There is not much to be said about the special action of copper on other parts of the body, but in the course of acute poisoning, respiration becomes hurried and labored, the pulse small and usually quickened, and the extremities cold; suppression of urine has been recorded, but among workers in copper, absorbing slight amounts daily, diuresis was a usual symptom (Clapton).


Salts of lead and zinc, silver and gold, are allied in action to those of copper. Depressing vital conditions favor the development of its irritant properties.

Antagonists - Incompatibles

Metallic sulphides, alkalies, and alkaline earths, iodides, and vegetable infusions containing tannin, are chemically incompatible with salts of copper: sugar also reduces them. In cases of poisoning, the action of sugar is too slow to be effective, and magnesia, though it may retard bad effects, does not wholly prevent them, since the hydrated oxide of copper is soluble. Sulphide of iron decomposes copper salts, forming an insoluble cupric sulphide, and may be used, but the best antidote is said to be ferrocyanide of potassium (yellow prussiate of potash), which should be given freely: the resulting copper salt is insoluble (Medical Times, ii., 1854). Albumen, which may be given in the form of egg and milk, forms an albuminate of copper, but this is not inert and should be removed afterward by the stomach-pump (Schroe-der). In phosphorus-poisoning, copper, though praised by Bamberger, is not so good as turpentine (v. pp. 43-44).

Therapeutical Action (External)

Applied in lotion, ointment, powder, or crystal, sulphate of copper, "blue-stone," or "blue-vitriol," acts as a stimulating astringent, or a moderately severe caustic. It unites with albuminous secretions to form an insoluble albuminate of copper, which, acting like a new cuticle, protects the injured part from the atmosphere, and promotes the healing process. Equal parts of sulphate of copper, alum, and nitre, fused with four parts of camphor, form a caustic of some celebrity known as "lapis divinus," or green-stone.