"Rheum" is a medical term for a runny nose or eyes. It can be a symptom of an illness such as a cold. This term also is a name for a particular homeopathic remedy for various ailments. The homeopathic product is made from giant rhubarb, which is from the Rheum genus of plants.
When a person catches a cold or another infection, the pathogen that is responsible can act on the mucus membranes of the body. A mucus membrane is a particular type of tissue of the body. It is made up of cells that form a lining on areas of the body that are exposed to the outside world.
These cells produce mucus and normally are not dry. They also absorb liquid and salts from the surface of the cells. Examples of mucus membranes include those that line the inside of the mouth, the internal surfaces of the nose and the inner eyelids.
Infections can alter the normal production of mucus from these mucus membranes. A cold virus infection promotes the production of lots of mucus that is more watery than normal, primarily from the nasal mucus membranes. Influenza viruses also can result in rheum, although not as often as cold infections can.
Another use of the term "Rheum" is in the homeopathic remedy trade. Some conditions that homeopaths believe can be made better through treatment with this remedy involve the digestive tract in children. Diarrhea that has a sour odor, kids undergoing teething problems and kids who have impatient emotions fit the homeopathic indications that Rheum can be prescribed.
The homeopathic remedy is named after the genus of the plant that forms the base of the product. Rheum palmatum is one of the plants in the genus and the base of that particular remedy. It is also known as giant rhubarb. About 60 species of plant make up the genus, with most of them being found in central Asia on the Chinese-Tibetan plateau. Some species are cultivated in other parts of the world, however, in gardens or as crops.
Allergies can produce the watery mucus of rheum from the eyes and the nose. Afflicted people might need to take medication against the allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to the flowers of Rheum plants, such as the regular, garden variety fruit the rhubarb. Although rhubarb can form part of a tasty dessert or other dish, its leaves are poisonous, and it can be lethal in large quantities.