OxyFile #124

Source: JAMA, March 4, 1988, Vol 259, No. 9

JAMA 100 Years Ago

March 3, 1888

Peroxide of Hydrogen as a Remedial Agent

By I.N. Love M.D.

...The commercial peroxide of hydrogen is a 3 per cent, aqueous 
solution and is prepared on a large scale for the bleaching of animal 
products such as feathers, hair, silk, bone, etc...From its very 
nature this agent should be a powerful antiseptic and a destroyer of 
microbes; anything which accomplishes oxidation as rapidly, if it can 
be applied safely, must be an excellent application to purulent 
surfaces for its cleansing effect.  It has been administered 
internally for diabetes, but without success.  Its recommendation for 
some forms of atonic dyspepsia, would seem to be reasonable, since we 
know that condition to be frequently due to a catarrh of the gastric 
mucus surface accompanied by excessive secretion and fermentation...

The clinical application of a remedy is the best test of its value.  
As a contribution to the fund of knowledge upon this subject, I 
herewith present the following cases:

Scarlet Fever and Diphtheria.--R.H., aged 4 years, an unusually 
intelligent and interesting boy, developed scarlet fever Dec. 22, 
1887.  A pronounced case, temperature vibrating for several days from 
102 to 104 degrees, throat quite sore, some disposition to ulceration 
upon both tonsils.  Within a week symptoms much modified....At this 
time diphtheria became a complication, involving the pharynx and the 
nasal passages.  The secretions from all the mucus surfaces were very 
profuse and purulent in character, and suffocation at times seemed 
imminent from its accumulation, and the odor was extremely offensive 
to the patient as well as the attendants.  A well organized fibrinous 
exudation appeared over the surface of the tonsils well forward to the 
palate, and upward to the posterior nares.  The submaxilary and 
sublingual glands were much enlarged and engorged.  Wherever a mucus 
surface was visible, if not covered with diphtheria membrane, it was 
violently inflamed nearly to the point of ulceration....

Having been using the peroxide of hydrogen in various strengths for 
some months as a purifying and stimulating wash for purulent ulcers, 
sinuses, and fistulae, as well as diphtheria, I concluded to use it as 
an application in this case.  Diluting it with one part to two of 
water for application to the nasal passages by means of a syringe, and 
using it in its purity by means of probang and absorbent cotton to the 
pharynx.  I soon had the satisfaction of seeing the pus, and 
accumulated mucus cleaned out from all the surfaces as if by magic.  
The child was a bright little hero, and, though semi delirious, he 
helped materially in its application, and also in the removal of the 
oxidized purulent matter.  The nasal passages, front and back, were 
soon cleared out, the fauces as well were kept in a comparatively 
clean condition.  A good opportunity was now presented for applying 
the solution in its purity to the membrane direct, and the 
disintegration of the same was accomplished after repeated application 
in a very decided manner.  Wherever the solution came in contact with 
organic matter, a marked effervescence and bubbling ensued, and a 
breaking down of the accumulation or exudation and throwing off of the 
same occurred.  The beneficial effect of the application was apparent, 
all the distressing symptoms were much abated, and within three or 
four days they had passed away...

Cancer of the Womb.--In this affection I have had great satisfaction 
in using the peroxide in its purity as a cleanser, deodorizer, and 
stimulator of healing....One who has never observed the horrible 
stench in the room of a neglected cancer of the womb can have no 
conception of the value of the drug in this connection.  Dr. Joseph 
Grindon, a dermatologist of St. Louis, informs me that he has used the 
agent to remove pigment spots from the skin.  This is the main remedy 
furnished by dealers to weak-minded women for blonding the hair.

It is needless for me to continue to cite cases and conditions where 
the peroxide of hydrogen will prove of value.  I think it worthy of 
trial in gonorrhoea...

(JAMA 1888;10:262-265)

Edited by Elizabeth Knoll, PhD, Assistant to the Editor, and Micaela 
Sullivan-Fowler, Research Associate, AMA Division of Library and 
Information Management.