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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33

Case XVIII.—Sulphur Fumes as a Tonic and Cosmetic.—(Jan. 12.)

Case XVIII.—Sulphur Fumes as a Tonic and Cosmetic.—(Jan. 12.)

Among my many striking cases, showing the power of fumes as a tonic, the following, I think, is the most remarkable. Mr. W. T. has been a delicate lad for several years, having been under the necessity of giving up his situation in a lawyer's office in Edinburgh, and coming to the country on account of his health. During most of that period he has been treated by me with steel, cod-liver oil, quinine, citrate of iron, and other tonics, besides nutritious diet; all with a view of keeping up his strength, and warding off that consumption which arises from thin and impoverished blood, on the borders of which he ever seemed to hover. Two and a half months ago, while acting as nurse to a brother prostrated with diphtheria, his assiduous attention page 47 caused him to be almost constantly inhaling, for several days, the fumes prescribed for his brother's disease. The immediate effect was such an increase of appetite and comfort, that after his brother's recovery he continued stated fumigations on his own account. Forthwith his delicacy of years rapidly took wing, and by persistence in the same plan for several weeks, without any aid from tonics, he has now acquired a degree of vigour, power of enduring fatigue in walking, and youthful bloom of health, such as he has not experienced for many years. Chemists may account for this by the ozone given off during the oxidation of sulphurous acid, whereby the air to be respired is made sweet and wholesome by all organic impurities being destroyed. But perhaps still more may be due to that very oxidation itself, whereby what goes up to the atmosphere as sulphurous acid comes in to the patient's mouth as sulphuric acid, or elixir of vitriol in a state of vapour, a tonic and stomachic justly famed for sharpening the appetite all the world over. Be this as it may, it is gratifying to learn that sulphur fumes possessed the same tonic and stomachic properties about sixty years ago. In 1810, Sir Arthur Clarke, M.D., London, erected baths for treating skin diseases, by steam and fumes instead of sulphur and lard, under the idea that unctuous applications to the skin were most unwholesome, by clogging up the pores. He thus succeeded in curing common itch and more inveterate things, in from one week up to three or four; and in his 'Essay on Diseases of the Skin,' Sir Arthur says (page 38), 'The sulphureous fumigation invigorates the system, and fortifies it against the influence of cold; it supples the joints, gives strength to the muscles, and consequently agility to the limbs. It increases the appetite, promotes digestion, and clears the complexion; it gives smoothness and whiteness to the skin," etc. etc.; in short, expatiates on sulphur fumes in such a style as neither Dr. Dewar nor myself dare imitate, for fear of being charged with attempting to enlist ladies instead of physicians in the cause of sulphur, by sounding its praises as the best cosmetic.