This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Sulphur Pharm. Lond. Brimstone: a yellow concrete, of no taste, and scarcely any smell; melting in a small degree of heat into a viscous red fluid, and totally exhaling on an increase of the heat; readily inflammable, and burning with a blue flame and a suffocating acid fume.
It consists of the vitriolic acid combined with a small proportion of inflammable matter. If a combination of pure vitriolic acid with a pure fixt alkaline salt be melted in a close vessel with the addition of a little powdered charcoal, a true sulphur will be produced, and the compound will be the same (excepting for the earthy part of the charcoal) as if the alkali had been melted with common brimstone. And contrari-wise, if a combination of alkaline salt with common brimstone be reduced into powder, and roasted with a gentle heat, the inflammable principle exhales, and the remainder proves the same as if the alkali had been combined with the pure vitriolic acid: the diminution of weight, resulting from this avolation of the inflammable principle, does not exceed two drams upon sixteen ounces of the sulphur (a).
01. fuccini † Ph. Ed* ‡ Ph. Loud.
|| Ol. fuccini rectificatum Ph Ed.
Greatest part of the sulphur met with in the shops is either extracted from certain ores by a kind of distillation (b); or prepared from minerals abounding with vitriolic acid, by ftratifying them with wood, which being set on fire, the sulphur is collected in cavities made in the upper part of the pile (c). The largest quantities are brought from Saxony, in irregular masses, which are afterwards melted and cast into cylindrical rolls. Sulphur is found likewise native in the earth; sometimes in transparent pieces, of a greenish or bright yellow colour; more commonly in opake grey ones with only some streaks of yellow: this last is the sort which is understood by the name sulphur vivum, though what is fold under this name in the shops is no other than the dross which remains after the sublimation of sulphur. The native sulphurs should never be employed for any internal use without purification: they almost always participate of arsenic, which is discover-able in some by their having naturally more or less of a red colour, and in the others by their exhibiting this colour after a part of the pure sulphur has been separated by sublimation.
(a) Vide Stahlii Mensis Julius, Experiment a & animad--versiones ccc, etc.
(b) Leopold, Relatio de itinere suo Suecico. (c) Hoffman, Obser-vationes phsico-cheicae, lib. iii. obs. 9.
Sublimation is the most effectual method of purifying sulphur from arsenical as well as earthy admixtures; and by the same process it is reduced into a fine powder, somewhat of a softer kind than that obtained by triture. Those who prepare the flowers in the way of trade, use for the subliming vessel a large iron pot, capable of holding two or three hundred weight: this is placed under an arched chamber, lined with glazed tiles, which serves for the recipient. Some shall portion of sulphur that rises first, especially when the vessels are very large, or the air not sufficiently excluded, is apt to take fire, and give out its acid, which adhering to the flowers that sublime afterwards, communicates to them a sensible acidity or roughness; in con-sequence of which, they are sometimes found to coagulate milk, when taken internally to produce gripes, and to receive from some metalline vessels a disagreeable taint: hence the London college directed such of the flowers, as might happen to concrete or melt together from the vicinity of the receiver to the fire, to be reduced to powder, not with metalline instruments, but either in a wooden mill, or in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. From this extraneous or superficial acid they are freed, by boiling them in water, and afterwards carefully washing them with cold water† .
Pure sulphur, taken in doses of from ten grains to a dram or more, gently loosens the belly and promotes perspiration. It seems to pass through the whole habit; and manifestly tran-spires through the skin, as appears from the sulphureous smell of persons who have taken it, and silver being stained in their pockets to a blackish hue as by the vapour of sulpureous solutions. In consequence of these properties, and of this subtility of parts, it promises to be of great medicinal powers; but what its particular virtues are, experience has not as yet clearly determined. It is principally recommended against the piles, in disorders of the breast, and in cutaneous eruptions: in the itch indeed it is a certain remedy, whether internally or externally used, but in other kinds of eruptions it has not equally succeeded, and perhaps its efficacy against the first depends not so much on its purifying the blood, as on its fumes being destructive to the cuticular animalcules to which the present theory ascribes that distemper. It remarkably corrects or restrains the power of certain mineral substances of the more active kind: by the admixture of sulphur, mercury becomes inert, the virulent antimonial regulus mild, and arsenic itself almost innocent: hence though sulphur should contain a small proportion of arsenic, it possibly may not receive from that poisonous ingredient any very hurtful quality.
Flor. sulph. Ph. Lond. & Ed.
† Flor. sulph. loti Ph Lond.
This concrete is not acted on by water, by acids, or by vinous spirits; but dissolves, by the assistance of heat, in oils both expressed and distilled, and in the mineral petrolea: when dissolved, it yields a very offensive smell, and discovers to the taste a nauseous pungency and heat. Expressed oils and petroleum dissolve it more readily and more plentifully than the diftilled, taking up so much as to become thick and almost consistent: the college of London directs one part of flowers of sulphur and four of oil-olive †, and the same proportions of the flowers and of petroleum ‡, and that of Edinburgh one ounce of the flowers and eight ounces of oil-olive ||, to be boiled together till they unite into the consistence of a balsam. Essen-tial oils do not load themselves so much with the sulphur as to become thick. As soon as the sulphur begins to be strongly acted on either by expressed or essential oils, which happens nearly about the point of ebullition, or in such a heat as the sulphur by itself would melt in, the matter rarefies and swells up greatly, so as to require the vessel to be very large and occa-sionally removed from the heat; and at the same time throws out impetuously great quantities of an elastic vapour, which, if a free exit is not allowed it, produces violent explosions. The volatile flavour of the esential oils is in great measure dissipated in this process by the great heat requisite for effecting the solution: a more elegant composition of this kind might be obtained by adding to the esential oil a proper quantity of the balsam made with expressed oils, which will unite with it by a gentle warmth. The balsams of sulphur have been employed externally for cleansing and healing foul running ulcers. They are recommended internally in some cachectic and hydropic cases; as also in coughs and consumptions, in which they pro-mise, by their manifest heat and acrimony, to be oftener injurious than beneficial: they have been frequently observed to hurt the appetite, and excite febrile symptoms. - It may be observed, that in these solutions the component parts of the sulphur are in some measure disunited from one another; insomuch that a considerable quantity of sulphureous acid, but no actual sulphur, separates in distillation.