Nitric Acid

From London's Ghost Acres

Nitric acid is also know as the spirit of nitre (as such some treatments may have been included in Nitratine). It is a strong mineral acid that is highly corrosive. (

Nitric acid was included in many solution in the Pharmacopeia, and is also included in test solutions that were used to verify the purity or inclusion of other materials. It was used in the Compendium as an astringent, and as a caustic or counter-irritant, and was primarily used to treat warts.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Nitric Acid Acidum Nitricum

“An acid prepared from nitrate of potash or nitrate of soda by distillation with sulphuric acid and water.”[1]

  • it is also used as a test solution throughout the Pharmacopoeia


“A colourless liquid…” Used in preparations of:[2]

  • Acidum Nitricum dilutum
  • Acidum Nitro-Hydrochloricum dilutum
  • Liquor Ferri Pernitratis
  • Liquor Hydrargyri Nitratis Acidus
  • Unguentum Hydrargyri Nirtatis

Preparations of Nitric Acid

Diluated Nitric Acid / Acidum Nitricum Dilutum [3]

  • nitric acid (6 fl oz), distilled water (as needed)
  • OR nitric acid (2400 grains), distilled water (as needed)
  • will form a colourless liquid
  • dose: 10-30 minims

Diluted Nitro-Hydrochloric Acid / Acidum Nitro-Hydrochloricum dilutum [4]

  • nitric acid (3 fl oz), hydrochloric acid (4 fl oz), distilled water (25 fl oz)
  • dose: 5-20 minims

Diluted Phosphoric Acid / Acidum Phosphoric Dilutum[5]

  • phosphorus (413 grains), nitric acid (6 fl oz), distilled water (as needed)
  • “A colourless liquid with a sour taste and strongly acid reaction.”
  • dose: 10-30 minims
  • used in preparations of: Syrupus Ferri Phophoric

Nitrate of Silver / Argenti Nitras[6]

  • Purified silver (3 oz), nitric acid ( 2 ½ oz), distilled water (5 oz)
  • In colourless tabular crystals, the primary form of which is the right rhombic prism; or in white cylindrical rods; soluble in distilled water, and in rectified spirit/
  • dose: 1/6-1/3 grains\
  • used in preparations of: Argenti Oxidum

Carbonate of Bismuth / Bismuthi Carbonas[7]

  • purified bismuth in small pieces (2 oz), nitric acid (4 fl oz), carbonate of ammonia (6 oz), distilled water (as needed)
  • “A white powder…; insoluble in water but soluble with effervescence in nitric acid.”
  • Dose: 5-20 grains

Subnitrate of Bismuth / Bismuthi Subnitras [8]

  • syn: bismuth album, Bisumth Nitras
  • purified bismuth, in small pieces (2 oz), nitric acid (4 fl oz), distilled water (as needed)
  • “A heavy white powder in minute crystalline scales…; insoluble in water, but soluble in nitric acid mixed with half its volume of distilled water, forming a solution which poured into water gives a white precipitate.”
  • Dose: 5-20 grains
  • Used in the preparations of: Trochisci Bismuthi

Red Oxide of Mercury [9]

  • syn: Hydrargyri Nitrico-Oxidum
  • mercury, by weight (8 oz), nitric acid (4 ½ fl oz), water (2 fl oz)
  • “An orange-red powder readily dissolved by hydrochloric acid”
  • Used in the preparations of: Unguentum Hydrargyri Oxidi rubri

Solution of Citrate of Bismuth and Ammonia / Liquor Bismuth et Ammoniae Citras[10]

  • Purified Bismuth (430 grains), Nitric Acid (2 fl oz), Citric Acid (2 oz), Solution of Ammonia (as needed), Distilled water (as needed)
  • “A colourless solution with a saline and slightly metallic taste.”
  • dose: ½ - 1 fl drachm

Strong Solution of Perchloride of Iron / Liquor Ferri Perchloridi Fortior[11]

  • syn: liquor ferri perchloridi, 1864
  • iron wire (2 oz), hydrochloric acid (12 fl oz), nitric acid (9 fl drachm), distilled water (8 fl oz)
  • “An orange-brown solution with a strong styptic taste, miscible with water and rectified spirit in all proportions.”
  • used in the preparations of: Liquor Ferri Perchloridi, Tinctura Ferri Perchloridi

Solution of Persulphate of Iron / Liquor Ferri Persulphatis[12]

  • sulphate of iron (8 oz), sulphuric acid (6 fl drachms), nitric acid (6 fl drachm), distilled water (12 fl oz, or as needed)
  • “A dense solution of a dark-red colour, inodourous and very astringent, miscible in all proportions with alcohol and water.”
  • used in preparations of: Ferri et Ammoniae Citras, Ferri et Quiniae Citras, Ferri Oxidum magneticum, Ferri Peroxidum humidum, Ferrum Tartaratum, Tinctura Ferri Acetatis

Acid Solution of Nitrate of Mercury / Liquor Hydrargyri Nitratis Acidus[13]

  • mercury (4 oz), nitric acid (5 fl oz), distilled water (1 ½ fl oz)
  • “A colourless and strongly acid solution”

Spirit of Nitrous Ether / Spiritus Aetheris Nitrosi[14]

  • syn: spiritus Aetheris Nitrici
  • “A spirituous solution containing nitrous ether”
  • nitric acid (3 fl oz), sulphuric acid (2 fl oz), copper, in fine wire (about no. 25), 2 oz, rectified spirit (as needed)
  • “Transparent and nearly colourless, with a very slight tinge og yellow, mobile, inflammable, of a peculiar penetrating apple-like odour, and sweetish cooling sharp taste.”
  • dose: ½-2 fl drachms

Ointment of Nitrate of Mercury / Unguentum Hydrargyri Nitras

  • syn: unguentum citrinum
  • mercury, by weight (4 oz), nitric acid (12 fl oz), prepared lard (15 oz), olive oil

Solution of Chloride of Gold (Test Solution)[15]

  • fine gold, reduced by a rolling machine to a thin lamina (60 grains), nitric acid ( 1 ½ fl oz), hydrochloric acid (7 fl oz), distilled water (as needed)

Solution of Iodate of Potash (Test Solution)[16]

  • iodine (50 grains), chlorate of potash (50 grains), nitric acid (8 minims), distilled water (10 ½ fl oz)

Solution of Perchloride of Platinum (Test Solution)[17]

  • thin platinum foil (1/4 oz), nitric acid (as needed), hydrochloric acid (as needed), distilled water (7 fl oz)

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Classified as an Astringent (Remedies Which Check Bleeding, or Excessive Secretions)[18] and as a Caustic and Counter-Irritant (Remedies Which Chemically Destroy or Burn the Animal Tissues When Locally Applied)[19]

Nitric Acid, when concentrated, is caustic and often used diluted. Its vapours have been used in fumigations. It was used to induce vesication (blistering) during a cholera outbreak in India. When diluted, the acid can be used as a tonic, antiseptic, and anti-syphilitic. A further diluted version that has been sweetened with sugar forms an “excellent and agreeable beverage” used in the treatment of typhoid, malignant, and petechial fevers. Lotions containing diluted nitric acid can treat both unhealthy and foetid ulcers.[20]


The Nitro-Muriatic Bath[22]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Nitric Acid

  • Acid, Nitric: see def[23]
  • Acid, Nitric, Diluted diluted nitric acid is used in a draught given to treat heartburn. It is also included in “Nitric Acid Mixture” and “Nitric Acid Draught(s),” the last of the two being a treatment for asthma.[24]
  • Simarub Bark: diluted nitric acid include in Dr. Baillie’s prescription[25]

Diseases Treated with Nitric Acid

General Diseases

  • Warts: nitric acid is the more effective methods for destroying warts[26]

Medical Articles Containing Nitric Acid

  • Freezing Mixture: dilute nitric acid[27]

Prescriptions Containing Nitric Acid


  • Alternatives in the form of Mixture of Draught fourth version: dilute nitric acid[28]


  • Anti-Asthmatic Draught (Another): diluted nitric acid[29]


  • Dr. Baillie’s Mixture for Children: diluted nitric acid[30]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 14-15
  2. GMCGB, 15
  3. GMCGB, 16
  4. GMCGB, 16-17
  5. GMCGB, 17-18
  6. GMCGB, 46
  7. GMCGB, 56-57
  8. GMCGB, 57-58
  9. GMCGB, 151-52
  10. GMCGB, 182-83
  11. GMCGB, 187
  12. GMCGB, 188-89
  13. GMCGB, 189-90
  14. GMCGB, 293-94
  15. GMCGB, 388
  16. GMCGB, 389
  17. GMCGB, 389-90
  18. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 391.
  19. Savory, 391
  20. Savory, 5
  21. Savory, 181
  22. Savory, 198-99
  23. Savory, 5
  24. Savory, 5-6
  25. Savory, 134
  26. Savory, 261
  27. Savory, 303
  28. Savory, 309
  29. Savory, 316
  30. Savory, 320