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.
Nutrition is so closely connected with haematosis that we shall be prepared for the modern observations that it also may be improved by small doses of mercury. Keyes found this to be the case - the weight of his subjects increased under their course, and the remedy acted "as a tonic." Hufeland had previously made a similar observation, and Basset, Liegeois, and others corroborate it: the last-named observer considers sublimate in minute doses "comme un reconstituant des plus puissants" (Annales de Dermatol., i., ii., 1870), and M. Clerc reports the same experience (Gazette de Paris, 1872, p. 481): it has been verified also, independently of syphilis, on animals, and especially rabbits.
On the important question of urinary excretion the principal evidence is negative. We need more research in this direction, but so far the evidence does not favor the theory of mercury (in small doses) curing disease by increase of tissue-change - that it lowers the temperature in animals (except during the stage of "erethism"), and that it does the same in fever (Wunderlich), I should take as evidence of its lessening change, rather than the contrary, as Husemann does. Altogether, at least in the doses under consideration, mercury merits the name of "moderator of nutrition," rather than of alterative (Rabuteau); and in this role we can see its analogy with small doses of arsenic, antimony, etc., under which, as is well recognized, weight may be gained, and nutrition improved. Under full or poisonous doses, when the blood-corpuscles are destroyed, the secretions are rendered profuse, and digestion impossible, nutrition is, of course, profoundly impaired, and waste of tissue progresses most rapidly.