From London's Ghost Acres

Also known as cubic nitre, it shows up in the database as "Nitre Cubic". An important fertilizer.

Nitre / Cubic Nitre / Nitrate of Soda

Also know as cubic nitre, or nitre, nitratine was an important fertiliser. It is a mineral, and can be found in nature as sodium nitrate. (

It also had applications in medicine, with a variety of uses depending on the form of its administration. It is listed in the Compendium as a diaphoretic, diuretic, and refrigerant, and was used during the treatment of fevers, colds, the spitting of blood, and measles.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Nitrate of Soda Sodae Nitras

“A native salt, purified by crystallisation from water.”[1]


“In colourless obtuse rhombohedral crystals, having a cooling saline taste… It is soluble in about two parts of cold distilled water.” Used in the preparations of: Sodae Arsenias[2]

Preparations of Nitratine

Arseniate of Soda / Sodae Arsenias[3]

  • arsenious acid (10 oz), nitrate of soda (8 ½ oz), dried carbonate of soda (5 ½ oz), boiling distilled water (35 oz)
  • “In colourless transparent prisms soluble in water”
  • dose: 1/16-1/3 grains
  • used in the preparations of: Liquor Sodae Arseniatis

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Classified as a Diaphoretic or Sudorific under Spirits of Nitre (Remedies Which Excited Perspiration)[4], A Diuretic under both Nitre and Spirits of Nitre (Remedies Which Cause an Increased Secretion of Urine)[5], Refrigerant and Cooling under Nitre and Spirit of Nitre (Remedies Which Abate Thirst of Unnatural Heat)[6]

Nitre is used as a refrigerant and diuretic. Often combined with other diaphoretic remedies to treat inflammatory disease (ie inflammatory sore throats). A solution of nitre and ammoniac can be used as a cooling lotion, and Savory indicates that this substance may be used when ice is not available. [7]

Spirit of Nitre is a refrigerant often used during fevers, and also possesses diuretic qualities which are beneficial when treating dropsy. “Twenty or thirty drops in a little water allay fever, quench thirst, and promote the secretion of urine.” It can be combined with oxymel and syrup of poppies to help remove the throat tickle that often accompanies a cold.[8]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Nitre

  • Acid, Sulphuric: combined with nitre to fumigate chambers[9]
  • Balsam, Copaiva: combined to form a mixture, most likely diuretic [10]
  • Dover’s Powder: powdered nitre used in a liquid version of Dover’s Powder[11]
  • Eleaterium: combined with spirit of nitre in a mixture for “Dropsical Complaints”[12]
  • Gum Gamboge: can be combined with nitre for use in “hydragogue purposes”[13]
  • Gum Guaiacum: used to treat chronic rheumatism, often mixed with nitre (although can be sometimes combines with antimonials and opiates). “The Draught” contains powdered nitre, as does “The Electuary”[14]
  • Nitre: used to treat inflammatory sore throats in a gargle,[15] and also in two different “Diuretic Mixture” provided by Savory[16]
  • Spirit of Nitre: used in both “Diaphoretic Draught” and “Diuretic Draught”[17]
  • Tincture of Cubebs: spirit of nitre included in mixture used to treat diseases of the bladder and urinary passages, and also in treating gonorrhoea and gleet.[18]

Diseases Treated with Nitre

General Diseases

  • Ague, or Intermittent Fever: spirit of nitre included in a cordial diaphoretic draught used during the first stage (the cold stage) of a fever[19]
  • Catarrh, or a Cold: purified nitre, and sweet spirits of nitre used in a draught used to combat catarrhal irritation.[20] If the breathing becomes laborious, spirit of nitre is included in a mixture that may be given, as well as in a diaphoretic mixture[21], and another mixture than is to be taken three times a day[22]
  • Itch: fumigation has been used on the Continent for curing itch. Niter is combined with sulphur into a warming pan of hot coals and then tucked tightly into bed.[23]
  • Spitting of Blood: nitre is used in the drinks of patients suffering slight haemorrhage.[24]

Infantile Diseases

  • Measles: purified nitre is used in a draught given[25]

Medical Articles Containing Nitre

  • Dr. Blake’s Remedy for Toothache: spirit of nitre[26]

Prescriptions Containing Nitre


  • Alternatives in the form of Mixture or Draught: spirit of nitre included in fourth draught[27]


  • Stomach Mixture: sweet spirit of nitre[28]
  • Stomach Mixture (Another): if depression is present, spirit of nitre can be added to the treatment[29]
  • Soda and Ipecacuanha Powders: powdered nitre[30]


  • For Sudden Hoarseness: sweet spirits of nitre[31]


  • Diuretic Draught: powdered nitre[32]
  • Strong stimulating Diuretic Draught: spirit of nitre[33]
  • Diuretic and Tonic Draught: spirit of nitre[34]
  • Diuretic Mixture: spirit of nitre[35]
  • Diuretic Mixture (Another): powdered nitre[36]
  • Diuretic Powder: powdered nitre[37]


  • Diaphoretic Mixture: spirit of nitre[38]


  • Stimulant Mixture: sweet spirit of nitre[39]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 289
  2. GMCGB, 289-90
  3. GMCGB, 286
  4. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 392.
  5. Savory, 392
  6. Savory, 394
  7. Savory, 103
  8. Savory, 141
  9. Savory, 9
  10. Savory, 25
  11. Savory, 54
  12. Savory, 66
  13. Savory, 74
  14. Savory, 75
  15. Savory, 104
  16. Savory, 105
  17. Savory, 142
  18. Savory, 158
  19. Savory, 204
  20. Savory, 216
  21. Savory, 217
  22. Savory, 218
  23. Savory, 244
  24. Savory, 260
  25. Savory, 276
  26. Savory, 302
  27. Savory, 309
  28. Savory, 321
  29. Savory, 321
  30. Savory, 312
  31. Savory, 323
  32. Savory, 324
  33. Savory, 325
  34. Savory, 325
  35. Savory, 325
  36. Savory, 325
  37. Savory, 325
  38. Savory, 326
  39. Savory, 333

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