This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
The savin, Juniperus Sabina, Linne (N.O. Coniferoe), is a small evergreen shrub indigenous to the mountains of southern Europe, especially the southern Austrian and Swiss Alps, and frequently cultivated in Britain. It was probably introduced by the Romans, to whom the drug was well known.
The young shoots are collected in the spring from plants grown in this country; they are used fresh for the preparation of the ointment and for the distillation of the volatile oil, or dried for making the tincture.
The young twigs of the savin are densely covered with minute, thick, imbricated, opposite leaves, which are appressed and frequently adnate to the stem for a considerable portion of their length; they are sessile, rhomboidal in shape, and bluntly pointed On the dorsal surface of each leaf a large oval depression is visible, corresponding to a large gland in the mesophyll of the leaf. Occasionally the small drooping baccate fruits may be found.
The lower leaves (and sometimes all) are more distant, linear, subulate, and more or less spreading.
The drug has a strong, characteristic odour and a bitter, acrid, unpleasant taste.
The student should observe
(a) The rhomboidal, appressed, bluntly pointed leaves,
(b) The oil-glands on their dorsal surfaces,
(c) The very characteristic odour.
The volatile oil (sp. gr. 0.910 to 0.930; O.R. + 40° to + 60°) consists chiefly of the alcohol sabinol and its acetic ester; it also contains cadinene, pinene, and probably other terpenes.
Oil of savin is a powerful irritant, and is used externally to promote discharge from blisters; internally it acts as an emmenagogue, and is often used to procure abortion, frequently with fatal effect.
The tops of J. phoenicea, Linne, have frequently been substituted in France for those of J. Sabina. They may be distinguished by the spiral arrangement of the leaves which also contain large sclerenchymatous cells not found in J. Sabina. The volatile oil which has a lower optical rotation (+ 4°), and contains less sabinol has been found in English commerce.
Fig. 111. - Savin. A, natural size; B, magnified. (Moeller).