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.
"Sweet Spirit of Nitre." A spiritous solution, containing nitrous ether, ethyl nitrite, (C2H5NO2.
Source. - Made by distilling a mixture of Rectified Spirit, Nitric Acid, Sulphuric Acid, and Copper; and dissolving the Distillate in Spirit. C2H6O + HNO3 + H1SO4 + Cu = C2H5NO2 + CuSO4 + 2H1O. The equation represents the formation of ethyl nitrite, but the drug also contains acetic ether, aldehyde, and acetic acid dissolved in spirit.
Characters. - Transparent and nearly colourless, with a slight tinge of yellow, mobile, of an apple-like odour, and a sweetish cooling sharp taste; slightly acid; inflammable. Sp. gr., .845.
Impurity. - Excess of acid; effervescing much with NaHCO3.
I)ose. - 1/2 to 2 fl.dr.
In the stomach spirit of nitrous ether is a diffusible stimulant and carminative, doubtless from the amount of alcohol which it contains.
Although anaesthetic to a degree, sweet spirit of nitre chiefly acts upon the circulation like amyl nitrite. It relaxes the peripheral vessels, and accelerates the heart, but much less quickly, less completely, and more persistently than the amyl compounds. Thus it lowers arterial tension, and causes the phenomena described at page 163, only in a much less degree. By relaxing the renal vessels it is diuretic, the water alone being increased; by dilating the cutaneous vessels, as well as by perspiration, it increases the loss of heat from the skin. Nitrous ether is chiefly used as an antipyretic in febrile affections, where it diminishes the heat production by acting on the blood, and increases the loss of heat through the skin and kidneys. As a diuretic it is useful when a free watery flow is desired to wash out the tubules and passages, and relax spasm in the renal vessels, as in some cases of Bright's disease with increased arterial tension. Probably for the same reason it fails as a diuretic in cardiac dropsy, where the veins demand relief, and the arterial pressure is already too low. Being a dilator of the renal vessels, it must not he used in acute inflammatory states of the kidney. Spirit of nitrous ether may also relieve angina pectoris, and cardiac pain dependent on a failing and dilating heart in chronic Bright's disease. Like other nitrites, it has benefited some cases of dysmenorrhoea and of asthma.
This compound or its constituents are chiefly excreted by the kidneys and lungs. Its diuretic influence has just been described.