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Carbo Ligni (U. S. P.)—Charcoal.

Botanical name:

Preparation: Trituration of Wood Charcoal - Charcoal Poultice - Compound Powder of Charcoal
Related entry: Carbo Animalis (U. S. P.)—Animal Charcoal

Charcoal prepared from soft wood, and very finely powdered. It should be kept in well-closed vessels"—(U. S. P.).
SYNONYMS: Carbo vegetabilis, Carbo praeparatus, Wood charcoal, Carbo e ligno.

Preparation and Purification.—Wood or vegetable charcoal for pharmaceutical or other purposes is made by the well-known process, too familiar to be described. For medicinal purposes, charcoal as ordinarily prepared is not pure enough for internal use. It may be purified, according to Lowitz, by placing fine common charcoal in a crucible, and, when filled, cementing on a cover containing several orifices. This is to be exposed to a red heat, which must be continued as long as flame of a blue color emerges from the orifices of the cover, and when this has stopped remove from the fire, and when cold place the charcoal as soon as possible in glass vessels, which must be kept well closed. The best charcoal for medicinal purposes is that which is properly prepared from young willow shoots, and is known in trade by the name, "Willow charcoal".

Description.—In shape and texture charcoal resembles the particular wood from which it is prepared. As used in medicine and pharmacy it is in pulverized condition. According to the U. S. P. it should be "a black, odorless, and tasteless powder, free from gritty matter. If 1 Gm. of charcoal be boiled with a mixture of 3 Cc. of potassium hydrate T.S., and 5 Cc. of water for several minutes, the filtrate should be colorless, or nearly so (evidence of complete carbonization)"—(U. S. P.). Wood charcoal is an excellent conductor of electricity, but not of heat. It corrects the fetor from putrid animal matters, and decolorizes vegetable infusions, but not so promptly as the animal charcoal. It decomposes many metallic compounds, when heated with them, by depriving them of their oxygen. If kept in the air its weight is speedily augmented in consequence of its affinity for moisture, even to the amount of from 10 to 15 per cent. Combustion produces carbonic acid gas, leaving behind an ash composed of earthy matters and carbonate of potassium. Charcoal has the property of absorbing gases, which it accomplishes to an extent varying with the grade of charcoal, and with the gas absorbed. For this purpose it should be freshly prepared. Generally speaking, 1 volume of charcoal will absorb 10 volumes of oxygen, 35 volumes of carbonic acid gas, 55 volumes of hydrogen sulphide, and 100 volumes of ammonia. It is not so useful for decolorizing pharmaceutical preparations as animal charcoal.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—As a medicine, charcoal should always be purified. "Charcoal is generally described as possessing antiseptic properties, while the very reverse is the fact. Common salt, corrosive sublimate, arsenous acid, alcohol, camphor, creosote, and most essential oils, are certainly antiseptic substances, and, therefore, retard the decay of animal and vegetable matters. Charcoal, on the contrary, greatly facilitates the oxidization, and, consequently the decomposition of any organic substance with which it is in contact. It is, therefore, the very opposite of an antiseptic" (Dr. Stenhouse). It does, however, render the gases evolved latent. It acts as an absorbent (both fluids and gases) and disinfectant. Its internal employment will be found useful in those digestive derangements which are associated with offensive breath and disagreeable belchings; also to correct the fetid condition of the stools in dysentery. It is also useful in acidity of the stomach, flatulency, and in the nausea and constipation attending pregnancy. It is also very useful in internal heat and irritation of the stomach, with acidity; sick headache; diarrhoea; cholera infantum, etc. In cases of sick headache, due to gastric acidity or derangement, and which are ushered in with blurred vision, photopsia, and finally nausea and intense headache, I have found a drachm of charcoal mixed in a little syrup, to which is then added about a gill of water, and 10 or 12 drops of ether, to afford prompt relief; in very obstinate cases, the dose may require to be repeated 2 or 3 times, every 20 or 30 minutes (J. King). In some cases charcoal may be advantageously combined with the subnitrate of bismuth as a sedative; and where a laxative action is required, rhubarb may be beneficially added to it. Bilious colic is said to have been cured by it, in doses of 1 drachm in 2 fluid ounces of burnt brandy, repeated as required. Externally, it may be used in poultices to correct fetor of ulcers, arrest gangrene, etc., and is efficient in many cutaneous diseases. It absorbs foul gases generated in vaults, sewers, etc. It is also a useful hemostatic, having arrested epistaxis when subsulphate of iron had failed. "The specific use of charcoal," says Dr. Scudder (Spec. Medication) "is to arrest hemorrhage from the bowels. It has been used in enema, ℨss to ℨj, 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 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 leucocythemia. 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." It occasionally enters into tooth-powders, and may be used with advantage to correct the fetor of the mouth, and cleanse the teeth. In such cases, the charcoal prepared from bread is the best, as it contains no gritty particles. Water may be purified by passing it through charcoal mixed with sand. The ordinary dose of charcoal is from 20 grains to 2 drachms, 2 or 3 times a day, in water, milk, or burnt brandy, repeating it according to indications. For specific uses the 1 x, or 2 x trituration, 5 to 10 grains, as often as necessary.

Specific Indications and Uses.—A pallid, expressionless tongue, with slight coat and lenticular spots, or slight coat lifting in patches, pallid skin; feeble pulse; tumid, doughy abdomen; tendency to hemorrhage; 'frequent, foul, hemorrhagic bowel discharges; passive hematuria; passive hemoptysis; salty taste in the mouth. The remedy for asthenic hemorrhage and profuse secretion.

Carbon and Its Modifications and Related Products.—CARBON. Symbol: C. Atomic Weight: 11.97. A quadrivalent, sometimes bivalent, element, widely diffused over the earth. It is found in the earth as free carbon, especially as graphite (plumbago), and in crystallized, transparent condition, as diamond. In an impure amorphous form it exists as coal. It combines with oxygen to produce carbonic anhydride (CO2), or carbon dioxide, existing in this form in considerable quantity in the atmosphere, and in effervescing mineral waters. In mineral formations it exists combined with other substances, forming carbonates. It is found very extensively in organic matter, both animate and inanimate; in fact, the study of so-called organic chemistry may be said to be the study of carbon and its compounds and derivatives. The black residue left when organic matter is heated, with limited access of air, is produced by freeing the carbon, or the process of carbonization, as it is called. Carbon occurs in 3 allotropic forms, viz.: Diamond, graphite, and amorphous carbon.

I. DIAMOND, one of the hardest bodies known, is a crystallized carbon. Electricity is not conducted by it. If heated, excluded from the air, it remains unaltered at very high temperatures, but if heated in the air or to whiteness in oxygen, combustion ensues, with the production of carbon dioxide. The diamond is the purest form of carbon. Its density is 3.5. It is found chiefly in India, Borneo, Brazil, and South Africa, while some diamonds have been unearthed in North Carolina and Georgia. An impure carbon-mass, containing both oxygen and hydrogen and known as anthracite diamond, or black diamond, is said to be even harder than the true diamond.

II. GRAPHITE. Plumbago, or Black lead.—This next purest form of carbon presents a totally different aspect from the diamond. It is found abundantly in some localities, especially in England, and in New York, Massachusetts, and Canada. The purest form is said to come from the Borrowdale mines in England. In granite and other mineral formations it occurs sometimes in large lumps. It is crystalline, forming plates, which are hexagonal, soft, unctuous to the feel, usually of a dull-gray, or grayish-black color, and has a density ranging from 1.9 to 2.25. Graphite is infusible, and is a good conductor of the electric current. It is largely employed in the arts in the making of lead-pencils, crucibles, stove-polish, etc. The name black lead should be discarded, as graphite has no connection chemically, or otherwise, with lead.

III. AMORPHOUS CARBON.—This form of carbon is well known as coal. The purest variety is known as anthracite, or hard coal. The next variety is known as bituminous, or soft coal, a form containing considerable hydrogen. When subjected to red heat in closed retorts, volatile hydrocarbons and tar are given off, leaving coke as a residue. Coke is a fairly pure carbon, intermixed with the mineral components of coal. Anthracite coal contains about 90 per cent of carbon; bituminous coal, about from 75 to 90 per cent; and amorphous carbon (lignite), about 65 per cent. Lampblack, another amorphous carbon, is the result of the imperfect combustion of resinous, fatty and waxy material, the smoke so produced condensing as finely divided carbon, or lampblack.

FULIGO LIGNI. Soot, Wood soot (Fuligo splendens).—The best soot for medicinal purposes is that which is gathered within an air-tight wood stove and its pipe; that which is collected from a clean chimney or ordinary stove-pipe, where hard wood alone is burned, will ordinarily answer, if it be free from ashes and calcium compounds. Soot has a peculiar odor, somewhat resembling that of creasote, and a nauseously empyreumatic, more or less bitter and acrid, saline taste. Its infusion in water is of a dark-brown color, with the characteristic odor and taste of soot. It is a complex mixture of distilled products from the imperfectly burnt wood, ashes, or other fixed matters, carried up the chimney by the current of air. It consists of an empyreumatic resin (pyretin), combined with acetic also saturates the bases, calcium, potassium 1 and magnesium, of the ashes carried up the chimney. Acetate of ammonium, chloride of calcium, sulphate of calcium, extractive matter, creasote, carbon, silica, sesquioxide of iron, and nitric mid, have all been found in soot. The solution of soot, evaporated, furnishes a dark-colored extract, which, on being re-dissolved in water, forms a dark-brown solution. About 0.44 of soot is insoluble. It probably owes its virtues largely to creasote. Soot has deodorant and disinfectant properties, and may be employed in vaults, etc., to overcome foul effluvia.

Internally, soot was formerly much employed, and found valuable in all forms of disease attended with acidity of the stomach. A powder, composed of 1 part each of powdered rhubarb and soot, and half a part of bicarbonate of potassium, will be found invaluable in all such cases, removing acidity and a tendency to constipation. It maybe given in doses varying from 3 to 12 grains, 3 times day, or in sufficient quantity to cause 1 or 2 evacuations from the bowels daily. An infusion of soot, made so as not to be unpalatable, is very beneficial in inflammation of mucous membranes, and in hysteria. A strong decoction of soot, used as an injection into the rectum, has caused the expulsion of ascarides; its use should be continued for several days in succession; injected into the bladder it has been of service in chronic inflammation of the bladder; it should be injected twice a day for some days. It possesses no antispasmodic virtues, further than neutralizing the acidity of the stomach, to which the spasmodic action is owing. Combined with extract of geranium, in the proportion of 2 parts to 1 of the astringent, it will prove valuable in diarrhoea and cholera morbus of children; in summer-complaint, 1 part of the dried extract of leptandra, and 1/4 part of camphor or ginger may be added to the above. The infusion or decoction may be made by adding 1 or 2 ounces of soot to a pint of water, macerate or boil for 1/2 hour, and filter. Dose, 1 or 2 fluid ounces, 2 or 3 times a day.

Externally, Prof. King used the Unguentum Fuliginis in cases of recent and extensive burns, with almost immediate relief. It must be spread on raw cotton and applied over the part. The ointment is also efficient in various cutaneous disorders, especially those of an erysipelatous character, tinea, fistula, cancerous and syphilitic ulcers, pruritis vulvae, specks on the cornea, scrofulous ophthalmia, severe burns and scalds, etc. In some of these diseases the decoction will answer. In many ophthalmic diseases, a strong decoction of equal parts of soot and hydrastis, will be found valuable. It may also be employed internally by month, or injection into the bladder or vagina, for chronic mucous inflammation. Soot is but little used at the present day.

FULIGOKALI.—A preparation called Fuligokali has been recommended in scrofula, chronic rheumatism, rheumatic tumors, and certain herpetic affections. It is made thus: To 2 or 3 parts of water add 50 parts of good, shining powdered soot, and 10 parts of caustic potash; boil the mixture for 1 hour, then dilute it when cold, and filter. The filtrate, when evaporated to dryness, yields a black powder, having a slightly alkaline taste, a burnt-like odor, and a ready solubility in water. It may be given 4 or 5 times a day, in doses of 2 to 3 grains. This substance should be kept in well-closed bottles (Deschamps). A stimulating discutient external application is made by triturating 1/2 ounce of prepared lard with 8 or 16 grains of fuligokali (Gibert).

ANTHRAKOKALI.—A preparation occurring as a black powder, produced by boiling porphyrized coal with a strong solution of caustic potash, in an iron vessel. The mass is stirred, while cooling, until a powder results. This forms simple anthrakokali, but when sulphur in small amounts is added to the coal before it is put into the boiling potash solution, the resultant product is sulphurretted anthrakokali. These preparations were introduced by Dr. Polya, who applied them externally, and also administered them in doses of 1 to 1 1/2 grains, disguised in licorice-root powder. Chronic rheumatic complaints, including rheumatic arthritic swellings, as well as scrofula, and skin diseases of an herpetic character, were treated with it. An ointment (16 grains to 1 ounce of lard) was employed locally twice a day.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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