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..
A solution of antimony chloride, known as Butter of Antimony, has been used as a caustic, but its employment has been abandoned, as the sore produced is difficult to heal. Many years ago an ointment of tartar emetic was commonly applied as a counter-irritant, but it causes much pain, and is now seldom used.
Alimentary canal. - Tartar emetic is not to be recommended as an emetic, for the action is slow, and the general depression of emetic doses is great. For this reason it should never be given to produce purgation. The only cases in which it is permissible are those in which an emetic is required for laryngitis, bronchitis, or some other acute inflammatory condition of the respiratory tract, for then its depressant action on the circulation may perhaps be beneficial, but usually ipecacuanha is preferable.
Antimony was formerly largely employed, especially in combination with aconite, to reduce the force and frequency of the pulse in all sorts of febrile conditions; but this is now generally thought unnecessary. If it is to be used, it is especially indicated in respiratory affections; for then its expectorant effect may be valuable.
It has been very much given for the early stage of acute bronchitis; but certainly it should not be continued after a free secretion of bronchial mucus has been set up by it. After that it is, on account of its depressing influence, an undesirable expectorant.
Occasionally it is given in fevers for its diaphoretic influence and for its slight antipyretic action. Sometimes it is ordered as a cholagogue; but because of its powerful depressant action, it is less used as a medicine than formerly.
The symptoms are very like those of arsenical poisoning (see p. 228). Post-mortem. - The gastrointestinal irritation is very similar, but it is not nearly so marked.
Unless the vomiting is very free, apomorphine hydro-chlorate subcutaneously, or zinc sulphate by the mouth or the stomach pump, may be used. Also frequent doses of half a drachm 2. gm. of tannic or gallic acid dissolved in water, strong tea or coffee, mucilaginous drinks, and stimulants subcutaneously. Hot water bottles and warm blankets may be necessary.
Chronic Poisoning is not sufficiently common to call for notice here. An instance of the use of antimony for homicidal purposes has recently been the subject of judicial inquiry.