This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics: An Introduction to the National Treatment of Disease", by John Mitchell Bruce. Also available from Amazon: The pharmacology and therapeutics of the materia medica.
The oil distilled in Britain from the unripe fruit of Juniperus communis.
Characters of the fruit.-The size of a large pea, of a blackish-purple colour, covered by a glaucous bloom; marked with a tri-radiate groove. Taste sweetish, terebinthinate; odour agreeable and balsamic.
Characters of the oil.-Colourless, or pale greenish-yellow, of a sweetish odour and warm aromatic taste.
Composition.-Juniper berries contain the officinal volatile oil, a quantity of grape sugar, resin, and colouring matter. The oil is a complex compound of terpenes and camphors.
Dose.-1 to 3 min.
Preparation. Spiritus Juniperi.-1 in 50. Dose, 30 to 60 min. Spiritus Juniperi is contained in Mistura Creasoti.
The physiological action of juniper naturally resembles closely that of turpentine, but its remote local stimulant action on the kidney is peculiarly marked, whilst this drug is neither disagreeable nor dangerously powerful like the other. Thus it acts as a stomachic, stimulant, and anti-spasmodic; is absorbed into the blood; is excreted in the urine, to which it imparts a violet odour; acts as a direct diuretic, increasing both solids and water; and in large doses causes strangury and renal inflammation.
Juniper is used almost entirely as a diuretic in dropsy not dependent on acute renal disease, i.e. in cardiac and hepatic dropsy, and in some cases of chronic Bright's disease. It is best given combined with saline diuretics, or in the form of " Hollands."
Sabinae Cacumina-Savin Tops.-The fresn and dried tops of Juniperus Sabina. Collected in spring, from plants cultivated in Britain.
Characters.-Twigs, densely covered with minute imbricated appressed leaves in four rows; odour strong, peculiar, and unpleasant; taste acrid, bitter, resinous, and disagreeable.
Composition.-Savin contains the officinal volatile oil, isomeric with turpentine, C10Hl6, colourless or pale yellow, limpid, with an unpleasant odour and bitter acrid taste.
Preparations. Dose, in powder.-4 to 10 gr.
Oleum Sabinae. Distilled in Britain from fresh savin.
Dose, 1 to 5 min.
Tinctura Sabinae. 1 of dried tops in 8. Dose, 15 to 30 min.
3. Unguentum Sahinae,-1 of fresh tops in 3f.
Externally.-The action of savin closely resembles that of oil of turpentine, but it is more irritant, causing vesication of the unbroken skin, and a profuse flow of pus from a wounded surface. It was formerly used to promote the discharge from blisters or issues, a practice now seldom resorted to. It rapidly dispels small venereal warts or condylomata.
Internally.-Savin is a powerful gastro-intestinal irritant, to be avoided, or only used with great caution.
Oil of savin is absorbed, carried through the organs, and excreted like oil of turpentine. It thus acts as a remote local irritant to the kidneys and mucous membranes, especially those of the genital part, causing hyperaemia of the ovaries and uterus, increased menstrual activity, and contraction of the pregnant uterus. It has been used as an emmenagogue, but requires the exercise of great care. More frequently it is given as an ecbolic for criminal purposes, and then often proves fatal as a gastro-intestinal irritant.