This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol2", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Syn. Quicksilver. Argentum Vivum.
Though known to the ancients, mercury does not appear to have been used by them as a medicine. The Arabian physicians employed it externally in cutaneous diseases; and, in the same mode of application, it was recommended in syphilis by Widmann, in a work published in 1497; but the noted Paracelsus, who flourished in the earlier part of the following century, is said to have been the first to venture on its internal use. I shall first treat generally of its effects on the system, and therapeutic application, and afterwards of its several preparations, with what is peculiar to each.
Given in very small quantities, so as to produce no obvious physiological effect, mercury often operates most beneficially in disease. More largely administered, it gives rise to a peculiar condition of system, attended by certain characteristic phenomena, which, in the aggregate, are produced by no other cause or combination of causes. One of the first and most striking of these symptoms is sore-mouth 'with salivation. Hence, this systemic effect of mercury may be distinguished as its siala-gogue operation; not that the affection of the mouth is at all essential to the condition, but because it is one of the most characteristic and available signs. Some give the name of mercurialism to this general influence of the metal; and it is perhaps as convenient as any other. Under these two heads of its insensible operation, and its sialagogue influence or full mercurialism, together with that of its local action, may be considered all the physiological effects of mercury, and its remedial applications. in relation to those effects of certain mercurials which serve to rank them in other classes, as the purgative effect of calomel, the emetic of turpeth mineral, and the caustic of corrosive sublimate, they will be fully considered elsewhere, and may be left out of view in this place, where we are to consider mercury in reference to its peculiar or alterative properties.