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 this, the third of the trio of vagus neuroses, Dr. Anstie also records good results, but others had preceded him in this observation. We have already noted its improving the breathing-power of mountaineers, and this had suggested to Kappel its use in asthma. Rilliet speaks highly of it (Bulletin Med. du Nord, 1863), and also Trousseau, who used it partly in cigarette (Bulletin, 1861). Dr. Leared recommends a form of cigarette containing 1/2 gr. of arsenic with a little nitre (Lancet, i., 1863). Dr. Thorowgood, while laying stress on the frequent gastric causation of asthma, and its special treatment, has found arsenic useful in gouty and rheumatic cases, and Riegel notes its value in preventing relapses in "bronchial asthma," and in the form which occurs alternately with some cutaneous diseases, known as "herpetic asthma" ("Ziemssen's Cyclopaedia," iv., p. 582). Dr. Berkart seems to attribute any good effect more to improving the nutrition, appetite, and digestion, and to negative any specific virtues ("On Asthma," 1879). One method of its application is by spray, which has been used with much success by Wistinghausen (Petersburg Med. Zeits., 1862), and more recently by Dr. Wahltuch, of Manchester: the latter used arseniates of potash, soda, or ammonia in spray containing 1/6 to 1/2 gr. at first twice daily, and by degrees less frequently; his excellent results were, however, rendered less certain for clinical purposes by the concurrent use of galvanism and other remedies (British Medical Journal, ii., 1877).
Martelli has recently reported immediate relief to an asthmatic paroxysm from the hypodermic injection of Fowler's solution (1 part to 2 of water): the cure was complete after 2 dr. used at intervals in divided doses in this manner (Medical Record, 1878). Arsenic acts best in simple cases of idiopathic or spasmodic asthma of neurotic origin: but it has done well in cases dependent on bronchitis, emphysema, or cardiac disease. In cases due to compression of air-tubes by enlarged glands it may be carefully tried (Berkart). The solution should be administered in 5-min. doses, three or four times daily, during the intervals between the attacks, and should be persevered with for many weeks, and, in some instances, for months, but the dose under these circumstances should be decreased. For upward of twenty years I have used it in these cases with unmistakable success.