There are three great natural sources from which potash and its salts are derived, viz.: 1. Wood ashes. 2. Argol, the deposit left in wine casks during the fermentation of grape-juice. 3. Beds of saline earths, found chiefly in India, but also to some extent in other countries.
It is extremely diffusible, and is rapidly excreted, principally by the kidneys, but also to some extent by the salivary, mammary, and intestinal glands, and by the skin.
In the living organism it is found chiefly in the blood corpuscles and muscles.
Being so quickly removed from the body, the danger to the tissues, even from large doses, is comparatively slight, except when there is disease of the excretory organs, or when it is given for a long time, and under these circumstances a dyscrasia or unhealthy condition results, characterized by impoverishment and excessive fluidity of the blood.
In poisoning by the salts of potash there is violent inflammation of the alimentary canal; intense burning pain about the epigastrium; nausea and vomiting, sometimes of bloody mucus; and profuse and watery, sometimes dysenteric, stools. With these there are the symptoms of depression of the general system: a weak, rapid pulse; shrunken face; cold skin; coma; and insensibility. There is sometimes paralysis of the lower limbs, and death may occur with great suddenness.
In potash poisoning dilute vinegar, lemon juice, and cider are given as antidotes; the stomach and bowels are emptied, and oils, with bland demulcent drinks, such as gum tragacanth, barley water, flaxseed tea, milk, white of egg, or gruel, given to relieve the irritation of the mucous membranes, and stimulants to sustain the heart.