It was shown by Professor Rutherford at Edinburgh to be a powerful secretory cholagogue, an action possessed by few hydragogue purgatives.
The tartrate and acid tartrate are also diuretic in their action and, as well as the sulphate, are valuable hydragogue saline purgatives.
In medicine it is frequently employed as a hydragogue purgative, specially valuable in febrile diseases, in congestion of the portal system, and in the obstinate constipation of painters' colic. In the last case it is combined with potassium iodide, the two salts being exceedingly effective in causing the elimination of lead from the system.
There is hardly any increase in the intestinal secretion, the drug being emphatically not a hydragogue cathartic. There is no doubt that its habitual use may be a factor in the formation of haemorrhoids; as in the case of all drugs that act powerfully on the lower part of the intestine, without simultaneously lowering the venous pressure by causing increase of secretion from the bowel.
Some of them cause so much irritation that the discharge is very watery (hydragogue cathartics), while others, for example aloes, by acting gently on the lower part of the bowel and on its muscular coat, produce simply a laxative effect.
Jalap is a typical hydragogue purgative, causing the excretion of more fluid than scammony, but producing less stimulation of the muscular wall of the bowel.