What Is Rheum?

Jillian O Keeffe

"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.

Rheum has been prescribed for teething children.
Rheum has been prescribed for teething children.

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.

Rheum is another term for a runny nose.
Rheum is another term for a runny nose.

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.

People who have a cold or the flu often experience an increase in rheum.
People who have a cold or the flu often experience an increase in rheum.

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.

Allergies may produce rheum from the eyes and nose.
Allergies may produce rheum from the eyes and nose.

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.

A child with a cold may experience a runny nose and eyes.
A child with a cold may experience a runny nose and eyes.

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.

Rheum is a common symptom of many highly contagious respiratory infections.
Rheum is a common symptom of many highly contagious respiratory infections.

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Discussion Comments


@shell4life – I also have rheum caused by allergies, and it can really make me miserable. I take a twenty-four hour antihistamine to lessen the symptoms, and during the fall and winter, this is helpful.

However, nothing can help me during spring and summer. Spring is the worst, because pollen is in the very air I breathe, and both my eyes and nose run like leaky faucets during that time of the year.

When I mow my yard in the summer, I have to wear a mask. If I don't, my eyes and nose will run for hours afterward, because dirt and pollen have been chopped up and set afloat on the air, where I have breathed them in through my nose.


@backdraft – My friend's poodle had problems with rheum. She had white fur, and the constant tears running from her eyes stained a streak of it purplish-brown.

Any little irritant that gets in a dog's eyes can make them produce tears, and since my friend's dog lived outside, it came in contact with lots of pollen and dust. Once she started letting the poodle stay in the house, the tears slowed down.

I felt bad for the dog, because I know how annoying it can be to have constantly runny eyes. I deal with allergies continuously, and often, my eyes are quite watery. I'm glad that living inside helped ease her rheum.


I remember dealing with rheum during frequent colds in high school. My nose would run so much that I lost the ability to tell it was running in time to catch the mucus with a tissue. I ended up just having to wipe my nose on my sleeve all day.

Usually, my parents wouldn't let me skip school just because I had a cold. I was absolutely miserable with that constant flow out of my nose, but unless I had a fever with it, I wasn't allowed to stay home. I took a whole box of tissue in my backpack, and I used half the box in one day!


This is kind of a strange story, but I used to date a girl who loved cats. She had one cat that she had had since it was a kitten. At one point in it's life the cat had contracted herpes. I didn't know that cats could get that either but apparently they can.

The only outward symptom is that one of the cat's eyes ran constantly. She had a wet trail of tears going from her eye down her face all the time. It was really strange looking at first but you got used to it before long. She was a cute cat otherwise.


Has anyone used rhubarb extract as a natural remedy? I have a friend who recommended this to me and said it could help with all kinds of things.

She said taking something like this would cut down on the length of my cold and was also good for digestive problems.

After reading this article, I wonder if rhubarb extract would be similar to rheum? It sounds like rhubarb can have many healing properties like most herbs and plants have.

When I looked locally for some rhubarb extract I couldn't find any. The guy at the health food store said they had never carried it, but I should be able to find some online.


@honeybees - My grandparents have a rhubarb patch that has come up faithfully for close to 50 years. This is a regular garden type of rhubarb and I believe would have similar properties as the giant rhubarb mentioned in this article.

I have learned a lot from my grandma through the years. She has taught me a lot of natural remedies from flowers, plants and herbs she has growing in her yard.

At first I was so surprised that these remedies really worked, but now I find myself looking for a homeopathic treatment before trying something else.


Is the homeopathic rheum from the giant rhubarb the same thing as the rhubarb that grows in my garden every year?

I had heard the leaves of this plant were poisonous so was somewhat surprised to hear this was used as a homeopathic remedy.

The only thing I have used rhubarb for is to make a delicious cobbler. There are a lot of people who don't care for the taste of rhubarb - even with all the sugar added to it. If you taste this alone, it has a very bitter taste.

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