cathartic and laxative properties.

Rhubarb root was used in the Pharmacopeia to create a large assortment of treatments. In the Compendium, various forms of rhubarb are combined. Rhubarb is listed as an aperient and purgative, and as a stomachic and cordial. Rhubarb mixtures are used to treat boils, cholera, diarrhoea, gout, piles, chicken pox, rickets, and weaning, among other disorders.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Rhubarb Root Rhei Radix

“The dried root deprived of the bark, from one of more undetermined species of Rheum Linn. From China, Chinese Tartary, and Thibet. Imported from Shanghai and Canton, and bought overland by way of Moscow.”[1]


“Trapexoidal roundish cylindrical or fattish pieces, frequently bored with one hole, yellow eternally, internally marbled with fine waving greyish and reddish lines, finely gritty under the teeth; taste bitter, faintly astringent and aromatic; odour peculiar.” Dose: 5-20 grains. Used in preparations of:[2]

  • Extractum Rhei
  • Infusum Rhei
  • Pilula Rhei compositua,
  • Pulvis Rhei compositus
  • Syrupus Rhei
  • Tinctura Rhei
  • VInum Rhei

Preparations of Rhubarb

Extract of Rhubarb / Extractum Rhei[3]

  • Rhubarb root, sliced or bruised (1 lb), Rectified spirit (10 fl oz), distilled water (5 pints)
  • dose: 5-15 grains

Infusum Rhei / Infusum Rhei [4]

  • Rhubarb root, in thin slices (1/4 oz), boiling distilled water (10 fl oz)
  • dose: 1-2 fl oz

Compound Powder of Rhubarb / Pulvis Rhei compositus[5]

  • Rhubarb root, in powder (2 oz), light magnesia (6 oz), ginger, in powder (1 oz)
  • dose: 20-60 grains

Compound Rhubarb Pill / Pilula Rhei compositua [6]

  • rhubarb root, in powder (3 oz), socotrine aloes, in powder (2 ¼ oz), myrrh, in powder (1 ½ oz), hard soap, in powder (1 ½ oz), oil of peppermint (1 ½ fl drachm), treacle, by weight (4 oz)
  • dose: 5-10 grains

Syrup of Rhubarb / Syrupus Rhei [7]

  • Rhubarb root, in coarse powder (2 oz), coriander fruit, in coarse powder (2 oz), refined sugar (24 oz), rectified spirit (8 fl oz), distilled water (24 fl oz)
  • doseL 1-4 fl drachm

Tincture of Rhubarb / Tinctura Rhei [8]

  • Rhubarb root, in coarse powder (2 oz), cardamom seeds, freed from the pericarps, and bruised (1/4 oz), saffron (1/4 oz), proof spirit (1 pint)
  • dose: 1-2 fl drachm (stomachic), 4-8 fl drachm (purgative)

Wine of Rhubarb / Vinum Rhei[9]

  • Rhubarb root, in coarse powder (1 ½ oz), canella alba bark, in coarse powder (60 grains), sherry (1 pint)
  • dose: 1-2 drachms

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Classified by Savory as an Aperient and Purgative [10], and a Stomachic and Cordial[11]

“The medicinal properties if this root are so well known, that it appears almost a work of supererogation to mention them.” It can moderate the activities of other purgatives, like jalap, scammony, and calomel.[12] It can be administered to check stomach and intestinal issues arising in children. “Dr. Gregory’s Powder,” which is used to treat “persons of gouty and dyspeptic habits,” is comprised of a combination of rhubarb, calcined magnesia, and aromatics.

In treating infants, rhubarb can be used as a laxative. In older children (1-2 years) it can be applied as a tonic.

Rhubarb can be used to make medicated beer. A piece of rhubarb is placed in a bottle and beer Is added. Once emptied the bottle can be refilled with beer one more time before the rhubarb piece is useless. [13]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Rhubarb

  • Aloes, Socotrine: extract of rhubarb included in “The Compound Cathartic Pills with Aloes”[14]
  • Ammonia, Sesquicarbonate of: extract of rhubarb included in “Antacid Pills, for Dyspepsia”[15]
  • Angustura or Cusparia Bark: combined with rhubarb to treat “flatulency of the stomach, attended by nausea”[16]
  • Aromatic Confection: powdered rhubarb included in “Aromatic Draught”[17]
  • Astringent Powder: powdered rhubarb included in draught used to treat irritations of the intestines “when the evacuations from the bowels are frequent, have a frothy appearance, and are tinged with blood.”[18]
  • Bismuth, White: combined with compound rhubarb pill to treat chronic dyspepsia[19]
  • Calomel: can be combined with rhubarb to increase its purgative qualities, and is often used in cases were children have fevers (which stem from “a disordered state of the stomach”).[20]
  • Chalk Mixture: rhubarb (powdered/in grains) combined with other ingredients forms a cordial draught “for all ordinary cases of relaxed bowels”[21]
  • Charcoal Levigated: combined with rhubarb to treat forms of dyspepsia that result is putrid eructations (rotting/bad smelling burps?). [22]
  • Dandelion: tincture of rhubarb is included in a mixture that is used to treat “congestion of the liver.” The mixture id to be taken in the morning and night, with the night dose to be taken along with a compound rhubarb pill.[23]
  • Extract of Colocynth: can be taken with rhubarb (or other lighter purgatives) to prevent griping. Powdered rhubarb is included in a mixture taken at night as a cathartic.[24]
  • Ginger, Jamaica: can be combined with rhubarb to form a stomachic pill[25]
  • Gum Gamboge: combined with rhubarb to form more effective purgative[26]
  • Gum Myrrh: powdered rhubarb used in a pill taken to “open the bowels in a suppression of the menses.”[27]
  • Gum Scammony: powdered rhubarb used in “Scammony with Rhubarb,” one of the mixtures ideal for administering scammony to children.[28] Extract of rhubarb also used in other scammony pills[29]
  • Infusions, Concentrated: of cloves, calumbo, cascarilla, chamomile, gentian, orange peel, quassia, rhubarb, roses, and senna: used often in medicine chests as they can be diluted to form infusions. This allows for large doses to be provided in smaller amounts.[30]
  • Jalap: powdered rhubarb included in “Purgative Powder for Children”[31]
  • Magnesium, Calcined: combined with rhubarb to become more effective. Rhubarb is used in a medicine for persons of “a gouty habit” that contains calcined magnesia, rhubarb (in grains), aromatic powder, and peppermint water. Rhubarb is also used in a remedy for acid in the stomach administered to children.[32] Powdered rhubarb is included in “Carminative Mixture for Infants” (120/99), in a gentle aperient, and in a “favourite combination for children”[33]
  • Manna: tincture of rhubarb included in a mild purgative[34]
  • Mercury with Chalk: combined with rhubarb “it is employed with much benefit in the diarrhoea of children, when stools are clay-coloured, and when there is acidity of the primae viae.[35]
  • Pill, Compound Rhubarb: “a very useful purgative pill in dyspepsia”[36]
  • Podophyllin: can be combined with the compound rhubarb pill to relieve “irregular action of the bowels termed bilios derangement.”[37]
  • Rhubarb, Turkey: can be used to make “Dyspeptic Powder” (powdered rhubarb), and “Dyspeptic Pill” (powdered rhubarb)[38]
  • Sal Polychrest: “a very useful aperient, and, in conjunction with rhubarb, forms an excellent medicine for children.” Powdered rhubarb is included in a deobstruent or purgative mixture[39]
  • Salt of Steel: combined with rhubarb and used to treat diabetes, late stages of consumption, and amenorrhoea.[40]
  • Soap, Castile: “it is chiefly used to modify the action of aloes, rhubarb, and other purgatives, by dividing them minutely, and increasing their solubility.”[41]
  • Soluble Tartar: purgative, but often combined with rhubarb (and others) to form an aperient for children.[42]
  • Tamarinds: although they are weak laxatives on their own they can be combined with rhubarb to form a more effective remedy[43]
  • Tincture of Rhubarb: used to treat flatulence of the bowels that causes griping, and can also be used to improve digestion when taken before a meal[44]
  • Tincture of Rhubarb, Compound: in lower doses can be given as a cordial, in larger doses can be used as a purgative.[45]
  • Wine of Rhubarb: can be used as a cordial, but the tincture is preferred as it preserves longer[46]

Diseases Treated with Rhubarb

General Diseases

  • Boils: compound rhubarb pills and a rhubarb draught are part of the treatments recommended by Savory[47]
  • Cholera Morbus: calomel and rhubarb made into pills is the best purgative to employ[48]
  • Diarrhoea, or Looseness: powdered rhubarb and syrup of rhubarb are part of a draught prescribed. Powdered rhubarb is part of a draught given to treat diarrhoea that has lasted and been accompanied by pain, a red and sore tongue, and difficulty retaining food in the stomach.[49]
  • Gout: infusion of rhubarb is included in one of the mixtures used by Dr. Copland in the early stages of the disease. Carbonate of soda mixed with rhubarb, magnesia, scammony, and colocynth has been a reported preventative of gout, but Savory is skeptical. [50]
  • Piles or Haemorrhoids: “Persons subject to piles have derived much benefit by chewing fifteen or twenty grains of the root of Turkey rhubarb, every night on going to bed.”[51]
  • Rheumatism: rhubarb is used in acute rheumatic conditions to assist in opening the bowels to prepare for other treatments[52]
  • Water-brash: powdered rhubarb and compound tincture of rhubarb have both been recommended by other physicians/apothecaries, but Savory indicates that the best treatment is Dr. Jenner’s Absorbent Lozenges[53]

Infantile Diseases

  • Apthous Ulceration, or Thrush: powdered rhubarb is part of a mixture given to children who are suffering from acidity in the stomach accompanied by thrush.[54]
  • Chicken, or Swine Pock: rhubarb and magnesia are used to “keep the bowels moderately open”[55]
  • Convulsions: if irritation is in the bowels (causing the disease?) rhubarb is to be given[56]
  • Cow-Pock: after the pocks begin to scab all that is required is a dose of mild purgatives, one of which being rhubarb[57]
  • Diarrhoea: powdered rhubarb is part of a mixture to be given if a child’s bowels are affected by purging [58]
  • Sore Ears: rhubarb can be mixed with grey powder can be used if the bowels are costive[59]
  • Rickets: mild purgatives with rhubarb recommended [60]
  • Weaning: mild laxatives lie rhubarb are used to encourage the digestion of solid foods[61]

Medical Articles Containing Rhubarb

  • Infusion of Rhubarb: rhubarb, sliced[62]
  • Sir Henry Ilalford’s Gout Preventative: tincture of rhubarb[63]
  • Gout tincture: Turkey rhubarb, sliced[64]

Prescriptions Containing Rhubarb

  • Chronic Nettle Rash: infusion of rhubarb[65]
  • Magnesia Mixture, for Infantile Diarrhoea: powdered rhubarb[66]
  • Hooper’s Druaght for Diarrhoea and Dysentery: extract of rhubarb[67]


  • Alternatives in the form of Pill, Powder, &c.: rhubarb (in grains), “a child from one to three years old may take one of these powders at bedtime”[68]
  • Alternatives in the form of Pill, Powder, &c.: rhubarb powder, divided into powders and taken three times a day[69]

Aperients and Cathartics

  • Aperient Draught (Another): powdered rhubarb[70]
  • Common Aperient Pills: extract of rhubarb[71]
  • Aperient Pills: extract of rhubarb[72]
  • Dr. Copland’s Aperient Pills: rhubarb[73]
  • Aperient Pills for Dyspeptic Persons: extract of rhubarb[74]
  • Dinner Pills for the Dyspepsia of Old Persons: powdered rhubarb[75]
  • Purgative Powder: powdered rhubarb[76]
  • Manna Draught: tincture of rhubarb[77]
  • A Demulcent and Aperient for Children: syrup of rhubarb[78]
  • Purgative Pills for General Use: compound rhubarb pill[79]


  • Anthelmintic Powder: powdered rhubarb[80]


  • Antispasmodic Draughts for Spasm of the Stomach arising from Flatulence: tincture of rhubarb[81]


  • Astringent Mixture for Diarrhoea: toasted rhubarb[82]


  • Stomach Mixture (Another): powdered rhubarb[83]
  • Stomach Mixture (Another): a tincture of rhubarb can be included if there is desire for a purgative effect[84]
  • Compound Rhubarb Powder: powered rhubarb[85]

Narcotics and Anodynes

  • Compound Sedative Syrup: “if costiveness should ensue while employing this mixture, a drachm of rhubarb wine may be added.”[86]


  • Saline Aperient: infusion of rhubarb[87]


  • Tonic, Stomachic, and Aperient Pills: compound rhubarb pill[88]
  • Stomachic Pills: rhubarb in powder[89]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 270
  2. GMCGB, 270
  3. GMCGB, 126-27
  4. GMCGB, 163
  5. GMCGB, 265
  6. GMCGB, 239-40
  7. GMCGB, 313
  8. GMCGB, 339-40
  9. GMCGB, 369
  10. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 390.
  11. Savory, 395
  12. Savory, 124
  13. Savory, 125
  14. Savory, 13
  15. Savory, 17
  16. Savory, 19
  17. Savory, 21
  18. Savory, 24
  19. Savory, 31
  20. Savory, 35
  21. Savory, 44
  22. Savory, 45
  23. Savory, 53
  24. Savory, 61
  25. Savory, 70
  26. Savory, 74
  27. Savory, 77
  28. Savory, 77
  29. Savory, 78
  30. Savory, 84
  31. Savory, 89
  32. Savory, 98
  33. Savory, 100
  34. Savory, 101
  35. Savory, 102
  36. Savory, 116
  37. Savory, 120
  38. Savory, 124-26
  39. Savory, 129-30
  40. Savory, 130
  41. Savory, 135
  42. Savory, 137
  43. Savory, 151
  44. Savory, 162
  45. Savory, 162
  46. Savory, 171
  47. Savory, 209
  48. Savory, 22
  49. Savory, 227
  50. Savory, 234
  51. Savory, 248
  52. Savory, 251
  53. Savory, 261
  54. Savory, 266
  55. Savory, 267
  56. Savory, 268
  57. Savory, 270
  58. Savory, 271
  59. Savory, 272
  60. Savory, 278
  61. Savory, 285
  62. Savory, 290
  63. Savory, 296
  64. Savory, 300
  65. Savory, 308
  66. Savory, 308
  67. Savory, 308
  68. Savory, 310
  69. Savory, 310
  70. Savory, 312
  71. Savory, 313
  72. Savory, 334
  73. Savory, 313
  74. Savory, 313
  75. Savory, 314
  76. Savory, 314
  77. Savory, 315
  78. Savory, 315
  79. Savory, 315
  80. Savory, 315
  81. Savory, 317
  82. Savory, 319
  83. Savory, 321
  84. Savory, 321
  85. Savory, 321
  86. Savory, 332
  87. Savory, 333
  88. Savory, 335
  89. Savory, 335

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