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 use of phosphorus as a medicine takes date from the middle of the last century. Though now little employed, in consequence of its frequently violent effects, it has at different times and by different persons been used in a great number of diseases; and. properly guarded, is probably capable of useful therapeutic application. Nervous diseases, acute and chronic, as epilepsy, palsy, catalepsy, hypochondriasis, functional apoplexy, tetanus, periodical headache, venereal exhaustion, and amaurosis; intermittent fevers; smallpox; various other febrile diseases of a low or malignant form; retrocedent eruptions; hemorrhages; different forms of gout and rheumatism; cholera, diarrhoea, and colica pictonum; chlorosis and amenorrhoea; sterility and impotence; and even the phlegmasiae, as typhoid pneumonia, catarrhal croup, chronic pleurisy, and bronchitis, have been enumerated by authors among the diseases in which phosphorus has been employed and recommended.
* Though, as stated in the text, the free oxidation of phosphorus in the stomach is probably owing to its combustion, yet it appears to be capable of rapidly and fatally poisoning the system through absorption also; as this effect has resulted, without any decided stomachic symptoms during life, or any evidence of materia] derangement of the mucous membrane of the stomach after death. (See Am. Journ. of Med. Sci., N. S., xxxv. 288).
A sound discretion, however, would select, from this list, the affections in which its known powers might justify its use. The collapse which takes place in the early stage of certain fevers; great prostration occurring in the course of febrile diseases generally; the alarming depression sometimes attendant upon the retrocession of scarlatina, erysipelas, etc.; in short, all low states of the system requiring prompt and powerful stimulation, and in which ordinary stimulants fail; these afford the conditions under which the practitioner would be justified in having recourse to this energetic remedy. In cases, too, of morbid depression of the generative powers, whether in the male or female, it would appear to be indicated, through one of the best established of its physiological properties. It may, moreover, be tried in old and very obstinate rheumatic and paralytic cases, when no discoverable organic lesion renders any amelioration altogether improbable.