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Homeopathic Materia Medica by Farrington


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Toxicologically, potash may be of some interest to you, when, by accident, caustic potash is swallowed. Its great affinity for water, makes it attack the tissues with great avidity, producing very deep escharotic effects. It has more power to penetrate the tissues than have some of the other caustics, nitrate of silver for instance, hence it has been selected as the caustic for use when it is desired to reach far into the parenchyma of a part; as in the treatment of carbuncle, when a large portion of tissue has become gangrenous and a slough must be produced, caustic potash is used. The tissues thus acted upon have a greasy appearance, which is due to the formation of a soap made from the combination of the fats with the potash. Thus it differs materially in its action from the mineral acids, which make the tissues dry and dark, almost like a

mass of tinder.

When swallowed by accident, for it is seldom used for suicidal purposes, the effects of caustic potash are violent. It causes such violent contraction of the stomach that what little of it gets that far is immediately ejected by violent vomiting. If the amount of caustic taken is sufficient, it causes a brownish film over the mucous membrane, or there may be spots here and there, in the mouth and throat which are denuded of their epithelium. The inflammatory process may increase to such an extent that these spots ulcerate, and as they heal they form cicatricial tissue with the subsequent unfortunate contraction and stricture of the part.

The antidotal treatment to such accidents is both chemical and mechanical; chemical to relieve the effects of the drug, and mechanical to relieve the trouble that remains. Vinegar, lemon-juice and large draughts of mucilaginous drinks are mostly relied upon to relieve the acute symptoms of this poisoning.

But there' are many cases of slow poisoning with the potash salts, particularly when our allopathic friends use bromide of potassium so extensively. We therefore have the chronic effects of this to treat. These may require to antidote them: HEPAR, which is an antidote to the metals in general; SULPHUR, and other remedies may be called for according to the symptoms present.

It has been determined by experiments on mammals, that potash, particularly the carbonate, acts paralyzingly on the muscles. This accounts for the general weakness which belongs to all potash preparations. This paralyzing effect is very manifest in the case of the heart muscle, which becomes early affected in poisoning with potash, the animal eventually dying with the heart in diastole, that is, the heart is. widely dilated at the moment it ceases to beat. With this hint, you would expect to find potash salts of use in great muscular weakness, in what has been termed paresis, such exhaustion as accompanies convalescence from protracted disease as typhoid fever.

We have it on the authority of Dr. Hering that mushrooms contain a large percentage of potash, and are therefore to be recommended as an article of diet in cases of exhaustion.