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Magnesium sulphate is popularly known as Epsom salt, from its having been at one time obtained from the mineral water of Epsom. It is contained in sea water and in salt deposits, and the present sources of supply are either this natural salt, after purification, or the salt prepared by the action of sulphuric acid on native rnagnesium carbonates. It occurs as small, colorless crystals which have a bitter taste and are readily soluble in water.
Epsom salt acts as a hydragogue cathartic, that is to say, it produces profuse watery motions of the bowels. It is a useful drug, therefore, in dropsy, as by carrying off a large amount of water by the bowel there is a corresponding depletion of the waterlogged tissue. Ordinarily, when the intention is simply to open the bowels, the dose is taken in about a third of a glass of water, preferably warm. This should be taken after rising in the morning. To prevent griping Epsom salt is sometimes combined with aromatics, as in the official compound senna mixture, commonly called black draught, and in the unofficial "white mixtnre." In place of the ordinary salt the effervescent Epsom salt may be taken. The doses of Epsom salt are: For a single dose, 120 to 240 grains; for repeated doses, 30 to 90 grains. The doses of the effervescent salt are twice those quantities.
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