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|Ch.25 L&T: Rhubarb in JA's time (longish, sorry!)
Written by Line
(3/22/2009 10:54 a.m.)
In ch.25, Catherine realized that, in England, "neither poison nor sleeping potions [were] to be procured, like rhubarb, from every druggist". I searched through the Pemberley archives, but all I could find was two brief references, including an old L&T post of Caroline's which mentions "a reference in JA's letters to "doses of Rhubarb" but this seems to be for biliousness, not for purging".
First of all, I didn't exactly know what "biliousness" was, so I went Googling and found the following definition at http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=19438:
Biliousness: A term used in the 18th and 19th centuries pertaining to bad digestion, stomach pains, constipation, and excessive flatulence (passing gas). The quantity or quality of the bile was thought to be at fault for the condition. Hence, the name "biliousness." ("Bilious" derives from the French "bilieux," which in turn came from "bilis," the Latin term for "bile.") Biliousness was generally laid to high living. The "cure" was moderation and frequent visits to the doctor.
Then I found the website linked below, devoted entirely to rhubarb. I had thought that perhaps rhubarb was used as an antacid, like Alka-Seltzer, but the website talks about its use as a laxative, which agrees with the definition above. From the rhubarb website, it looks like the part of the plant used for medicinal purposes was the root, whereas I'm used to people *eating* the stalks. Also, I wondered if it came in powdered form in JA's time, but the website gives a recipe that calls for rhubarb tincture, so perhaps she knew it as a liquid. Then, I wondered if the rhubarb that JA knew was exactly the same kind of rhubarb that so many people had growing in their backyards when I was a kid, which was a sign of spring as it started appearing on people's dinner tables, especially in desserts! (So many questions by a mind absorbed with trivia! ;-)
|Medicinal uses of rhubarb|
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