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Cetaceum. Spermaceti.

Botanical name:

Spermaceti is a dense fatty substance, obtained from the head of the spermaceti whale— Physeter macrocephalus. "The spermaceti whale is from sixty to eighty feet long, with an enormous head not less than thirty feet in circumference, and constituting one-third of the whole length of the body. The upper part of the head is occupied by large cavities, separated by cartilaginous partitions, and containing an oily liquid which, after the death of the animal, concretes into a white spongy mass, consisting of spermaceti mixed with oil. This mass is removed, and the oil allowed to separate by draining. The quantity of crude spermaceti obtained from a whale of the ordinary size, is sufficient to fill twelve large barrels. It is purified from oil and other matters by pressure, repeated washings with hot water, melting and straining, and lastly by repeated washings with a weak boiling lye of potash." (U. S. Dispensatory.)

Spermaceti is a pearly-white mass, a little unctuous to the touch, crystalline, firm, lighter than water, and melting at 120 F. It is affected by heat and the oils very much as white wax is. It is but little acted on by the alkalies, and does not so readily mix with resin.

Properties and Uses: This article is a demulcent after the character of the fixed. oils; and has been used in phthisis and irritability of the pulmonary and intestinal mucous membranes. In my estimation, it is to be preferred to cod liver oil. By moistening it with alcohol, it may be reduced to a powder; but it is better when softened with olive or almond oil, and then made into an emulsion with gum arabic and sugar, or suspended in sugar and the yolk of an egg. From ten to thirty grains may thus be given three times a day. At present, it is seldom used internally; but is employed largely in giving firmness and softness to numerous ointments. It mixes readily with lard, white wax, and other unctuous materials; and makes a soothing external application.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: Cold Cream, Ointment of Rose Water. Take spermaceti, half an ounce; oil of almonds, two fluid ounces; white wax, one drachm. Melt these together on a water-bath; and when it begins to cool add a fluid ounce of rose water, and stir constantly till it congeals. This is an elegant soft ointment, and a most soothing application to chapped hands and lips, light burns, irritable diseases of the skin, and all excoriated and smarting surfaces. It should be kept closely in glazed vessels. Some formulas. omit the rose water, and use instead two drops of the ottar of roses, and four fluid drachms of glycerin; but it is difficult to incorporate these ingredients.

See White Wax and Glycerin for other compounds, and bases for ointments.


The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com



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