This section is from the book "Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics", by W. Hale White. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics..
Cupri Sulphas. Copper Sulphate. CuSo4+5H2O=248.8. Synonyms. - Blue Vitriol. Bluestone. Cupric Sulphate.
Large, transparent, deep blue, triclinic crystals, odorless, of a nauseous, metallic taste. Solubility. - In 2.6 parts of water; almost insoluble in Alcohol.
Alkalies and their carbonates, lime water, mineral salts (except sulphates), iodides and most vegetable astringents.
Dose, 1/8 to 1/2 gr.; .008 to .03 gm., (astringent), 2 to 20 gr.; .12 to 1.20 gm. (emetic).
Copper Sulphate is used in preparing Trommer's and Fehling's test for sugar.
In the solid form copper sulphate is, when applied to raw surfaces, a powerful caustic. In dilute solutions it is an astringent, acting like zinc sulphate, but more powerfully.
Alimentary canal. - Here also, if very concentrated or given in large doses, copper sulphate is an acute caustic irritant, but poisoning by it is very rare. In medicinal doses it is strongly astringent. Five to ten grains .30 to .60 gm. of the sulphate form a powerful emetic, acting directly on the stomach. As it is more irritating than zinc sulphate it acts more readily, but it has the disadvantage that, if it fails to act, the stomach must be promptly emptied by some other means, for if not the copper sulphate will cause inflammation of it.
Copper salts are slowly absorbed, and copper is chiefly re-excreted by the liver in the bile. Nothing is known of its further effects.
The sulphate is applied as a caustic to reduce exuberant granulations, and is used for tinea tarsi, being rubbed on the edges of the lids; as it is milder than silver nitrate, it causes less pain. The Lapis Divinus, which is often used for this last purpose, consists of copper sulphate, potassium nitrate, and alum, of each 24 parts, and camphor 1 part. The first three are fused together. The camphor is added, and the mass is cast into cylindrical moulds. Lotions of copper sulphate, usually about 1 to 240, may be applied as astringents for just the same purpose as lotions of zinc sulphate; but it must be remembered that they are more powerful. This is the usual strength for solutions which are to be dropped into the eye. Rather stronger solutions are mild haemostatics. Copper oleate not official made with lanolin, into an ointment of a strength of 10 to 20 per cent. is an excellent parasiticide for ringworm.
In small doses copper sulphate is valuable for severe diarrhoea; usually it is given by the mouth in the form of a pill, but it may be given as a rectal injection. It is a rapid emetic, and may be employed in laryngitis and bronchitis in children, and in cases of narcotic poisoning, for which it is useful on account of its prompt action. It is extremely doubtful if it is particularly serviceable in phosphorus poisoning but if it is used, copper may be deposited on the phosphorus rendering it inert. It is usual to give three or four grains .20 to .25 gm. of the sulphate in water every few minutes till vomiting takes place. After emetic doses of copper sulphate, there is generally only one act of vomiting, but by that the stomach is completely emptied. Very little is known about the remote action of salts of copper, but it is stated that the sulphate will cure chlorosis, and it has been recommended for the treatment of syphilis.
In sufficient doses copper salts are violent gastro-intestinal irritants, but acute poisoning is very rare. Copper may be taken in very small quantities for a long time without producing any ill effects, for many persons habitually consume, without harm, preserved vegetables, the green color of which is due to preparation with copper. It has been thought that coppersmiths are particularly liable to phthisis, but they are not more prone to it than the followers of other dusty trades. Workers in brass may suffer from anaemia, a green line on and at the base of the teeth, wasting, weakness, dyspepsia, tremors, headache, vague pains, pharyngeal and laryngeal catarrh with occasional haemoptysis and aphonia, and profuse secretion of sweat which may be green. These symptoms are thought to be due to the copper contained in brass. Sometimes colic is due to the contamination of copper and brass by lead.
For acute poisoning give albumin, milk or magnesia. Potassium ferrocyanide is the chemical antidote. Then promptly empty the stomach and saturate the system with potassium iodide. Chronic poisoning is best treated by the administration of fifteen drops of diluted phosphoric acid before each meal, the ingestion of large quantities of milk and thorough daily evacuation of the bowels with magnesium or sodium sulphate.