This section is from the "A Practical Treatise On Materia Medica And Therapeutics" book, by Roberts Bartholow. Also available from Amazon: A Practical Treatise On Materia Medica And Therapeutics
Ether. Éther, Fr.; Aether, Ger.
A liquid composed of about seventy-four per cent of ethyl oxide, and about twenty-six per cent of alcohol containing a little water. Specific gravity about 0·750 at 60° Fahr.
Stronger ether. A liquid composed of about ninety-four per cent of ethyl oxide, and about six per cent of alcohol containing a little water. Specific gravity not higher than 0'725 at 60° Fahr.
A thin, very diffusive, clear, and colorless liquid, of a refreshing, characteristic odor, a burning and sweetish taste, with a slightly bitter after-taste, and a neutral reaction. It is soluble in all proportions in alcohol, chloroform, benzol, benzin, fixed and volatile oils, and dissolves in eight times its volume of water at 60° Fahr. It boils at 98·6° Fahr. Ether is highly inflammable, and its vapor, when mixed with air and ignited, explodes violently.
Spirit of ether. Consists of ether, thirty parts; alcohol, seventy parts. Dose,τη x— 3 j.
Compound spirit of ether. Hoffman's anodyne. (Ether, alcohol, and ethereal oil.) A colorless, volatile, inflammable liquid, having an aromatic, ethereal odor, and a burning, slightly sweetish taste. Its specific gravity is 0·815. It is neutral, or but slightly acid to litmus. It gives only a slight cloudiness with chloride of barium; but when a fluid ounce of it is evaporated to dryness with an excess of this test, it yields a precipitate of sulphate of barium, which, when washed and dried, weighs six and a quarter grains. When a few drops are burned on glass or porcelain, there is no visible residue, but the surface will have an acid taste and reaction. A pint of water, by the admixture of forty drops, is rendered slightly opalescent. Dose, τη x— 3 j. (Pharm. 70.)
Spirit of nitrous ether. Sweet spirit of nitre. An alcoholic solution of ethyl nitrite, containing five per cent of the crude ether. (U. S. P.) Is a volatile, inflammable liquid of a pale-yellow color, inclining slightly to green, having a fragrant, ethereal odor, free from pungency, and a sharp, burning taste. It slightly reddens litmus, but does not cause effervescence when a crystal of bicarbonate of potassium is dropped into it. When mixed with half its volume of official solution of potassa previously diluted with an equal measure of distilled water, it assumes a yellow color, which slightly deepens, without becoming brown, in twelve hours. A portion of the spirit in a test-tube half filled with it, plunged into water heated to 145°, and held there until it has acquired that temperature, will boil distinctly on the addition of a few small pieces of glass.
Spirit of nitrous ether has a specific gravity of 0·837, and contains five per cent of its peculiar ether. It should not be long kept, as it becomes strongly acid by age. Dose, 3 ss— oz ss.
Acetic ether. Acetate of ethyl. A transparent and colorless liquid, of a strong, fragrant, ethereal, and somewhat acetous odor, a refreshing taste, and neutral reaction. Soluble in all proportions in alcohol, ether, and chloroform, and in about seventeen parts of water. Specific gravity, 0·889 to 0·897. It is inflammable. Dose, τη x—3 j.
Hydrobromic ether. Is a colorless liquid, volatile, having a fragrant odor, and a hot, somewhat sweetish taste, afterward rather bitter. It is not inflammable. Its specific gravity is 1·420, and it boils at 104° Fahr.; readily decomposes on exposure to light and air, bromine being separated. It is freely soluble in alcohol and ether, but very sparingly in water. Dose, for internal and subcutaneous administration, τη x— 3 j.
Ether dissolves iodine, bromine, corrosive sublimate, the volatile and fixed oils, many resins and balsams, tannin, caoutchouc, most of the alkaloids, sulphur, and phosphorus—the last-named two sparingly. As respects its stimulant and anodyne properties, it is antagonized by arterial sedatives, quinine, oxygen, protoxide of nitrogen, the tetanizing alkaloids, strychnine, picrotoxin, etc.
Alcohol and its congeners, chloroform, arterial stimulants, cerebral stimulants, etc., assist the action of ether.
The physiological effects of ether when inhaled require separate treatment; hence the subject of anaesthesia by vapors will be discussed in a special article. It is now proposed to treat of the effects of ether administered by the usual route—the stomach.
Ether has a taste at first sweetish, but afterward hot and pungent. It leaves a cooling sensation in the stomach after the subsidence of the burning, and this quickly diffuses over the body. Increased action of the heart, flushing of the face, warmth of the surface, with increased diaphoresis, follow in a few minutes. The senses are quickly excited, the mind becomes more active, ideas flow rapidly, and the cerebral phenomena of alcoholic intoxication ensue. These effects are of short duration, and a feeling of content, mental calm, and sopor, succeeds to the transient excitement. Ether is eliminated rapidly, chiefly by the lungs, and the whole duration of the effects of even a large quantity ( 3 ij) does not exceed an hour.
Before it is administered, ether should be diluted with alcohol, which renders it readily miscible with water.
A few drops of Hoffman's anodyne (τη x—τη xx) in some camphor-water is an excellent remedy to expel flatus from the stomach. Gastralgia may often be quickly relieved by the same means. A few drops of ether, added to cod-liver oil, enable the stomach to bear it more easily, and, it is said, favors its digestion; that it accomplishes this object by increasing the pancreatic juice, is the observation of Claude Bernard. Paroxysms of hepatic colic are sometimes treated by the internal administration of ether, but this treatment is by no means equal in effectiveness to the inhalation of the vapor. Ether mixed with turpentine has the power to dissolve hepatic calculi, hence the remedy of Durande. As Trousseau well remarks, chemical results which take place in the laboratory are not reproduced in the body with equal facility. The rapidity with which ether diffuses into the blood at the temperature of the stomach would appear to preclude the possibility of its exerting any solvent action on a calculus fixed in an hepatic duct. Whatever good result is secured by the administration of the remedy of Durande must be ascribed to the anodyne and antispasmodic action of its constituents.
Sudden failure of the heart's action (syncope), from mental emotion or hysteria, is most promptly remedied by the administration of Hoffman's anodyne. Mild attacks of angina pectoris, and of spasmodic asthma, may sometimes be aborted by a full dose of the ethereal preparations. The subcutaneous injection of ether is very effective in sudden cardiac depression.
Nervous or hysterical sick-headache is quickly cured by 3 ss doses of spirit of ether. The most important application of these ethereal remedies is in the treatment of the hysterical paroxysms. As the action is prompt and quickly expended, it is obvious that ether or Hoffman's drops are only adapted to sudden hysterical seizures, and not to more lasting nervous symptoms arising in an hysterical constitution. Nothing can be more satisfactory than the prompt relief by these agents of hysterical flatulence, globus hystericus, and hystero-epilepsy. Rx Spts. etheris composit., tinct. valerian, ammon., āā oz j. M. Sig.: A tea spoonful in water every fifteen minutes until relieved.
As a cardiac stimulant in fevers, the ethereal preparations are occasionally prescribed. For a quick effect, in an emergency of practice, they are useful, but are not equal to spirits and wine when a sustained effect is required.
Nitrous ether is employed in domestic practice as a mild diaphoretic, a diuretic, and carminative. It no longer occupies the place it formerly held in medical practice, but it is occasionally prescribed in feverishness, as a constituent in expectorant mixtures, in combination with diuretic medicines etc.