The Wondrous Drug
An Asian plant with mysterious cathartic powers, medicinal rhubarb spurned European trade expeditions and obsessive scientific inquiry from the Renaissance until the 20th century. Rarely, however, had there been a plant that so thoroughly frustrated Europeans' efforts to acquire it and to master its special botanical and chemical properties. This study traces the efforts of the explorers, traders, botanists, gardeners, physicians and pharmacists who tried to adapt rhubarb for convenient use in Europe. The history includes sections on the geographic and economic importance of rhubarb, which explain how the plant became a major state monopoloy for Russia and an important commodity for the East India companies. There is also a discussion of rhubarb's emergence as an international culinary craze during the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Winner of the Edward Kremers Award, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy