(Quicksilver, Argentum vivum.)
In commerce this metal is often adulterated with an admixture of lead, sometimes also of bismuth. The best way to purify it is to put it in a porcelain saucer, pour over it a watery solution of nitrate of mercury, and let it boil for about an hour over a charcoal fire, always adding water to replace that lost by evaporation. The acid in this solution takes up the lead and bismuth and disengages its mercury which becomes added to the mercury to be purified.
Mercury in its fluid metallic state has but little dynamic action on man’s health, it is only its chemical compounds that cause great effects.
Among the salts of mercury those which for several centuries have been chiefly used in the treatment of diseases are those formed with a small proportion of muriatic acid (sweet mercury, miercurius dulcis, calomel, hydrargyrum muriuticum mite) and the complete muriatic mercurial salt (corrosive sublimate mercurius sublimatus corrosivus hydrargyrum muriaticum corrosivus) for internal use, and its combination with fatty substances (unguentu mercuriale s. neapolitanum,unguentum hydrargyri cincreum) for external inunction. I will pass over the innumerable other preparations of mercury, chiefly combinations with other acids or prepared with other substances, which have been used less frequently and have attained no lasting repute.
This is not the place to estimate the medicinal value of all these preparations. It would, indeed, be impossible to do this because even those of them in commonest use have been but little, and those more rarely employed not at all, tested as to their true peculiar action on the healthy human body. Consequently they cannot be homoepathically selected for particular morbid states with any certainty of a curative effect. Thus much only does careful proving enable me to express from experience, that they all display in their action a certain general similarity as mercurials; whilst, on the other hand, they differ greatly from one another in their peculiarities, and very much in the intensity of their action on the human health. Especially should it be observed, that all the saline preparations of mercury display a number of little known but generally very active accessory effects, according to the nature of their basic acid, which differ very much from the mild absolute effects of perfectly pure mercury, unaltered by any acid.
Even mercury merely united with fatty substances in the form of ointment excites peculiar effects on the human body,( John Bell complains that he has never succeeded in curing the venereal-chancre disease by merely rubbing in mercurial ointment, without being compelled to destory the chancre by the aid of external remedies. But by the internal use of a mercurial preparation uncombined with any acid, such as the mercurius solubilits (hydrargyrum oxydulatum nigrum), the whole disease, including the chancre, is cured, without any external remedy for the latter being required.) different from those produced by the internal administration of the mild, pure, semioxydized mercury (aethiops per se), probably because in the ointmet it is chemically combined with fatty acids.
Now, as the hornoeopathic method rejects all medicinal substances that produce heterogeneous accessory effects in consequence of being combined with something else, I have long endeavoured to obtain pure mercury in such a condition that it should be able to dispaly its ture, pure, peculiar effects on the human organism in a more powerfully curative manner than all other known preparations and saline combination.
What a long-continued, mechanical succession of fluid mercury, or as was practised in ancient times its trituration with crab’s eyes or solution of gum effected very imperfectly, viz, its change into semi-oxyde free from acids, this I sought to do in 1787 and 1788, by precipitating is from its solution in nitric acid made in cold, by means of caustic ammonia. This preparation of mercury, distinguished by its black colour, was, under the name of mercrius solubilis Hahn. (mercuriu oxydulatus niger), preferred in almost all countries to all other mercurials hhitherto in use, on account of its much milder, more efficacious antisyphilitic virtues. But a more careful investigation showe me that even this did not possess the highest degree of purity. In fact, its dark black colour was rather owing to an excess of the caustic ammonia required for the precipitation of the somewhat over-acid nitrate of mercury. But nitrate of mercury with excess of acid generally contains some muriate and sulphate of mercury (which even in very small quantities possess a deleterious acridity). These are concealed by the dark colour of the black oxyde, are precipitated along with it, and thus render it somewhat impure.
In order to avoid this, in the preface to mercury in the second edition of this first part of the Materia Medica Pura, published in 1822, I directed the mode of preparing a perfectly pure precipitate of mercury, obtained by caustic ammonia acting on nitrate of mercury quite free from superfluous acid. This is of a dark grey colour; it is a perfectly pure oxyde of mercury, like the powder obtained by prolonged succussion of the metallic mercury, and called aethiops per se.
This preparation, being a perfectly pure mercurial medicine, was quite unobjectionable except that the process for making it required much care and labour.
But as one of the rules of homoeopathy, as also of common sense, enjoins that we should attain our aim the simplest and shortest way (quod fieri potest per pauca., non debet fieri per plura), so in this case the aim is attained in the speediest, easiest, and most perfect manner by acting according to the directions laid down in the second part of the Chronic Diseases , p, 5. One grain of perfectly pure mercury (such as is employed for making thermometers) is triturated as is done with other dry medicinal substances, with three times 100 grains of milk-sugar for three -hours, up to the million-fold powder-attenuation described in detail in the place referred to),( After the trituration of the grain of mercury with the first 100 grains of milk-sugar, there still remains on the smooth surface of the porcelain mortar, in spite the most diligent scraping, a considerable black discoloration, which is almost entirely taken up by the trituration of one grain of the first trituration with a second 100 grains of milk-sugar, and is completely effaced by the third trituration.) and one grain of the last is dissolved in diluted alcohol; this solution is twice succussed, and a drop of this solution is raised through 28 dilution phials to the decillionfold potency (hydrargyrum purum potentiatum X).