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Carbo Ligni.

Botanical name:

Charcoal prepared by burning soft wood. It must be kept in tightly-closed vessels.
Common Names: Charcoal, Wood Charcoal; Synonym: Carbo Vegetabilis. (Activated Charcoal—MM)

Description.—A tasteless and odorless non-gritty black powder.
Preparation.— Trituration of Carbo Vegetabilis (1 to 100). (Carbo Veg.) Dose, 1 to 30 grains.
Specific Indications.—Gaseous fermentation and fetor; pulse feeble; pallid skin with doughy and tumid abdomen; expressionless, pale tongue, with spots of denuded coating; passive hemorrhages, and profuse secretion.

Action and Therapy.—External. Absorbent, deodorant and disinfectant, but not antiseptic. It is used very largely to deodorize foul ulcers, carcinomata, and gangrene, possessing the advantage of being an odorless deodorant. It is frequently added to poultices and is an ingredient of some tooth powders. A rectal injection of charcoal has checked hemorrhage from the bowels.

Internal. Its absorbent and deodorant properties make charcoal a splendid agent to absorb putrid gases from the stomach and bowels. It is indicated by offensive breath and disagreeable belching. In acidity of the stomach, gastric distention, nausea and vomiting, sick headache with gaseous belching, fetid diarrhoea, and sometimes in the acid vomiting of pregnancy, charcoal is a most effective agent. It may be combined, plain or aromatized with oil of peppermint, with sodium bicarbonate in acidity of the stomach, with bismuth subnitrate in marked irritation and diarrhoea, with ginger in the flatulence of atony, and with rhubarb or magnesia when constipated. Though supposed to have no general effects on account of not being absorbed, Scudder strongly advocated it for passive hemorrhage, using the second decimal trituration of carbo vegetabilis. His statement is worth recording.

"The specific use of charcoal is to arrest hemorrhage from the bowels. It has been used in enema, 1/2 to 1 drachm, finely powdered, to 4 ounces of water, thrown up the rectum. Why this checks it I can not tell; that it does it I have the evidence of my own eyes. For several years I have employed the second decimal trituration as a remedy for passive hemorrhage with the most marked benefit. I employ it in threatened hemorrhage during typhoid fever; in menorrhagia, especially when chronic; in prolonged menstruation; the watery discharge that sometimes follows menstruation; hemorrhage from the kidneys; hemorrhage from the lungs; and in some cases of leucocythaemia. A good indication for this remedy is a small pallid tongue with lenticular spots, and with this it may be given in any form of disease." (Specific Medication.)

Charcoal, like animal charcoal (Carbo Animalis), is sometimes given in alkaloidal poisoning with a view to precipitating and retarding the poison until it can be removed from the stomach. Its effectiveness is doubted. It may also be used in haematemesis, and frequent foul discharges from the intestinal tract. The pulse is feeble, the belly-wall tumid and doughy, the tongue expressionless and pale with little coating and lenticular spots, or the coating may lift in patches.


The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.



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