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Zinc is most often used as an alloy with copper, creating brass. It is also used in a similar manner to tin for coating steel and other metals susceptible to corrosion. Steel which has been coated with zinc is called galvanized steel.

Zinc is the chemical element with the symbol Zn, and is used in both industrial and medicinal arenas.

Different forms of zinc were listed in the Pharmacopeia (Zinc of commerce, zinc sulphate, zinc acetate, and zinc oxide). Zinc sulphate was used as an astringent, emetic, and tonic, and was the favoured emetic of use when treating opium poisoning. Zinc acetate was also an emetic, but could also be used to form lozenges. Cholride of zinc could also be used in fumigations to prevent contagions.

Zinc, and its various forms, could be used in the treatments of burns, nosebleeds, epilepsy, vomiting blood, fluro albus, and sclad-head.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Zinc Zincum

“Zinc of commerce” Used in the preparations of:[1]

  • Liquor Zinci Chloridi
  • Unguentum Zinci
  • Zinci Acetas
  • Zinci Carbonas
  • Zinci Chloridum
  • Zinci Oxidum
  • Zinci Sulphas
  • Zinci Valerianas
  • Zincum Granulatum

Preparations of Zinc

Reduced Iron / Ferrum Redcatum[2]

  • hydrated peroxide of iron (1 oz), zinc, granulated (as needed), sulphuric acid (as needed), chloride of calcium (as needed)
  • “A fine greyish-black powder, strongly attracted by the magnet, and exhibiting metallic streaks when rubbed with firm pressure in a mortar.”
  • dose: 1-5 grains

Solution of Chloride of Zinc / Liquor Zinci Chloridi[3]

  • Granulated zinc (1 lb), hydrochloric acid (44 fl oz), solution of chlorine (as needed), carbonate of zinc (1/2 oz, or as needed), distilled water (1 pint)

Ointment of Zinc / Unguentum Zinci [4]

  • syn: unguentum zinci oxidi
  • oxide of zinc (80 grains), benzoated lard (1 oz),

Acetate of Zinc / Zinci Acetas[5]

  • carbonate of zinc (2 oz), acetic acid (5 fl oz), distilled water (6 fl oz),

Carbonate of Zinc / Zinci Carbonas[6]

  • sulphate of zinc (10 oz), carbonate of soda (10 ½ oz), boiling distilled water (as needed)

Chloride of Zinc / Zinci Chloridum[7]

  • Granulated Zinc (16 oz), hydrochloric acid (44 fl oz), solution of chlorine (as needed), carbonate of zinc (1/2 or as needed), distilled water (1 pint)
  • used in the preparations of: Liquor Zinci Chloridi

Oxide of Zinc / Zinci Oxidum [8]

  • Carbonate of Zinc (6 oz) (heated)
  • “A soft nearly white tasteless and inodourous powder, becoming pale-yellow when heated.”

Sulphate of Zinc / Zinci Sulphas[9]

  • granulated zinc (16 oz), sulphuric acid (12 fl oz), distilled water (4 pints), solution of chlorine (as needed), carbonate of zinc (1/2 oz, or as needed)

Valerianate of Zinc / Zinci Valerianas[10]

  • sulphate of zinc (5 ¾ oz), valerianate of soda (5 oz), distilled water (as needed)

Granulated Zinc / Zincum Granulatum[11] 376

  • zinc of commerce (1 lb) (heated)
  • used in the preparations of: Liquor Zinci Chloridi; Zinci Chloridum; Zinci Sulphas


Zinc Sulphate (made from zinc oxide and sulphuric acid)

Zinc Acetate (made from zinc and acidic acid)

Zinc Oxid (can be used by heating zinc Zn+O2=2ZnO)

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Zinc sulphate listed as an Astringent (remedies which check bleeding, or excessive secretions)[12], an Emetic (remedies with occasion vomiting)[13], and a Tonic (remedies which increase the tone and vihour of the body, producing their effects more slowly than stimulants)[14]

Sulphate of zinc is the preferred emetic of use when treating poisoning resulting from opium and its preparations. (197/176) It is also used in arsenic poisoning[15], and lead poisoning[16]

Chloride of zinc can be used in fumigations (to arrest contagion), and it was favoured by Sir William Burnett[17]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Zinc

  • Ointment of Zinc: used in treat ophthalmia (inflammation of the eye), relaxed ulcers, sore nipples, and ringworm (especially when it is on the scalp)[18]
  • Quassia: can be combined with sulphate of zinc and used to treat green sickness and other uterine disorders[19]
  • Tincture of Capsicum: sulphate of zinc included in a gargle used to relax sore throats[20]
  • Zinc, Acetate of : emetic, but used to make astringent lotions, injections, and collyriums (eye wash). Combined with alum it is used to treat haemorrhages in the lungs and nose (&c.).[21]
  • Zinc, Sulphate of: powderful emtic, not to be administered in ordinary cases. More commonly it is used in cases of poisoning, when the stomach needs to be quickly emptied. In smaller doeses it can act as an astringent, being employed in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery, and hooping-cough. As an injection it can be administered against gonorrhoea (after the inflammatory period), and gleet. It is also used as a collyrium (to treat ophthalmia) and combined with alum to stop haemorrhages when externally applied.[22]
  • Zinc, Valeriente of: tonic and antispasmodic, often given in cases of hysteria and neuralgia. Dr. Neligan used it to treat convulsions in children, and believed that it also had the ability to destroy worms.[23]

Diseases Treated with Zinc

General Diseases

  • Burns and Scalds flowers of zinc (zinc oxide) used in an ointment that is to be applied to the affected area if earlier liniments caused too much suppuration (pus forming).[24]
  • Bleeding from the Nose: a lint dossil can be dipped in a strong solution of either zinc acetate or sulphate and inserted into the nostril(s)[25]
  • Epilepsy: should the disease be a result of “weakness or nervous irritability,” zinc sulphate is one of the recommended tonics and stimulants to be given, as such it can be administered in a tonic/stimulant pill combined with a compound galbanum pill. Oxide of zinc can also be used in the formation of a pill when combined with extract of gentian.[26]
  • Vomiting of Blood: acetate of zinc is one of the recommended astringents and stimulants to be given[27]
  • Whites, or Fluor Albus: if discharge continues after intial injections and treatment, an injection of sulphate or acetate of zinc may be used. Sulphate of zinc is included in the example provided by Savory, combined with decoction of bark, and powdered alum.[28]

Infantile Diseases

  • Scald-Head: after washing the scalp, and ointment of zinc should be applied[29]

Medical Articles Containing Zinc

  • Ware’s Eye Lotion: acetate of zinc[30]

Prescriptions Containing Zinc


  • An Emetic Draught, in case of Poison being taken into the Stomach: sulphate of zinc[31]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 375
  2. GMCGB, 140
  3. GMCGB, 198
  4. GMCGB, 361
  5. GMCGB, 370
  6. GMCGB, 371
  7. GMCGB, 372
  8. GMCGB, 373
  9. GMCGB, 373
  10. GMCGB, 374
  11. GMCGB, 376
  12. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 391.
  13. Savory, 3932
  14. Savory, 395
  15. Savory, 177
  16. Savory, 178
  17. Savory, 182
  18. Savory, 111
  19. Savory, 122
  20. Savory, 156
  21. Savory, 172
  22. Savory, 172-73
  23. Savory, 173
  24. Savory, 210
  25. Savory, 211
  26. Savory, 230
  27. Savory, 260
  28. Savory, 264
  29. Savory, 279
  30. Savory, 295
  31. Savory, 329

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