Tartaric Acid

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Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring acid, often found in grapes. Its salt is cream of tartar.

It is mainly used in the Pharmacopeia and Compendium to produce drinks that can be used as refrigerants, antiseptics, diuretics, or aperients, depending on their administration.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Tartaric Acid Acidum Tartaricum

“A crystalline acid prepared from the acid tartrate of potash.” 23 Acid of Tartrate potash (45 oz), distilled water (as needed), prepared chalk (12 ½ oz), sulphuric acid (13 fl oz).[1]

It is often used as a test solution, confirming the presence or purity of other drugs.


“In colourless crystals the primary form of which is the oblique rhombic prism. It has a strongly acid taste, and is readily soluble in water and in rectified spirit.” 23 Dose: 10-30 grains [2]

Preparations of Tartaric Acid

Effervescent Citro-tartrate of Soda / Sodae Citro-Tartras Effervescens[3]

  • Bicarbonate of soda, in powder (17 oz), tartaric acid, in powder (8 oz), citric acid, in powder (6 oz)
  • dose: 60 grains to ¼ oz

Solution of Tartaric Acid / Test Solution[4]

  • tartaric acid, in crystals (1 oz), distilled water (8 fl oz), rectified spirit (2 fl oz)

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Classified as a Refrigerant and Cooling (remedies which abate thirst or unnatural heat)[5]

Used as a refrigerant, antiseptic, diuretic, and a weak aperient. Can be combined with sugar, essence of lemon, and water to form a “pleasant fever drink.” When combined with bicarbonate of soda, and spring water, it can form a substitute for soda water, making it slightly aperient.

Remedies Containing or to be used with Tartaric Acid

  • Soda, Bicarbonate of: combined with tartaric acid and water to make an effervescing draught, and is slightly aperient.[6]

Medical Articles Containing Tartaric Acid

  • Lemonade: tartaric acid [7]

Prescriptions Containing Tartaric Acid

Aperients and Cathartics

  • Effervescing Aperient Draught: tartaric acid or lemon-juice can be added[8]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 23
  2. GMCGB, 24
  3. GMCGB, 289
  4. GMCGB, 391
  5. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 394.
  6. Savory, 136
  7. Savory, 302
  8. Savory, 312

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