This section is from the "A Handbook of Useful Drugs" book, by State Medical Examining and Licensing Boards.
Properties : Phosphorus is a translucent, nearly colorless solid, of a waxy luster, having, at ordinary temperatures, about the consistency of beeswax. It has a distinctive and disagreeable odor and taste and should not be exposed to air. It is practically insoluble in water but slightly soluble in absolute alcohol (1:350). It takes fire readily when exposed to the air. Great care should be used in handling elementary phosphorus. It should be carefully kept under water in a moderately cool place. It should be cut, or otherwise divided, under water. It may be secured in the form of small particles by cautiously melting under water and shaking until cool.
Action and Uses: In small quantities phosphorus stimulates the growth of bone and has been asserted to have a stimulating action on the nervous tissues; the latter action, however, is doubtful. Somewhat larger doses produce a fatty degeneration of the various organs which is followed by a proliferation of the connective tissue.
Minute doses increase the number of red blood-cells, but do not increase the amount of hemoglobin. In larger doses phosphorus is an irritant poison, causing nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. If absorbed, the poison produces a wide-spread, fatty degeneration of the organs, but frequently there are no symptoms for several days. This period may be followed by vomiting of blood, drowsiness, enlarged and painful liver and scanty urine. There are usually, in the latter stages, severe nervous symptoms, consisting of delirium, somnolence, coma and occasionally convulsions. In workers in phosphorus, chronic poisoning is shown by a necrosis of the lower jaw. It is believed that this necrosis is due to infection through carious teeth, which is favored by previous changes in the bone due to phosphorus.
Phosphorus was formerly used as a tonic or stimulant to the nervous system, but there is no evidence that it is of service in this way. Its use is gradually being abandoned. Its action on the blood is not regarded as justifying its use in anemia. The principal use of phosphorus is to further the deposition of calcium in growing bone, or in bones undergoing repair. For this purpose it may be given in rickets.
Dosage: 0.5 mg. or 1/125 grain. It may be administered either in the form of pills or as phosphorated oil (1:100).