This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Puerperal Fever. Dr. Brenan, of Dublin, has spoken in the strongest terms of the usefulness of this remedy in puerperal fever. He gave it in doses of one or two tablespoonfuls every three or four hours, and at the same time covered the abdomen with flannels saturated with the oil. There is no doubt that benefit may accrue from the external use of the remedy in the way mentioned; and, in the malignant forms of the disease, when the blood is impaired, and the inflammation partakes of the same depraved character, it is not impossible that the powerful revulsion towards the inner from the outer surface of the bowels may have proved useful. The recommendation of Dr. Brenan has not been without the support of other highly respectable practitioners; but the remedy has not been adopted by the profession generally; and it certainly appears to be contraindicated in all cases of genuine vigorous inflammation, in which it might be proper to employ the lancet. I cannot, however, speak of it from experience.
Chronic rheumatism and Gout. Oil of turpentine has considerable reputation in these affections, more especially the former, in which it is said to have sometimes proved very efficacious. It has been more particularly recommended in this disease, in the forms of lumbago and sciatica. The oil is undoubtedly a penetrating remedy, reaching the minutest capillaries, and apparently acting on them with considerable energy. It may thus prove alterative in some of those obstinate rheumatic cases, which have taken so deep a hold of the tissues, as to be incapable of being unseated by anything which cannot be brought to bear with considerable force immediately upon the molecules of the tissue affected. I have no faith whatever in the diaphoretic action of the oil, to which some have been disposed to ascribe, in part at least, its efficiency in rheumatism. The medicine has not only been used internally, but has also been applied in the form of a bath of the vapour, at a temperature of from 140° Fahr. to 160°, which is said to be well borne. In this case it is probable that the diaphoretic effect of the heat may add to the efficiency of the oil. (Arch. Gen., 4e ser., xxviii. 80.)*
Nervous Diseases. Cures are stated to have been effected by the oil of turpentine in neuralgia, chorea, epilepsy, and tetanus; and it is probable that, largely employed, it may sometimes cure these affections, when purely functional, by its strong influence upon the ultimate constituents of the tissues through the capillaries, and its revulsive action towards the alimentary canal; but I cannot recommend it on the ground of my own experience. A case of recovery from trismus nascentium, under its use, is reported by Prof. H. L. Byrd, of the Oglethorpe Medical College in Georgia. (Chariest. Med. Journ. and Rev., xii. 474).
Hemorrhages. Oil of turpentine is among our best haemostatics. Some have supposed that it operates in the hemorrhages by an astringent property. But I have not been able to discover that it has this property in the slightest degree. On the contrary, its tendency is to expand the capillaries of the part with which it is brought into contact.
* For a particular account of the origin, construction, application, and uses of these terebinthinate vapour-baths, the reader is referred to an article by Dr. M. Macario, in the numbers of the Archives Generates for April and May, 1859, pages 385 and 533. By this writer it is stated that cures are sometimes obtained in chronic gouty, rheumatic, neuralgic, and catarrhal affections, which have resisted all other remedies. He does not think the temperature should be higher than between 110° and 140° Fahr., which is sufficient for all the objects aimed at. The patient is placed wholly within the bath, the vapours of which, therefore, act as well through the respiratory organs as upon the surface of the body. When there is no great occasion for haste, it is sufficient to administer the bath every other day. Under the influence of the bath, the pulse generally becomes more frequent, sometimes beating 130 in the minute, while the respiration remains normal; the whole surface is reddened; and a profuse perspiration breaks forth, which, however, does not have the effect of weakening the patient. Very seldom is headache or other evidence of congestion of the brain experienced. As effects of the bathing, moreover, the appetite and thirst are increased, and digestion accelerated; the urine, though remaining about normal in quantity, acquires a strong violet odour; and occasionally, especially in nervous subjects, the nervous system is considerably disturbed, as shown by restlessness, irritability, and want of sleep. The skin is sometimes covered with a miliary eruption, and sometimes affected with furuncles in variable numbers and size. M. Macario considers the baths applicable not only to the affections mentioned, but also to chronic affections of debility, as scrofula, stiffness and contraction of the limbs, and palsies of a rheumatic character. They are contra-indicated in acute diseases generally, attended with phenomena of excitation. (Note to the second edition.).
But we do not know the precise condition of the minute vessels in hemorrhage; and it may well be, that the stimulant and alterative influence of the oil upon them may check the hemorrhagic tendency without diminishing their volume. The conditions which I have considered as prerequisite to the use of the oil, are the absence of general febrile excitement, and of active congestion in the part affected. Under these circumstances, it may be tried in any of the hemorrhages; but that in which, according to my own observation, it has proved most efficient, is the haemoptysis of consumptive patients, or of persons supposed to be consumptively inclined. In this affection, it has proved in my hands more effectual than any other remedy, or combination of remedies. I was first induced to employ it, from having noticed its great efficiency in a medical student more than thirty years ago, who had employed it in his own case, in a very severe attack. This student is now Dr. James L. Pierce, of Philadelphia. Since that time, I have used it very end fully, and sometimes when all other remedies had been without effect. Should evidences of active congestion be present, they should be removed by cups or leeches before the use of the oil; at least this is the method which I have generally followed.
Chronic Bronchitis. This affection, when attended with copious expectoration, is said to have been advantageously treated with the oil; as have other excessive mucous discharges.
Dr. D. S. Brandon, of Georgia, speaks favourably of its use in stomatitis materna, having found it very efficient in the dose of twelve drops three or four times a day. (Am. J. of Med. Sci., April, 1860, p. 576).
Affections of the Stomach and Bowels. In gouty spasm of the stomach, flatulent colic, excessive Flatulence without spasm, and a tympanitic stale of the abdomen, the oil is often beneficial through its direct stimulant influence. In tympanites, given both by the mouth, and in the form of enema, it is one of the most effectual remedies. It may be employed also in hiccough, and has been recommended, in combination with ether, as one of the best remedies in biliary calculi. But experience has not proved its efficiency in the latter affection; and it is difficult to imagine in what way it could prove serviceable, unless possibly sometimes by-relaxing the spasm attending the passage of these calculi through the ducts.
The external use of the oil will be treated of under the rubefacients; its employment in affections of the urinary passages, under that of diuretics; and its application as a vermifuge, under the anthelmintics.
The dose of the oil for the purpose of a general stimulant is five to twenty drops, repeated every half hour, hour, or two hours, in acute eases, and three or four times a day in chronic. But the dose may be much increased if thought advisable. Should it occasion strangury or bloody urine, it should be suspended. It may be administered dropped on sugar, or in the form of emulsion, made by suspending it in water by means of gum arabic and loaf sugar; each tablespoonful of the emulsion containing a dose of the oil. Laudanum may often be usefully added, either when the oil is disposed to purge, or when there is an indication for the checking of diarrhoea at the time of its administration.
Its use in the form of enema will be treated of under the head of the cathartics.
It has been recommended in the form of bath, for its constitutional impression, by Dr. T. Smith of Cheltenham, England, who employs in each bath from five to ten fluidounces of the oil, a fluidounce of the oil of rosemary, and two pounds of carbonate of soda.
Its external use in the form of a vapour-bath in chronic rheumatism has already been noticed. In scabies it is said to effect an immediate cure, if the patient sprinkle about a fluidounce of it, before going to bed, upon the sheets and the clothing in which he is to sleep. (Am. Journ. of Med Scl, N. S., xxxiv. 232).