This section is from the book "Dental Medicine. A Manual Of Dental Materia Medica And Therapeutics", by Ferdinand J. S. Gorgas. Also available from Amazon: Dental Medicine.
Naphthalene may be obtained by subjecting coal-tar to a distillation, when it passes over the coal naphtha. It is purified by subliming it with charcoal, and is then in the form of a white crystalline body. It has a slightly aromatic taste and the odor of coal-tar. While it has no poisonous effect on man and the higher animals, it is destructive to fungi spores, small insects, etc. It is soluble in alcohol, ether, naphtha and the oils, but insoluble in water. As an expectorant it has been used in humoral asthma and in chronic pulmonary catarrh, in doses of from gr. viii to xxx, in syrup or emulsions, and as an ointment in skin diseases of a scaly nature; also as a vermifuge in doses for adults of gr. xv, followed immediately by 2 ounces of castor oil. Naphthalin is a powerful antiseptic, and can be used as a substitute for iodoform, with the advantage of not producing any constitutional action. Its application causes a slight pain of short duration. As an antiseptic and disinfectant, it is applied to indolent ulcers, septic and unhealthy wounds, ulcerating cancerous growths, phagedenic ulcers, etc. It is said that its antiseptic property is superior to that of carbolic acid, and as an odorless preparation, it will no doubt become a desirable substitute, as it has no corrosive action and will not injure textile fabrics. To deodorize naphthalin, simple mixture with benzoic acid or tincture of benzoin does not suffice; but if mixed with benzoin and then sublimed, it loses its tarry odor and acquires a pleasant smell which it retains.