Mercurius vivus is the Latin name for a homeopathic remedy made from elemental mercury. The English word quicksilver is a literal translation of the Latin. Although Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathic medicine, also formulated a soluble preparation of mercury that he called Mercurius solubilis, most contemporary American homeopaths regard them as essentially the same remedies and use them to treat the same symptom profiles.
According to Dr. von Boennighausen, Mercurius vivus is the remedy of choice for acute disorders of the skin and mucous membranes characterized by severe inflammation with pus formation and possibly areas of broken or raw skin. Disorders with this symptom profile include eye infections with discharges of pus; bacterial infections with pus behind the eardrum; sore throats with open patches of skin and pus formation; urinary tract infections; and such diseases of the skin as herpes and boils.
Other disorders that are treated with Mercurius vivus include backache, chickenpox, colds, diarrhea, influenza, indigestion, mouth ulcers, and toothache accompanied by heavy salivation.
The general symptoms that would suggest Mercurius vivus to a homeopath include heavy, foul-smelling perspiration; foul-smelling breath and body odor; copious, drooling salivation. Mercurius vivus patients are easily irritated by temperature or other environmental changes, and they are comfortable only within a narrow range of circumstances. They tend to tremble or shake, are generally weak, and easily tired by activity. These patients are slow to respond to treatment and infected parts of the body take a long time to heal and often appear severely diseased.
The mental and psychological symptoms of Mercurius vivus patients include restlessness, an agitated quality, and a tendency toward impatience and willfulness. The English word “mercurial” describes this general temperament. The patient may jabber or chatter rather than talking at a normal pace, and may act on impulse. These impulses sometimes lead to violence; Mercurius vivus patients may act out suicidal or murderous thoughts. Other personality traits of the Mercurius vivus patient are quarrelsomeness and dissatisfaction.
The most common form of Mercurius vivus preparation on the market is 30c or 30x tablets, although the remedy is also available in liquid form. The abbreviation 30c means that one part of mercury has been diluted with 99 parts of water or alcohol; this ratio is called a centesimal potency. This process of dilution, along with vigorous shaking of the remedy, has been repeated 30 times to achieve the desired potency.
A potency of 30x is a decimal potency. In a decimal potency, one part of the medicine is mixed with nine parts of alcohol or water; thus 30x means that this decimal dilution has been repeated 30 times. In homeopathic practice, the strength of the remedy is in inverse proportion to the amount of chemical or plant extract in the alcohol or water; thus a 30c preparation of Mercurius vivus is considered a much higher potency than a 30x preparation. The tablet form of a homeopathic remedy is made by pouring the diluted liquid over sugar pills.
Taken by itself, mercury is poisonous to humans and can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system even if the patient survives. Other symptoms of mercury poisoning include burning thirst, swelling and discoloration of the membranes lining the mouth, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and shock.
Hahnemann’s interest in accidental poisonings from medicines that were commonly used in the eighteenth century is one reason why mercury was one of the first substances that he studied. Since ancient times, mercury had been used for medicinal purposes to cleanse fever victims of toxins. In the modern world, however, mercury poisoning is more likely to result accidentally from breathing metallic vapors given off in certain industrial processes rather than from mercury-based medicines. Standard homeopathic preparations of Mercurius vivus are so dilute that they are highly unlikely to cause mercury poisoning even if the patient takes a sizable overdose.