Antimony. Called also stibium, alcimad, alcotol, stimmi, platyoppthalmon, larbason, satanus devorans, lupus philosophorum, aurum lepo-rosum, ens primum solare, alamad, madail, duenech, afrob, alcofolo, cosmet, calmet, gynaecium.
Antimony is sometimes found in a particular ore, but most frequently mixed with other metals. Basil Valentine, a German monk, gave it, as tradition relates, to some hogs, which, after purging, it greatly fattened; thinking in like manner to feed his brother monks, all died by the experiment; hence the name antimony, anti-monk,( against and monk).
It is called satanus devorans, and lupus philosophorum, from its power of devouring or destroying, as it were, all metals, when in fusion with it. It is a semi-metal, of a whitish or silver colour.
Mines of antimony occur in Hungary, Transylvania, Germany, France, and in England. The French antimony contains about equal parts of regulus and sulphur; but the best is from Hungary. The English is often mixed with lead or tin, from which it must be separated: that which is spotted with red is supposed by,dr. Alston to contain some arsenic, and should be rejected.
The antimony is generally found mixed with hard stones or spar, from which it is separated by eliquation. Some ores are mixed with arsenic or with cobalt; some are dug up composed of fine shining lines like needles, sometimes disposed in regular ranks, at others without any observable order; this is termed male antimony; - some are disposed in thin broad plates or laminae, and called female antimony by Pliny; and, from their different mixtures and appearances, other names are given to them. See Traite' de Mineralogie de Hauy, iv. 252.
The mineral, broken into pieces, is put into earthen pots, whose bottoms are perforated with small holes, and a moderate fire is applied round them; as the antimony melts, it runs through the holes in the bottom of the pots,and is received into inverted conical moulds that are placed underneath; in these moulds the lighter scoria; rise to the surface, while the purer and more ponderous metal falls to the bottom; the broad part of the loaves is consequently less pure than the smaller end. The antimony thus separated from its ore is called crude, and is a combination of the metal with sulphur.
The goodness of crude antimony is discovered by its weight, from the loaves not being spongy, from the largeness of the striae, and from its totally evaporating on a strong fire.
Its general appearance is that of a ponderous brittle mineral, or semi-metal, composed of long shining streaks like needles, mixed with a dark leaden coloured substance. It hath no particular taste or smell, and is brought to the shops in the form of conical loaves. Its specific gravity is 6.860, and it melts at 779° of Fahrenheit.
Antimony, like most of the best medicines, found its way as an internal one in the medical practice with great difficulty; the ancients, if their stimmi was really antimony, considered it as a poison, and only fit for external uses. Basil Valentine, in the seventeenth century, 1676, first brought it into credit as an internal medicine, publishing a work called Cur-rus triumphalis Antimonii; but it soon lost its repute, until Paracelsus raised its character again, after which it was received and rejected several times, until, by the labours of Crato of Kraftsheim, Lintilius, Le Febure, and, above all, Hoffman, it acquired an established place in regular practice; and is now justly ranked with the most valuable part of the materia medica.
In the state of crude antimony, notwithstanding its boasted efficacy in rheumatic, cancerous, and other cases, it appears, from repeated trials, to be an inert substance with regard to the human body: it is, however, ordered by some physicians to be taken from one scruple to a dram, two or three times a day, in cutaneous and leprous disorders, in its levigated state. Its preparations are, in general, used both as alteratives and evacuants, and hardly any article in the materia medica will admit of so extensive a use in acute and chronical diseases. In fevers of the inflammatory kind, and inflammations, antimonials are alike the proper remedy; and in chronical diseases they may be often depended on. They promote all the secretions and excretions, particularly those of the skin, intestines, urinary passages, and bronchial glands, by gently irritating the whole vascular system. If given in small doses, gradually increased, yet in the proportion which excites no sensible discharge, they are highly efficacious.
As auxiliary to other medicines on which the cure more directly depends, their efficacy is considerable. They quicken their action and increase their powers, particularly those by which any evacuation is to be promoted; with such medicines, their operation is also more easy: as an expectorant, some of its preparations excel; but the discharge from the bronchial glands has been mistaken for a salivary excretion.
The preparations of this drug are numerous, and vary in their strength according to the quantity of nitre employed in the deflagration, or the discharge of the sulphur; but, except that which is called the muriated antimony, they only differ from each other in their degrees of activity. Two private prescriptions, which are deservedly celebrated, may be also mentioned, viz. the febrifuge powder of Dr. James, and that of Edinburgh; the latter of which is recommended to us on the best authority, as possessed of those very desiderata, the want of which was the cause of other preparations being complained of. It is called antimonial salt, and seems to be a preparation similar to that of tartarized antimony, though kept a secret by those who prepare it. If is soluble in water - invariably of the same strength - and a grain or two under or over the dose is not attended with any inconveniences. It is probably prepared with the mercurius vitae, instead of antimo-niutn vitrificatum; thus forming an antimonium tartari-satum. See Tartar Emeticum.