This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics: An Introduction to the National Treatment of Disease", by John Mitchell Bruce. Also available from Amazon: The pharmacology and therapeutics of the materia medica.
Besides the following preparations, which are commonly associated with alcohol, all the Tincturae, Spiritus, and Essentiae, several of the Liquores, Linimenta, and Misturae, and a few other compounds contain it in various proportions.
Alcohol. Absolute Alcohol. C2H6O. Used only in chemical testing.
Characters. - Colourless, free from empyreumatic odour. Sp. gr., 0.795.
Spiritus Rectifactus. Rectified Spirit. Alcohol, C2H6O, with 16 per cent. of water.
Source. - Obtained by the distillation of fermented saccharine lluids.
Characters. - Colourless, transparent, with a pleasant odour, and strong spirituous burning taste. Specific gravity, 0.838.
Impurities. - Water; tested volumetrically. Amylicalcohol, beyond a trace; detected by excessive reduction of AgN03, Resin or oil; giving turbidity on dilution with water.
Spiritus Tenuior. - Proof Spirit. Alcohol with 51 per cent, of water. Made by mixing 5 parts of recti-fied spirit with 3 parts of water. Specific gravity, 0.920.
Spiritus VILLI Gallici. Brandy. Spirit dis-tilled from French wine.
Characters. - A spirit of a light sherry colour, and peculiar flavour; contains about 53 per cent, of alcohol, with some volatile oil, and cenanthic ether.
Preparation. Mistura Spiritus Vini Gallici, - "Brandy Mixture," "Egg Flip." Brandy and Cinnamon Water, of each 4 oz.; Yolks of two Eggs; Sugar, 1/2 oz. Dose, 1 to 2 fl.oz.
Vinum Xericum. Sherry. A Spanish wine. Characters. - Pale yellowish brown, containing 17 or 18 per cent of alcohol; with colouring matter, ethereal compounds, acid tartate of potash, malates, sugar, etc.
The following Vina: Aloes, Antimoniale, Colchici, Ferri, Ipecacuanhae, Opii, Rhei.
Amount of Alcohol (absolute, by weight) in the various substances containing it.
Alcohol (U.S.P.), 91 per cent.
Spiritus Rectificatus, 84 per cent.
Alcohol Dilutum (U.S.P.), 45.5 per cent.
Spiritus Tenuior, 49 per cent.
Spiritus Vini Gallici (Brandy), about 39 to 47 per cent.
Spiritus Frumenti (Whisky), about 44 to 50 per cent
about 40 to 50 per cent.
Port, Sherry, and Madeira, about 14 to 17 per cent. Vinum Album Fortius (U.S.P.), about 11.5 to 14 per cent. Vinum Album (U.S.P.), about 10 to 12 per cent. Champagne, about 10 to 13 per cent. Hock and Claret, about 8 to 11 per cent. Beer and Cider, about 3, 5, or more per cent. Koumiss (made from milk), about 1 to 3 per cent.
Externally, alcohol is an antiseptic and disinfectant, employed as a constituent of lotions for ulcers and wounds. Applied to the unbroken skin, and the vapour allowed to escape, it is a powerful refrigerant, withdrawing heat from the body by its evaporation. In this form it is used to prevent or allay inil animations of superficial parts, such as the subcutaneous tissues, joints, and muscles; blanches the parts by vascular constriction; produces a sense of cold; and relieves pain, especially headache, due to vascular dilatation and throbbing. Spirituous lotions sponged on the skin also diminish the activity of the sweat-glands, and may be used in excessive perspiration as an anhidrotic. On the contrary, if the vapour be confined, and allowed to act upon the tissues underneath, or if the alcohol be rubbed into the part, it penetrates and hardens the epithelium, and irritates the nerves and vessels of the cutaneous structures, causing redness, heat, and pain, followed by local anaesthesia. In the form of brandy it is rubbed into the skin to prevent bedsores, by hardening and disinfecting the epidermis. Spirituous liniments containing soaps, essential oils, and other stimulants Linimentum Camphorae and Linimentum Camphorae Compo-situm), are applied with friction to increase the nutrition of parts which are the seat of chronic inflammation, induration, adhesions, stiffness, and pain, such as the joints and muscles in chronic rheumatism, periostitis, and paralysis, or to produce a rubefacient effect on a large area of skin, for instance, of the chest in bronchitis. Alcohol is absorbed by the unbroken skin.
Internally, the local action of alcohol begins in the mouth with its characteristic taste and a hot, painful, stimulating effect on the tongue and mucous membranes. If it be retained in con-taci with them, the epithelium becomes condensed and whitened, and the parts beneath anaesthetised. Some forms of toothache can thus be quickly and completely relieved, the spirit also acting as a disinfectant in the pulp cavity. Wines and other wholesome alcoholic liquids consumed during: meals have an action of the first importance on the nerves of the tongue, palate, and nose. By virtue of their taste, flavour, and bouquet, they give a relish to food, increase the appetite, and stimulate the flow of saliva and the functions of the stomach.
In the stomach the action of alcohol is complex, and of great importance. (1) Alcohol mixes with the contents of the stomach; is partly decomposed into acetic acid; and precipitates some of the proteids of the gastric juice: so far it depresses digestion. (2) It stimulates the mucous membrane, dilating and filling the vessels with blood; excites and markedly increases the flow of gastric juice; sharpens the appetite; and renders the movements of the viscus more energetic: in these respects it greatly assists digestion. The total effect of a moderate dose of alcohol is decidedly to favour gastric digestion, especially in cases where the nerves, vessels, and giants lack vigour, as in old age and in the chronic dyspepsia of persons weakened by acute illness, town life, and anxious sedentary employments. Herein consists the value of a small amount of wine or wholesome ale taken with meat meals by such subjects. The danger lies in excess, which readily destroys the activity of the juice, and also sets up a secretion of alkaline mucus which greatly interferes with digestion - a common cause of acute dyspepsia.