This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia medica and therapeutics.
In torpor, or subacute congestion of the liver, marked by coated tongue, yellowish countenance, headache, nausea, depression, light-colored stools, etc., a moderate mercurial purge, especially with a saline, will commonly relieve more quickly than any other medication (unless it be sometimes podophyllin), and no amount of experiment on animals can alter this clinical fact. The great experience and authority of Murchison quite corroborate this (Lancet, 1874), and Dr. Duckworth has lately drawn renewed attention to the good results of calomel in acute gastric catarrh and "biliousness" (Practitioner, July, 1876). In chronic cases of this kind it is, however, advisable not to resort frequently to this remedy, but to depend rather upon diet, hygiene, and saline or vegetable aperients, though small doses - 1/50 to 1/20 gr. of corrosive sublimate at bedtime - have a good effect. The use of metallic mercury as a purgative might be thought obsolete, but an instance of it has been recently recorded, where obstinate obstruction and vomiting were present: 1 oz. of quicksilver was given in two doses at half an hour's interval; it soon acted, and recovery followed (Lancet, i., 1874, p. 54). I have myself used it in two cases lately: one was that of a boy, aged eight, who had had obstruction for five days, and although under active and competent treatment, continued to get worse, with vomiting, pain and accumulation over ilio-caecal valve, distension, etc. Surgical interference was desired by the parents, but in consultation it was agreed to try mercury first, and 1 oz. was given in the manner just described. It was readily taken, and some of it soon passed, but without producing a motion; the symptoms improved, and on the following morning we gave castor-oil, which acted well, and the child soon recovered. The whole of the quicksilver passed was collected and weighed and found to amount exactly to the ounce taken. In a second case, a girl, aged between five and six, the obstruction had lasted several days, and the vomiting and other symptoms were persistent in spite of croton oil, etc. I recommended, at first, treatment by opium, which was steadily continued for three days, but without benefit; castor-oil was then given but was rejected; we then gave 2 dr. of quicksilver, in five minutes afterward another 2 dr., and in half an hour a third and similar dose. It made its appearance from the rectum in about two hours, bringing wind but not much fecal matter; we followed up the mineral with castor-oil, which was retained and acted, and the child gradually got well.