J. W. CHASE, M. D., CORRY, PENNSYLVANIA
Several months ago the editor of the THERAPEUTIST made an able attack upon the use of mercury as medicine. Freedom of thought and speech are among the foundation-stones of eclecticism. I expected, therefore, that, long ere this, one or more replies to the article would have appeared. As debate is seldom profitable, these remarks will be confined to my personal experience with the drug.
I had not practiced medicine many months before I had a case of agonizing urethritis. with constant desire to urinate. Aconite, belladonna, gelsemium, cannabis sativa and eupatorium purpureum were powerless. At this time a homeopathist passing my office, dropped in for a few minutes chat. Our conversation was interrupted by an urgent call for me to come and make another effort to relieve the patient. I quickly explained the matter to the doctor, who from one of his case bottles dumped out enough powder of the third decimal trituration of Merc. Sol. to make a dozen doses. They did the work.
Since that time I have generally used a trituration of the vivus made by grinding together in a mortar a globule of quicksilver with ninety-nine times its weight of milk sugar.
It has often been a query with me as to what remedy the eclectic—the only close student of the tongue—gives when he finds this organ with a bluish-white coat, tremulous, swollen, flabby, showing the indentations of the teeth, and with red papillae at the tip. Is it rhus tox ? How often it must fail!
Not long after the case above mentioned I was called to prescribe for a young married woman who at each menstrual period passed a skin-like substance from the vagina. I knew nothing of membranous dysmenorrhea, but the tongue indicated mercury; and its administration soon relieved her.
A number of years ago I was in Caldwell, O. While talking with a young physician, he complained of dyspepsia and general poor health, for which treatment had been of little effect. I looked at his tongue and said: "If you came to me you would get mercury." A look of surprise came over his face and he said, "The only remedy which has been of any benefit is the biniodide."
Not long ago an old lady brought to a house where I was calling, her puny little granddaughter, who suffered from epistaxis, frequently recurring. I did not differentiate long between affections of liver, heart and spleen, but saw that the tongue indicated mercury. The effect was prompt.
The superiority of mercury in the treatment of secondary syphilis should give it a prominent place among our remedies. The patient is very tolerant of it. I use the yellow iodide in one-fourth grain doses four times a day. If cathartic, this dose should be lessened to one the patient can take without losing weight. The physician who opposes the use of mercury, and yet in this, or any other disease, resorts to the biniodide and Donovan's solution, is, to say the least, inconsistent.
The bichloride, 1/200th to 1/100th of a grain, is very efficient in peritonitis and in dysentery, and delays the progress of albuminuria.
The value of a remedy depends largely upon the frequency with which it is indicated. The mercury tongue is often in evidence. A valuable indication, also, is night-sweats, particularly if the perspiration stains yellow. The patient is very susceptible to extremes of temperature, chills easily, sweats easily, and has cold hands and feet.
I have used mercury successfully in many diseases, and always harmlessly. I use it as I use aconite, remembering that it is dangerous. When nature is in distress it throws out to the physician the signal which indicates the means of relief. He fails too often because he cannot read. Shall he add also other and useless failures because of a cherished prejudice which has been handed down to him by a rude and more ignorant age.
COMMENT: The contention of Eclectics, made for years, was against the physiologic or toxic action of the remedy in large doses. The triturations of mercury are as different from the above as if it were a different remedy under these circumstances. Twenty years ago I used several of these triturations continually in practice and obtained good results, but later, as I obtained a more exact knowledge of the organic remedies, I found myself using them to the exclusion of mercury. There is no doubt that with the triturations very correct adjustments in stubborn conditions are possible. The doctor's argument is a good one. However, a thorough and persistent study of the organic remedies will enable the prescriber, I think, to treat each condition met with mercury, at least fully as well with them, as with this remedy.
Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.