Arsenic. Acidum Arsenosum.

Other tomes: Petersen - Potter

Synonyms—Arsenous acid, Arsenic trioxide, Arsenicum album, white Arsenic.

Physiological Action—In its physiological action this agent is a caustic poison. It acts as an escharotic and local irritant. When a poisonous dose has been taken there is salivation, metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, great pain, with diffused soreness and intense burning in the stomach, which radiates from this organ outward throughout the abdomen. It produces irregular heart action, palpitation, feeble pulse, shallow, rapid and oppressed breathing, edema and albuminuria.

The skin becomes cold and covered with a cold, clammy sweat. Finally, delirium and convulsions occur and are followed by death.

Almost all the phenomena of cholera in extreme cases, are apparent in the symptoms of arsenic poisoning.

In medicinal doses the agent increases the appetite and digestion, stimulating the intestinal glands to increased secretion and encouraging peristaltic action. It stimulates the function of the brain and the central nervous system, producing a feeling of exaltation and exhilaration. Its tonic influences are quite marked. While power to improve the condition of the blood is attributed to it, the manner in. which this improvement occurs is not understood.

Specific Symptomatology—It is especially indicated where there is a general plethoric or engorged condition, or an edematous condition of the cellular tissues, with a deficiency of normal elasticity. This condition when resulting from malarial influences, or from inactive liver and spleen, is especially susceptible to the action of this remedy.

In its absorption by the stomach, Ringer says if that organ is empty the arsenic enters the veins and is carried directly to the liver. If there is food in the stomach, the agent is absorbed by the lacteals, and is thence poured into the blood current.

Therapy—In dyspepsia from general atonicity of the stomach, arsenic taken before meals will stimulate this organ, promoting the flow of the digestive fluids, and materially improving its tone. It is a common remedy in the treatment of gastralgia and in ulcer of the stomach.

In that form of chronic indigestion which induces a necessity for an immediate evacuation of the bowels, quite common to some debilitated patients and to children, this agent is of specific value. It relieves the increased peristaltic action induced by the presence of food, which is the cause of the food being expelled before it is digested. In these cases the digestion is increased, rapid absorption of the food takes place and the patient shows an improvement in general nutrition. The agent should be given in small doses before meals, one drop of Fowler's solution being usually sufficient.

In chronic ulceration and cancer of the stomach it alleviates the pain and relieves the vomiting. It is useful in all cases of vomiting. The vomiting of cholera and of cholera infantum are relieved by it.

The reflex vomiting of pregnancy and the regurgitation of food, common to neurasthenic and hysterical patients, is sometimes cured with arsenic when other agents have failed.

It hag been highly commended in treatment of the vomiting of alcoholics. Given in proper doses in these cases and persisted in it restores the tone of the stomach, improves the digestion and materially increases the appetite. It is used in the treatment of alcoholism in combination with other measures.

In membranous dysmenorrhea this agent is of much service, and Simpson claims that the agent is specific to that form of diarrhea in women in which with copious evacuations from the bowels, there are shreds and particles of membrane freely discharged, a condition which results in great emaciation and nervous exhaustion.

In the treatment of cholera, arsenic has been experimented with very widely. It has been used both in large, and in homeopathic doses. In the latter form very much has been claimed from its use. In small or medium doses, it will, without doubt, materially assist the cure.

The agent is useful in jaundice due to malaria, where there is catarrh of the bile ducts, also in overcoming duodenal catarrh. Often repeated doses of arsenic, not exceeding the 1/100 of a grain, triturated with sugar of milk, are exceedingly efficacious in some cases of watery diarrhea, with greenish discharges. This influence is thoroughly accomplished in the use of the arsenite of copper, to which the reader is referred.

Arsenic has won considerable reputation as an antiperiodic. In that class of cases in which there is marked impairment of the sympathetic nervous system, it imparts tone to the nervous centers. It is especially adapted if the paroxysms are of irregular occurrence, or erratic in character. Small doses will accomplish good results in such cases, even better than large ones. The functions of the stomach, liver and other glandular organs are improved at the same time.

In the treatment of diseases of the skin arsenic is in common use. It is adapted to all scaly eruptions and to chronic eczema. It is useful in psoriasis, in pemphigus and lichen. In that form of eczema which affects the soft tissues, such as those of the anus, scrotum and vulva, it is especially applicable. If satisfactory results from this agent in full doses do not soon occur, better results may be obtained if the dose be decreased.

Fowler's Solution applied freely will cure warts. In the case of long standing, large warts, give from seven to ten drops internally three times daily.

Although arsenic has been long used in chorea, it is not so advised by Eclectic clinicians, other methods available to them being more successful.

Dr. Lester reports the application of arsenious acid, full strength, into the cavity of a tooth to destroy the nerve. The patient had for some time been affected with paralysis of the left side of the body and face. He then had tonic spasm of the right side of the body. These would relax after a short time to recur. He had suffered with these for four years. Immediately after the application of the acid to the tooth, he said, "Look, I can move my hand," and slowly the power came back first to the fingers and thumb; then to the left foot. At the time of the report every condition was slowly improving, especially was the sight returning to the left eye which had been blind from the paralysis. This is a well authenticated case.


Synonym—Solution of the Potassium Arsenite, Fowler's solution.

Administration—This solution, probably the most common of the arsenic solutions and the most convenient for administration, contains one per cent of arsenious acid. Although ten minims is given as the maximum dose, we would advise, however, that a dose above five minims be always given with caution. Our range of administration is from one-fourth of a minim to five minims.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.