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Dog's Mercury has a disagreeable odour and is extremely acrid, being poisonous to animals in the fresh state. It has been said, however, that heat destroys its harmfulness, and that it is innocuous in hay. Its chemical constituents have not been ascertained.
Dog's Mercury has proved fatal to sheep, and Annual Mercury to human beings who had made soup from it.
Traditional and historic uses of the substance.
Hippocrates commended this herb for women's diseases, used externally, as did also Culpepper, who says it is good for sore and watering eyes and deafness and pains in the ears. He advises the use of it, also, as a decoction, 'made with water and a cock chicken,' for hot fits of ague. It has been employed for jaundice and as a purgative.
The juice of the whole plant, freshly collected when in flower, mixed with sugar or with vinegar, is recommended externally for warts, and for inflammatory and discharging sores, and also, applied as a poultice, to swellings and to cleanse old sores.
The juice has also been used as a nasal douche for catarrh.
When steeped in water, the leaves and stems of the plant give out a fine blue colour, resembling indigo. This colouring matter is turned red by acids and destroyed by alkalis, but is otherwise permanent, and might prove valuable as a dye, if any means of fixing the colour could be devised. The stems are of a bright metallic blue, like indigo, and those that run into the ground have the most colouring matter.