"The root of Rumex crispus, Linné, and of some other species of Rumex "—(U. S. P.).
Botanical Source and History.—Rumex crispus, Linné, or Yellow dock, is the species of dock most commonly used by physicians. It has a deep spindle-shaped, yellow root, with a stem 2 or 3 feet high, angular, furrowed, somewhat zigzag, smooth to the touch, panicled, and leafy. The leaves are lanceolate, acute, strongly undulated, and crisped at the edges, of a light-green color; radical ones on long petioles, truncate, or subcordate at base; uppermost narrower, and nearly sessile. Flowers numerous, pale-green, drooping, in a large panicle consisting of many wand-like racemes of half-whorls, interspersed with leaves below. Inner sepals, or valves, much larger than the outer, veiny, waved, entire, ovate, each bearing a large ovate brown grain or tubercle on the back. Nut contracted at each end, with three blunt or tumid angles. This plant is introduced into this country from Europe, growing in cultivated grounds, waste grounds, about rubbish, etc., flowering in June and July (L.—G.—W.).
Rumex aquaticus, Pursh (R. orbiculatus, Gray., or Great water dock, has a stout black root, whitish internally, with a thick, erect stem, 3 to 5 feet high. Leaves 1 foot or more in length, 3 to 5 inches wide, smooth, lanceolate, and pointed; lower ones cordate, on long petioles. Flowers verticillate, in a terminal, leafy panicle. Pedicels capillary, drooping. The 3 petals, or as termed by some botanists, the 3 inner divisions of the calyx, which form a kind of triangle, and are termed valves, are large, broadly-ovate, obtuse, entire, and minutely granular along the center. This is an European plant, but introduced into this country, growing in wet places, ditches, etc., and flowering in July (W.—G.).
Rumex britannica, Linné, or Yellow-rooted water dock, has a large root, externally dark, internally yellowish, with an angulax, furrowed, branching stem, 2 or 3 feet high. Leaves broad-lanceolate, acute at both ends, 3 to 5 inches long, petiolate, flat, smooth, with the sheathing stipules slightly rent. Flowers perfect, in verticillate fascicles collected into a large, terminal panicle, the spikes of which are nearly leafless; pedicels capillary and nodding in fruit. Calyx valves large, cordate, entire, graniferous, 2 of the grains small or abortive. This is an indigenous plant, growing in muddy places, along banks of streams, etc., in various parts of the United States, and bearing flowers from May to August (W.—G.—Wi).
Rumex obtusifolius, Linné, or Blunt-leaved dock, has its root brown outside and yellow within; the stem is 2 or 3 feet high, furrowed, somewhat roughish, branching, and leafy. Radical leaves about 1 foot long, and 5 or 6 inches in width, ovate-cordate, obtuse, rather downy on veins underneath, somewhat wavy margined, often with stock and veins red; upper ones oblong-lanceolate, and acute. Flowers in long, nearly naked racemes; whorls loose and distant; valves ovate-halbert-shaped, sharply denticulate at the base, strongly reticulated, one of them principally bearing a granule on the back. This is a common weed, introduced from Europe, growing about houses and fields, and flowering from May to August (G.—W.).
History and Description.—These four species of dock possess similar medicinal properties. The roots of several other species have been medicinally employed, and may be used indiscriminately with the above, as the R. patientia and R. alpinus of Europe, and the R. acutus and R. sanguineus of this country. These various dock-roots have hardly any odor, an astringent, bitterish taste, and yield their virtues to alcohol, or boiling water. The young leaves of some of the species are sometimes used as greens. Yellow dock root varies in length from 4 to 6 inches, or more, and has an epidermis easily removed, beneath which are the bark layers, the woody part, and the medulla. The bark of Yellow dock root is the most active part, though the whole root is generally employed. Occasionally the root is divided longitudinally into halves or quarters; it is sometimes called Sour dock, Narrow dock, or Curled dock. The term Sour dock has been given to it probably on account of the sourness of the petioles, and which is due to the oxalic acid they contain. As officially described rumex is "from 20 to 30 Cm. (8 to 12 inches) long, about 10 to 15 Mm. (2/5 to 3/5 inch) thick, somewhat fusiform, fleshy, nearly simple, annulate above, deeply wrinkled below; externally rusty brown, internally whitish, with fine, straight, interrupted, reddish, medullary rays, and a rather thick bark; fracture short; odor slight, peculiar; taste bitter and astringent "—(U. S. P.).
Chemical Composition.—Yellow dock root has been found to contain a small amount of sugar, gum, albuminous substance, starch, tannin forming green precipitates with iron salts, etc. Riegel (1841) found in the root of R. obtusifolius (Radix lapathi acuti) resin and the aforenamed substances, and a principle which he named rumicin, and which Karl von Thann (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1859, p. 152) believed to be identical with chrysophanic acid of rhubarb (see Related Species). Rumicin was first obtained in an impure condition by Buchner and Hererger in 1831. Oxalic acid is present in the petioles of Yellow dock. Prolonged boiling injures the properties of the roots.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The dock roots are decidedly alterative, tonic, mildly astringent, and detergent, and are eminently useful in scorbutic, cutaneous, scrofulous, scirrhous and syphilitic affections, leprosy, elephantiasis, etc.; for which purpose we prefer the Rumex crispus, which is principally employed for its alterative and tonic influences in all cases where these are desired. Preparations from old material are worthless, but very efficient medicines are produced from the green root. The drug induces retrograde metamorphosis, increases innervation, and improves nutrition. In bad blood with skin disorders it is exceedingly efficient, acting decidedly upon the glandular system, removing chronic lymphatic enlargements, and especially influencing those conditions in which there is a tendency to indolent ulcerations and low inflammatory deposits. The most direct indication for its use is a scrofulous condition with low deposits in the cellular tissues and glands with a tendency to break down and but little tendency to repair. It should be used both locally and internally. Small doses of specific rumex are useful in nervous dyspepsia, with epigastric fullness and pain, and aching or darting pain in the left chest, with flatulent distension of the stomach and eructations of gas. It is said to cheek painless watery diarrhoeal discharges. Rumex is employed for "cough with a sensation of fullness in the chest, with sighing, yawning, and efforts to take a full inspiration." It is most valuable in respiratory affections showing impoverished and vitiated blood. It may be employed in laryngeal, tracheal, and bronchial catarrh, and in chronic sore throat with hypersecretion, and is not without good effects in incipient phthisis. Summer coughs, of a dry and stubborn character have yielded to it (Webster). The fraction of the drop acts best here. Internally in doses of from 1/10 to 1/5 drop specific rumex may be employed for the relief of army itch (contagious prurigo).
The fresh root bruised in cream, lard, or fresh butter, forms an excellent ointment for scrofulous ulcers, scrofulous ophthalmia, itch, and a discutient for indolent glandular tumors. An ointment of the root of R. crispus, and the root-bark of Celastrus scandens, with gunpowder, is said to prove a certain cure for the itch, as well as being of value in other cutaneous diseases and ulcers. Its efficacy (of the ointment) in itch is probably chiefly due to the sulphur in the gunpowder. The powdered root is recommended as a dentifrice, especially when the gums are spongy. Dose of the decoction or syrup, from 1 to 4 fluid ounces, 3 times a day; specific rumex, fraction of a drop to 30 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Bad blood with chronic skin diseases; bubonic swellings; low deposits in glands and cellular tissues, and tendency to indolent ulcers; feeble recuperative power; irritative, dry laryngo-tracheal cough; stubborn, dry, summer cough; chronic sore throat, with glandular enlargements and hypersecretion; nervous dyspepsia, with epigastric fullness and pain extending through left half of chest; cough with dyspnoea and sense of praecordial fullness.
Related Species.—Rumex nepalensis, Wallich. This plant grows abundantly in Madras and other parts of India, and is used by the natives for its astringent qualities, and for dyeing purposes. According to O. Hesse (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1896, p. 443), this root contains a series of homologous substances (differing by multiples of the group, CH2). The author found rumicin (C15H10O4) differing from chrysophanic acid (see Rheum) chiefly in melting point; nepalin (C17H14O4) in largest quantity, and nepodin (C18H16O4). (Compare the series chrysophanic acid, emodin, and rhein, under Rheum.)
Rumex hymenosepalus, Torrey.—This species of dock is plentiful in sandy soils along the Rio Grande in Mexico, western Texas, New Mexico and California. The root, called Canaigre, has come into prominence in recent years, on account of the large amount of tannin it contains. It was used by the Indians as a tanning material and a dye-stuff; its Mexican name is Raiz del Indio. The root contains 23.16 per cent of tannin (Voelcker, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1876, p. 49) and 18 per cent of starch (Clifford Richardson, ibid., 1886, p. 265). The coloring matters isolated by both chemists are analogous to those of rhubarb (see Rheum). Prof. Trimble (The Tannins) found the tannin to agree with that from mangrove, rhatany and perhaps mimosa.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.