This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Turpentines: the native balsams or resinous juices of certain trees. Four kinds arc distinguished by medical writers.
1. Terebinthina chia Pharm. Lond. Chio or Cyprus turpentine: generally about the consistence of thick honey, very tenacious, clear and almost transparent, of a white colour with a call of yellow and frequently of blue, of a warm pungent bitterish taste, and a fragrant smell more agreeable than that of any of the other turpentines. It is the produce of the common terebinth (terebinthus vulgaris C. B. Pifiachia terebinthus Linn.), an evergreen bacci-ferous tree or shrub, growing spontaneously in the eastern countries and in some of the southern parts of Europe. The turpentine brought to us is extracted in the islands whose name it bears, by wounding the trunk and branches a little after the buds have come forth: the juice issues thin and clear as water, and by degrees thickens into the consistence in which we meet with it. A like juice, exuding from this tree in the east, infpiflfated by a slow fire, is said by Kaempfer to be used as a masticatory by the Turkish women, for preserving the teeth, sweet-ening the breath, and promoting appetite.
2. Terebinthina veneta Pharm. Edinb. Venice turpentine: usually thinner than any of the other sorts, of a clear whitish or pale yellowish colour, a hot pungent bitterish disagreeable taste, and a strong smell, without any thing of the fine aromatic flavour of the Chian kind. The true Venice turpentine is said to be obtained from the larch (larix C. B. Pinus larix Linn.), a coniferous tree, with small cones, and short leaves standing in tufts, which fall off in the winter, growing in great abundance on the Alps and Pyreneans, and not uncommon in the English gardens. Though this kind of turpentine bears the name of Venice, it is not the produce of the Venetian territories: it is brought from some parts of Germany, and one greatly resembling it, as is said, from New England. In the shops this turpentine is often supplied by a composition of rofln and the distilled oil of common turpentine.
3. Terebinthina argentoratensis. Straf-burg turpentine: generally of a middle consistence between the two foregoing, more tran-sparent and less tenacious than either, in colour yellowish brown, in smell more agreeable than any of the other turpentines, except the Chian, in taste the bitterish yet lean: acrid. This juice is extracted, in different parts of Germany, from the silver and red fir, by cutting out, suc-cessively, narrow drips of the bark, from as high, as a man can reach to within two feet of the ground. In some places, a resinous juice is collected from certain knots under the bark: this, called lacryma abiegna and oleum abietinum, is accounted superiour to the turpentine. Neither this turpentine, nor any thing under its name, is at present common in the shops.
4. Terebinthina vulgaris Pharm. Lond. Common turpentine: about the consistence of honey, of an opake brownish white colour, the coarfest, heaviest:, in smell and taste the most disagreeable, of all the kinds of turpentine. It is obtained from the wild pine (pinus silvestris C. B. & Linn.), a low coniferous tree, with the leaves longer than those of the firs and issuing two together from one tubercle, growing wild in the different parts of Europe. This tree is extremely resinous, insomuch that, if not evacuated of its juice, it often swells and bursts. The juice, as it issues from the tree, is received in trenches made in the earth, and afterwards freed from its grosser impurities by colature through wicker baskets. The cones of the tree appear to contain a resinous matter, of a more grateful kind than that of the trunk: distilled while fresh, they are said to yield a fine essential oil greatly superiour to that of the turpentines.
Carpathicum oleum Ger-manis.
All these juices dissolve totally in rectified spirit, but give out little to watery menstrua: they become miscible with water, into a milky liquor, by the mediation of the yolk or white of an egg, and more elegantly by mucilages. Distilled with water, they yield a notable quantity of a subtile penetrating essential oil† vulgarly called spirit; a yellow‡ or blackish resin remaining in the still: this is the common ro-sin of the shops. It is supposed that the officinal Burgundy pitch ||, which is brought from Saxony, is a preparation of the same kind, only less divested of the oil, made by boiling the common turpentine till it acquires a due consistence. The essential oil, redistilled by itself in a retort, with a very gentle heat, becomes more subtile, and in this state is called ethereal, or rectified §; a thick matter remaining behind, called balsam of turpentine. A like balsam is obtained also by distilling, with a stronger fire, the common resin; from which there arises, first a thin yellow oil, and afterwards the thicker dark-reddish balsam, a blackish resin remaining in the retort.
All the turpentines are hot stimulating corroborants and detergents. They are given, where inflammatory symptoms do not forbid their use, from half a scruple to half a dram and upwards, for cleansing the urinary passages and internal ulcerations in general, and in laxities of the seminal and uterine vessels. They seem to act in a peculiar manner on the urinary organs, impregnating the water with a violet smell, even when applied externally, particularly the Venice sort. This last is accounted the most powerful as a diuretic and detergent, and the Chio and Strasburgh as corroborants: they all loosen the belly, and Venice most; and on this account they are supposed by Riverius and others to be less hurtful than such irritating diuretics, as are not accompanied with that advantage. Terebinthinate glysters, in obstinate cos-tiveness, are said to be much preferable to saline, as being more certain and durable (a). The common turpentine, as being the most offensive, is rarely given internally: its principal use is in some external applications, among the farriers, and for the distillation of the oil*
† Ol. terebinth. Ph.
Lond. & Ed.
‡Resina flava Ph. Lond.
- alba Ph. Ed.
|| Pix Bur-gundica Ph. Lond. & Ed.
§ Ol. terebinth. rectfic. Pb. Lond.
† Resina nigra feu colophonia.
The oil is a most potent Simulating detergent diuretic. It is sometimes given, in doses of a few drops, in rheumatisms and fixt pains of the joints; and some have ventured on much larger quantities. Cheyne recommends, as a perfect cure for sciaticas, though of many years (landing, from one to four drams of the ethereal oil, to be taken with thrice its quantity of honey, in a morning failing, with large draughts of sack whey after it, and an opiate at bed-time: this medicine is to be repeated, with the inter million of a day now and then, if daily repetitions cannot be borne, for four or five days, or eight at further!:(b). It appears, however, highly imprudent, to venture on such large doses at once of a medicine so very hot and Simulating. Boerhaave, after recounting, not without some exaggeration, its styptic, anodyne, healing, antiseptic, and difcutient virtues when applied hot externally, and its aperient, warming, sudorific and diuretic qualities when taken internally, adds, that it must be used with great caution; that when taken too freely, it affects the head, excites heat and pain therein, and, violently urging a diabetes, brings on a flux of the semen and of the liquor of the prostates; and that in venereal runnings, in which it has by some been commended, it tends to inflame the parts and increase the disorder.
(a) Cullen, Mat. Med. (b) Essay on the gout, edit. 10. § lxxi. p. 119.
The balsam and the infpifTated resins are used chiefly externally: the balsam is less pungent than the oil, and the resins much less so than the turpentines in substance. The common yellow resin, in taste considerably bitter, is sometimes given as an internal corroborant, in preference to the turpentines themselves, as being diverted of the stimulating oil.