This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
The Ethereal Oil (Oleum Aethereum, U. S.), or heavy oil of urine, is a yellowish liquid, heavier than water, of a penetrating peculiar odour, and a sharp bitterish taste, and boiling at 536° Fahr. It contains sulphuric acid, combined with certain products of the decomposition of alcohol acting as a base or bases, and is considered by Liebig as a doable sulphate of ether and etherole; the latter being another name for light oil of wine, which is a 4-4 carbo-hydrogen (C4H4). It is obtained by distilling a mixture of alcohol and sulphuric acid, the latter being in much larger proportion than is used in the preparation of ether. A portion of it is usually produced in the process for procuring ether, especially towards the close, and hence contaminates that product as obtained by the first distillation.
But, though precise rules are given for the preparation and use of the ethereal oil in the Pharmacopoeias, it is in fact seldom properly prepared in this country; and the product sold as Hoffmann's anodyne, in our shops, is asserted to be sometimes prepared by continuing the distillation in the process for procuring ether, after it has been stopped in reference to the latter product. A mixture is thus obtained of ether, alcohol, and oil of wine, which is somewhat modified to make it suit the views of the manufacturers, and sold as Hoffmann's anodyne. It contains the ingredients of the officinal preparation, but much less of the ethereal oil.
Compound spirit of ether has a peculiar odour, which it owes to the ethereal oil. In taste it is very hot, pungent, and somewhat sweetish. It should be completely volatilizable by heat and destitute of acid reaction; and, when mixed with water, should have a somewhat milky appearance, owing to the separation of the oil.
The effects of Hoffmann's anodyne on the system are essentially the same as those of ether, but somewhat modified by the oil of wine, so as perhaps to bring it more nearly into accordance with the class of nervous stimulants. Ether itself, in small doses, insufficient to disturb specially the cerebral centres, is really a nervous stimulant; and, were it used only by the stomach, might perhaps be ranked appropriately with this class of medicines; as it is never given in this way for its narcotic effects. But used, as it is at present by inhalation, prominently as a cerebral stimulant, and conforming so closely in its effects, as thus administered, with alcohol and opium, it could not with propriety be removed from this connection.
Hoffmann's anodyne is much used to quiet nervous irritation in its various forms. Among other effects is that of producing sleep; but this it does only when sleep is prevented by nervous discomposure; so that it acts, not directly on the brain as a narcotic, but simply as a general stimulant to the nervous system, equalizing its actions, and thus removing the cause of wakefulness. From its common name it might be supposed to have extraordinary powers of relieving pain. If given in large quantities, it might possibly produce this effect directly, as the vapour of ether does when inhaled, by rendering the cerebral centres insensible to the irritations which occasion pain. As ordinarily given, however, it does not act in this way, but only by quieting the irritation upon which the pain may depend; and, when this is beyond its powers, it is itself inoperative as an anodyne. In painful affections, therefore, purely dependent on functional disorder, it will occasionally afford relief; in the pains of a surgical operation, and those dependent on inflammation, or even active congestion, seldom or never in any ordinary dose. Mild spasmodic affections will not unfrequently yield to it.
It is much used in febrile diseases to calm restlessness, and general malaise, to obviate the nervous twitchings and startings so common in children, and to produce sleep, when the patient is wakeful. In the low or typhoid fevers, it is particularly indicated for the subsultus tendinum, and mild delirium so common in those affections. In all the slighter troubles of hysteria, in faintness, languor, lowness of spirits, palpitations, etc., and in analogous affections in the male sex, Hoffmann's anodyne is often an admirable aid to the physician, when more powerful remedies are not indicated.
Flatulent colic, singultus, and gastric uneasiness, will frequently be relieved by it.
It is often an efficient remedy in nervous headache.
It might be employed, in very large doses, for obtaining those more powerful effects in spasmodic diseases for which ether itself is given; but the proportion of alcohol it contains must always be taken into account in such cases.
When laudanum sickens the stomach or occasions headache, the effect may sometimes be obviated by giving Hoffmann's anodyne along with it.
The dose is from half a fluidrachm to two fluidrachms. Sometimes it produces very pleasant effects in restlessness, in the dose of from thirty to sixty drops. It should be given in a wineglassful of water, sweetened or not as the patient may prefer. The dose may be repeated every hour or two if required. It is often usefully combined with solution of sulphate of morphia, or other preparation of opium, in affections in which both medicines are indicated.