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.
A non-metallic element obtained from bones.
Characters. - A semi-transparent, almost colourless, waxlike solid, when fresh; luminous in the dark, ignites in the air; insoluble in water, soluble in ether, oils, and naphtha, entirely soluble in boiling oil of turpentine and bisulphide of carbon.
a. Oleum Phosphoratum. - Phosphorated Oil. Made by dissolving Phosphorus in Almond Oil at 180° Fahr. 1 in 160. Dose, 5 to 10 min.
b. Pilula Phosphori. - Phosphorus, Balsam of Tolu, and Yellow Wax. Apt to pass through the bowels unchanged. Lose, 3 to 6 gr. = 1/30 to 1/15 gr. of phosphorus.
Phosphorus is also used in preparing Acidum Phos-phoricum Dilutum, and Calcis Hypophosphis. See Calcium.
Phosphorus has a powerful action on the body, and one which has been proved by elaborate investigations on animals to be of the most interesting kind to the physiologist. As a poison phosphorus is also of great importance. Unfortunately, however, it cannot be said to be of much value to the therapeutist, as it has disappointed most attempts to turn it to practical account in the treatment of disease.
Externally and internally phosphorus acts as a powerful local irritant and caustic, and is never given to produce this effect. For the same reason the drug must not he ordered in the solid form, hut carefully mixed with oil or fat.
Phosphorus enters the blood, and may be found in it unchanged. Here it is partly oxydised into phosphorus or phosphoric acid at the expense of the oxygen of the red corpuscles, and is therefore said to have a "reducing" action on the (oxy-) haemoglobin or "blood." The small dose sufficient to cause death will not reduce any considerable number of the corpuscles, and the specific effects to be presently described cannot therefore be accounted for by interference with the oxygenating function of the blood.
Phosphorus has been employed in leukaemia and lymph-adenoma, but on the whole with disappointing results.
In the tissues phosphorus may be traced as the uncombined element - another proof that its oxydation in the blood is incomplete. Its effect on metabolism, when given in large doses, is most distinct and definite: it increases the nitrogenous products, including urea, tyrosin, and leuein; reduces the glycogen of the liver to nil; raises the temperature, diminishes the excretion of carbonic acid, and the volume of oxygen absorbed; and leads to fatty degeneration of epithelial, glandular, and muscular protoplasm throughout the body. No doubt these alterative effects are essentially associated with each other; phosphorus, whilst increasing metabolism, so influencing it as to diminish oxydation, and thus to arrest the process at the first stage, where proteids are converted into urea and oil, instead of allowing it to proceed to the second or final stage, where the oil is further oxydised into carbonic acid and water. Hence all the results just enumerated; whilst the soluble products (urea, etc.) are excreted, the insoluble products (oils or fats) are retained in the tissues, constituting fatty degeneration.
The uses to which phosphorus has been put as a specific remedy do not obviously depend upon these effects upon nutrition. It has been given in nervous disorders, such as neuralgia; in adynamic conditions, such as typhoid fever; in some kinds of skin diseases, including pemphigus; and as an aphrodisiac. It is difficult to understand how any of these morbid states can be benefited by a substance which diminishes Antimonium. ioi oxydation; and, indeed, the empirical use of phosphorus has recently been in a great measure abandoned.
In very small doses over a considerable length of time, phosphorus affects the structure of bones, converting the spongy portion into firm, compact substance, without in any way altering its composition chemically. It has therefore been recommended in cases of rickets and ununited fracture; but in rickets, at least, is far inferior to other medicinal measures, if of service in any way.
The hypophosphites have recently been much employed in cases of nervous and general debility and chronic lung disease, and act, according to some authorities, in the same manner as free phosphorus, without being irritant. As the hypophosphites are probably converted into phosphates in the stomach, they may be expected to stimulate the liver and bowels, and to affect the growth and healing of bones, lymphatic glands, and adenoid tissue, including tubercle.
Phosphorus is excreted by the kidneys as phosphorus and phosphorous acid, not as phosphates; but is not employed in this connection.