( From vol.. iv, 2nd edit., 1825.)
This metal in its pure state, as leaf-silver (argentum foliatum), from the supposed impossibility of its being dissolved in our juices-an impossibility that has no better basis than theoretical speculation is said by the teachers of materia medica to be just as powerless as gold (which see).
At first I allowed myself to be deterred by these confident assertions from using it medicinally, and therefore employed only the solution of nitrate of silver (in the dose of a drop of the quintillionth dilution), when I had the opportunity of observing the few subjoined symptoms caused by it.
But, in spite of all the denials of theorists without experience, who always persist in regarding the stomach as a cooking or digesting machine, containing gastric juice which, judging by their trials in the vessels of their laboratory, they found to be incapable of dissolving either metallic gold or metallic silver, and therefore considered these medicines to be incapable of exciting any action upon us such as they do when chemically dissolved legs artis in the stomach, when they are methodic absorbed and introduced into the circulation of the blood; influenced by the reasons I have adduced respecting gold, I could not refrain from employing pure silver in the metallic state. I therefore made experiments on the healthy body with leaf-silver, after triturating it for an hour to the finest powder, with a hundred parts of milk-sugar.
The few symptoms observed from it and set forth in the following pages furnish the homoeopathic physician, in silver under this form, with a curative instrument in many similar morbid states, which cannot be cured by any other medicinal agent, and for which the ordinary physician fails to find a remedy in all his therapeutics, clinical experience and voluminous prescription-books.
But I subsequently found that for homoeopathic use another hundredfold attenuation, that is to say, a grain of powder containing 1/10000 of silver, may be a still too large dose.
The empirical reputation of nitrate of silver in the ordinary forms of epilepsy is not well founded, and seems to have arisen from the circumstance that in some varieties of convulsions, where copper is indicated, a salt of silver containing copper has been used. But that pure silver, such as leaf-silver is, should be efficacious in the worst and commonest form of epilepsy, is not borne out by the primary symptoms as yet revealed from its administration.
R. BOYLE’S so-called diuretic pills, which contain nitrate of silver, and which are so much praised by BOERHAVE, are quite unsuitable for their purpose, not only on account of the perilous size of the doses, but also because silver, as the subjoined symptoms produced by it show, only increases the urinary secretion in its primary action (consequently the opposite of the diminished urinary secretion in dropsical diseases), whereupon, by means of the ensuing reaction of the vital force, the opposite of the end aimed at must take place, which is its permanent secondary action, to wit, a still greater diminution of the urinary secretion; a true antipathic and, for this case, injurious procedure.
Such hurtful mistakes must have hitherto been committed by this ordinary physicians, because they were unacquainted with the primary effects of the medicines, and knew of no way whereby they could learn them, and took no pains to discover the right way. Indeed, for five-and-twenty centuries they have had no notion of primary and secondary action of medicines, as a permanent condition, the exact opposite of their primary action, and that, consequently, in order to effect any permanent cure, medicines to be really curative must be able to produce in their primary action the simile of the morbid state actually present, to allow us to expect from the reaction of the organism the opposite of the medicin primary action (and of the disease similar to it), that is to say, the destruction and alteration into health of the deranged sensations and functions.