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.
Preparation and Properties. Lime-water is prepared by first slaking lime with a little water, then pouring upon it, in a large bottle, a convol. ii.-56 venient quantity of water, and shaking occasionally for a few hours, until it may be presumed that the water is saturated. The bottle is then allowed to stand, without removal of the lime; and the liquid, which becomes perfectly clear, and remains so if not agitated, is poured off as wanted. The bottle should be well closed.
Lime-water is perfectly colourless and transparent, inodorous, but of an unpleasant acrid and alkaline taste. it affects litmus like the alkalies. The quantity of lime contained in it is very small; as water dissolves only about 9.T grains in the pint at 60°; so that each fluidounce at ordinary temperatures contains about six-tenths of a grain. At a higher heat less is dissolved; at a lower more; the general rule of the solubility of bodies in relation to temperature being reversed. On exposure to the air, the solution rapidly absorbs carbonic acid, and an insoluble carbonate results, which forms a pellicle on the surface, and afterwards sinks; and thus the liquid may be nearly or quite deprived of the lime. This is the reason for the officinal direction to keep the water standing over lime. As fast as the carbonate is formed, the deficiency is supplied from the lime beneath, and the liquid is thus always kept saturated. Lime-water forms imperfectly soluble soaps with the oils.
it is antacid, astringent, and locally somewhat excitant. it exercises, moreover, an influence which cannot be referred to either of these properties, and of which the nature is not well understood. We may call it alterative.
One of the evidences of the peculiar influence referred to is its effect upon the stomach. in most cases of irritability of that organ, not dependent on acute inflammation, a mixture of equal parts of lime-water and fresh milk is perhaps as effectual as any other antiemetic medicine, with the single exception of opium. it sometimes succeeds most happily, when various other measures have been tried to no purpose. I have been much in the habit of using a similar combination, in cases of habitual vomiting, dependent on chronic gastritis. My plan is to put the patient on a diet exclusively of lime-water and milk, varying the proportion of the former from an equal measure down to one-quarter of the latter, as the stomach may seem to require. The vomiting sometimes ceases very speedily, after having been a long time previously uninterrupted. When the stomach becomes quite retentive, stale bread may be allowed in addition, and the diet otherwise gradually improved. I have also found great advantage, in the middle and advanced stages of enteric or typhoid fever, when the stomach has been somewhat delicate, from giving a tablespoonful of each of these liquids every hour, except during sleep. The mixture at the same time nourishes the system, and quiets the stomach instead of offending it. The lime probably reacts with the oily matter of the milk, producing a compound in which the taste of the lime is quite lost, and which exercises this extraordinary influence on the stomach. incidentally, in these cases, it may also be sometimes useful by its antacid properties.
In the acidity of dyspepsia, it is occasionally given alone as an antacid; but so little of the lime can be administered that it can produce no great effect. it is peculiarly applicable when there is a tendency to diarrhoea present, and it is desirable to exercise a somewhat restraining influence. Taken to the amount of a pint or more in twenty-four hours, it has sometimes served a useful purpose in the uric acid lithiasis; but bicarbonate of soda is so much more powerful, and at the same time agreeable, that lime-water is seldom used.
Externally, lime-water is considerably used. As a lotion in chronic cutaneous eruptions, and as a gently excitant and astringent wash in foul, flabby, and gangrenous ulcers, and those disposed to copious suppuration, it has not unfrequently proved beneficial. Mixed in equal measures with olive or flaxseed oil, it is much used in burns. it has also been given with occasional success, after failure with other measures, as an injection in leucorrhoea and gleet.
Lime-water is said to have the property of rapidly dissolving diphtheric membrane, and, in consequence of this power, to have been employed as a local remedy in diphtheria with great advantage. it may be inhaled in the form of spray, by means of the atomizer; but, according to Dr. A. Geiger, of Dayton, Ohio, who has treated several cases of pseudomembranous croup with lime-water inhalation, a more efficient method is to allow the patient to inhale the vapour produced in pouring boiling water on unslaked lime. (Med. and Surg. Reporter, March 10, 1866, p. 195.)