I was home one day, going through our cabinets looking for something to clean this cut that I got on the back of my leg, and I know that we have some really interesting stuff, including iodine, some other out of date antiseptics, and hydrogen peroxide. While looking for something interesting, I came across Mercurochrome. The bottle didn't really say what it was, only that it is an antiseptic.
Upon further inspection of this little one fl. oz. opaque bottle, I found a warning which states Frequent of prolonged use or application to large areas may cause serious mercury poisoning. Nifty! I wanted to know more, so I took a little tiny drop out, and placed it on my skin in a small line (Don't get me wrong, this wasn't out of stupidity, but out of sheer curiosity. Plus, it wasn't enough to do any harm.) Yes, this stuff will turn your skin red, kind of like how iodine will turn it yellow.
But, I still wanted to know more, so, I looked it up on yahoo, and came up with a dictionary listing of Mercurochrome, it said "a mercurial compound applied topically as an antiseptic"*
Two other interesting things about Mercurochrome is that, this stuff that we have in our cabinet was only $.79 plus tax (whenever it was bought, because, I really don’t know.), and it was made by the Medic corporation.
Full Text On Bottle:Medic, Mercurochrome, 2% Aqueous Merbromin Solution, Antiseptic, Mercurochrome is a licensed trademark of Becton Dickinson, 1 fl. Oz (30 ml). Directions: External antiseptic. Cleanse the injury and apply with applicator directly to the wound. Caution:In case of deep or puncture wounds or serious burns, or if redness, irritation, swelling, or pain persists or increases, or if infection occurs, discontinue use and consult physician. Frequent or prolonged use or application to large areas may cause mercury poisoning. Keep This And All Drugs Out Of Reach Of Children In case of accidental ingestion seek professional assistance or contact Poison Control Center immediately.
While I was writing this, I remembered some research I did for an English class, about Elizabethan health remedies, and I remembered that in England at that time, apothecaries were selling an ointment that contained mercury. They stole the idea from the Arabs who knew that small amounts of mercury is good for getting rid of certain skin irritations. The Arabs used it in 1/40th percent; more is not always better, the English apothecaries used it in 1/8th percent, killing some people with their remedies.
A little bit of history for you.
(* information taken from http://onlinedictionary.datasegment.com/word/Mercurochrome/. Also, no offence is meant when stating 'Arabs' I tried to find a different name, a most specific title for the people the English stole the medication from, for my paper. Unfortunately, the records were not kept well, and I doubt that the English at the time knew the difference anyway.)