Description: Natural Order, Polygonaceae. Genus RUMEX: Coarse and troublesome herbs, with perennial roots and annual stems. Corolla wanting; calyx of six sepals, the three outer of which are leaf-like and spreading, the three inner colored, larger than the outer ones, and finally converging over the fruit; stamens six; styles three. R. CRISPUS: Stem one to three feet high, smooth, furrowed, light yellowish-green. Leaves large, alternate, wavy margined; lower ones petiolate, heart-shaped at the base, acute; upper ones narrow and almost sessile. Flowers on close, erect, terminal, and leafless panicles, in crowded whorls; inner sepals (valves) round heart-shaped, pale yellowish-green, each bearing on its back a conspicuous brown tubercle or grain. Fruit a three-angled achenium, pale yellowish. This is the species of yellow dock usually so troublesome to farmers, with a long, tapering, yellow root.
RUMEX OBTUSIFOLIUS, bitter dock, blunt-leaved dock, closely resembles the above; but its leaves are more lanceolate, less wavy, and much larger; and its whorls of flowers are fewer and less crowded. It is as common as the crispus, in many sections; and the roots of the two species are so nearly alike, that no distinctions are needed between them. They both love rich and stiff soils.
RUMEX VERTICILLATUS, swamp dock, is the R. BRITANICA of Linnaeus and the U. S. Pharmacopoeia; and its root has been officinal among physicians for a long time. Leaves pale green, lanceolate, acute at both ends, flat, smooth, thickish, entire, willow-shaped. Flowers perfect, in crowded whorls; inner sepals dilated, strongly reticulated, each bearing a very large grain. An inhabitant of ditches and wet swamps. Root large, dark or yellowish-brown without, yellow within. Other species are used, but the crispus is mostly employed at present.
The roots of these several species are of the same general characters, though that of the crispus is decidedly the most effective and least astringent. Water and diluted alcohol extract their properties readily; and they contain a notable quantity of yellow coloring matter, and a large portion of extractive. The young leaves are often used in families as "greens."
Properties and Uses: Yellow-dock root is an alterative of the slowly relaxing and stimulating class, leaving behind a mild tonic impression that is sometimes classed as astringent. (The other species above named are considerably astringent.) The greater portion of its power is expended upon the skin; but the gall-ducts, small intestines, and kidneys, feel its impressions to a fair extent. Though not cathartic, it is fairly laxative; and exerts a desirable tonic and diluent influence upon the entire hepatic and alvine structures. It moderately resembles rhubarb, in the same botanical Family. The chief use made of it, is in scrofulous affections of the skin, scrofulous ulcers, and scrofulous forms of diarrhea; for all which it is of superior efficacy, and seems to give that solidity and tone to the assimilative apparatus which are so necessary in such cases. In nearly all forms of dry, scaly, and pustular skin diseases, it has a deserved reputation, both as an inward and outward remedy; in itch and eczema, its sirup and ointment are among the most effective remedies; and it is of good use in syphilis, if combined with more stimulating agents, as jeffersonia and guaiacum.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. Boil two ounces of the dried and crushed root, for ten minutes, in a pint of water; strain with pressure, and give one to two fluid ounces four times a day.
II. Extract. A common extract is made with water, and a hydro-alcoholic extract is also made, in the usual manner. They are seldom used internally, though some physicians use them in the formation of their rumex sirups; but while such a preparation may be made conveniently, it is not elegant. The principal use made of the extract, is in the formation of ointments.
III. Ointment. The most elegant ointment is formed by mashing four ounces of the fresh roots, digesting them at a low heat in pure cream or lard, and straining when the roots begin to get crisp. It is a soothing and strengthening application for salt rheum, tetter, eczema, itch, scrofulous sores, scald head, and other irritable skin diseases. An ointment may also be formed by softening half an ounce of the hydro-alcoholic extract with a sufficient quantity of seventy percent alcohol, and triturating it with two ounces of simple cerate and a few drops of olive oil. That with cream and the fresh roots is best, but is not easily preserved beyond two or three days.
IV. Compound Sirup. Root of rumex, two pounds; celastrus scandens, scrophularia marilandica, each, one pound; guaiacum chips, gentiana ochroleuca, each, four ounces. Macerate in a close vessel with a pint of alcohol and two quarts of water, for two days; transfer to a percolator, and add water, setting aside the first quart that passes; continue the percolation with water till the drugs are exhausted, add fourteen pounds of sugar, and evaporate to seven quarts. When cold, add the quart of tincture first obtained; and then triturate and add ten drops of oils of anise and sassafras, and an ounce of rose water. This is different from the common sirup of this name; and is a far more efficient preparation for scrofula, cutaneous affections, secondary syphilis, etc. Dose, two to four fluid drachms three times a day. The common sirup prepared under this name, is composed of two pounds rumex, one pound celastrus, and half a pound each ampelopsis and scrophularia, made into two gallons of sirup. It is a good preparation; but is made up of so many relaxants as to lack the sustaining vigor that is secured by the above formula.
Rumex enters into combination with a large number of alterants and alterant tonics, and is everywhere valued as one of the best of its class.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com