The Monthly Magazine, 40(277): 512 (January 1, 1816)


There appears to exist a striking analogy between the charcoal powder and Peruvian bark, with respect to their effects on the system. They both frequently purge in the beginning, while constipation follows their continued use. The charcoal, like the bark, promotes appetite, adds tone to a languid system, prevents the recurrence of febrile paroxysms, and corrects or removes a tendency to morbid associations. Bark retards the chemical decomposition of organic substances; charcoal is one of the most powerful antiseptics known. Under peculiar circumstances charcoal would appear to claim a superiority, particularly in the periodical fevers of warm climates, which are so frequently complicated with visceral affections or an inflammatory diathesis, where the bark proves frequently useless, sometimes injurious. In the advanced stages of the bilious remittent fever, and when the primary excitement is followed by extreme debility, the use of charcoal has had excellent effect, and, although frequently given in a very irritable state of the stomach, it seldom produces nausea or vomiting.

To obtain the desirable results from the use of charcoal, the best and lightest pieces ought to be selected, coarsely broken, and kept about fifteen minutes in a red heat in a covered vessel, then taken from the fire, any ashes on the surface removed, and speedily reduced to a very fine powder, and kept in a bottle well stopt. The dose of charcoal, like all other medicines, depends on the circumstances of a given case; but from half a drachm to two drachms, given three or four times a day, during the intermission, or immediately before the expected paroxysm, will in most cases prove sufficient. It may be taken diffused in water, or any other convenient vehicle. On the dose being swallowed, a slight sensation of warmth is usually felt in the epigastrium, not unlike that produced by taking a small portion of pure spirit. It seems to promote all the secretions, often producing at first some bilious alvine evacuation; but costiveness in general follows its continued use.—New Eng. Journal of Medicine.