The use of ether as a medicine dates from an early period in modern history. I shall treat of its employment first as administered by the stomach, secondly by inhalation, and lastly as an external application.

1. Use by the Stomach

In the course of low fevers, especially of malignant typhus, in cases of delirium tremens, and in other diseases of debility, sudden sinking spells occasionally take place, approaching asphyxia in character, which require prompt and energetic stimulation of the nervous centres. In such cases ether is strongly indicated, and may be given in connection with carbonate of ammonia, or the aromatic spirit of ammonia, in order as speedily as possible to restore action, which may then be sustained, if necessary, by the more permanent stimulants and tonics. In the poisoning by mushrooms it has been recommended, probably upon similar grounds.

A similar condition sometimes occurs in angina pectoris, and demands instant interference to prevent death. Here also ether is highly valuable in connection with other medicines. In the seemingly spasmodic pains of that affection, in which it would appear that sudden cramp had seized on some portion of the cardiac muscles, and during which the whole system is extremely prostrate, ether and laudanum are the internal remedies mainly to be relied on. Such a condition occasionally takes place in nervous gout, constituting probably the most dangerous example of that disease.

The prompt and powerful stimulation with which ether operates upon the nerves adapts it admirably to those spasmodic affections, unattended with acute inflammation, which are characterized by great depression of the circulation, coolness and dampness of the surface, and apparent general prostration. Hence its usefulness in violent spasms of the stomach, and of the bowels, attended with feeble pulse, cold skin, etc., in which it may often be advantageously combined with laudanum or other liquid preparation of opium, and given in teaspoonful doses. The same remark is applicable to spasms of the ureters and of the gall-ducts, occasioned by the passage respectively of urinary or biliary calculi. In the latter affection, it has been supposed to be peculiarly useful when combined with oil of turpentine. Upon the same grounds, too, it is indicated in the approaching collapse of cholera, attended with internal and external cramps. Its powerful stimulation of the nervous centres, in these cases, may be supposed to rouse them from the torpor into which they appear to be thrown by the concentration of the nervous energy in the suffering organ, and thus to act revulsively in the relief of the spasm.

In the paroxysm of spasmodic asthma it has sometimes been used beneficially, though less efficient in this disease than some other remedies.

In small doses, ether acts purely as a nervous stimulant, and is much employed for the relief of various mild nervous affections. For this purpose it is usually prescribed in the form of compound spirit of ether, or Hoffmann's anodyne, under which this highly useful application of the remedy will be more particularly noticed.

Ether has also been recommended in sea-sickness, in which a teaspoonful of it may be given in a glass of sherry or madeira wine.

M. Bourdier has employed it with success for the expulsion of the tapeworm, giving it both by the stomach and rectum with an infusion of male fern, and following it in an hour by a dose of castor oil. M. Lor-tet also has had favourable results. In five cases, all in which he had tried the remedy, he gave 60 grammes (nearly two troy ounces) of ether at once, followed in two hours by half the quantity of castor oil. In every case, the worm was discharged without suffering, and always either entire or nearly so, including the head. {Ann. de Therap., 1860, p. 281).

Ether is contraindicated in all cases of sthenic febrile action and acute inflammation, especially of the stomach and brain.