This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Bismuthum five marcasita Pharm. Party Bismuth or tin-glass: a bright whitish pul-verable metal; near ten times specifically heavier than water; melting long before ignition, a little sooner than lead, and a little later than tin; sublimable, by a strong fire, into white flowers; calcining, by a continuance of a heat sufficient to keep it melted, into a greyish powder, which on railing the fire runs into a yellow very fusible glass; dissolving with violence in the nitrous acid, and precipitating in form of a bright white powder on diluting the solution largely with pure water; very difficultly acted on by the marine acid, and scarcely at all by the vitriolic; giving out very little to the vegetable acids, but impregnating them with a nauseous taste. It is extracted from an ore found hitherto chiefly in Saxony; by eliquation, or fusion in a small heat without addition. The ore is generally very arsenical: whether the bismuth retains any of the arsenic, has not been sufficiently examined.
(a) Mercatus, metallotheca, armarium viii. cap. iii. p. 179.
This metal remarkably promotes the facility and tenuity of the fusion of other metallic bodies: with lead and tin, it forms compounds which melt in so small a heat as to have been proposed by some for anatomical injections: the proportions, that have been found to compose the most fusible mixtures, are, two parts of lead, three of tin, and five of the bismuth. It like-wife remarkably promotes the solution of lead in mercury, but has not been observed to produce a like effect on other metallic bodies.
The white flowers sublimed from this metal, and the white magistery precipitated by water from its solution in aqua fortis, have been recommended externally against gleeting fores, and internally as diaphoretics similar to the milder antimonial medicines. In the first intention, they appear to be greatly inferiour to some of the saturnine preparations: in the latter, it is not certain what their real effects are, or even whether they are safe. At present, they are employed only as a fucus, nor is this use of them entirely innocent; for they gradually impair the natural complexion, and, as the college of Strasburg observes, occasion a thick-ness and defedation of the skin.