This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol2", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Savine consists of the tops of Juniperus Sabina, an evergreen shrub, from three to fifteen feet high, indigenous in the South of Europe, and, in the character of its foliage, bearing a close resemblance to our common red cedar, or Juniperus Virginiana, the leaves of which are often fraudulently substituted for it.
The terminal branches or tops of the Savine plant are closely invested with very small leaves, which are smooth, pointed, dark-green, opposite, and so arranged as to form four rows. They have a heavy, peculiar, rather disagreeable odour, and a bitter, warm, and acrid taste. Water and alcohol extract their virtues, but the latter in much the larger proportion. They owe their activity to a volatile oil, which is separated by distillation, and is frequently used instead of the tops themselves.
Savine is an energetic local irritant, with the property of stimulating the system generally, and especially the uterus. Of its local effects I shall treat hereafter. Taken in moderate and repeated doses, so as not to irritate the stomach, it excites the circulation, increases the temperature of the surface, and appears more or less to stimulate most of the secretions, at least those of the mucous membranes, skin, kidneys, and liver; though none in a very marked degree. The most decided local tendency is to the uterus. That it has emmenagogue powers is the united opinion of almost all who have given it a fair trial. Though it was not unknown as a medicine to the ancients and earlier moderns, the credit appears to be due to Dr. Home, of Edinburgh, of having satisfactorily determined its properties as a menstrual stimulant. Dr. Cullen says of it, that it has shown a more powerful determination to the uterus than any other plant he had employed. in its higher action, it is accused of producing vomiting, severe abdominal pains, irritation of the rectum with hemorrhoids, general fever, spitting of blood, uterine irritation, and, in the pregnant state, abortion, with dangerous hemorrhage.
In poisonous doses, it gives rise to inflammation of the stomach and bowels, and violent constitutional disturbance, which has repeatedly terminated in death. The lowest dose capable of causing fatal effects does not seem to have been ascertained. Orfila killed two dogs with Savine, to one of which he gave four, and to the other six drachms of the powdered leaves. From its power of provoking abortion, which it appears to do, not by a specific influence over the contractile property of the uterus, but by excessive irritation and inflammation of the organ, it has frequently been given or taken with criminal intention, and repeatedly with fatal consequences; and it should be generally known, that Savine can never be used to produce abortion, with any chance of success, without the hazard of causing death by gastro-intestinal and uterine inflammation, and violent flooding. in a large proportion of the fatal cases, moreover, death has resulted without the occurrence of abortion.
Savine produces its effects on the stomach and bowels probably by contact with the mucous membrane. The effects on the system generally, and upon the uterus, depend on the absorption of the volatile oil.
Savine is one of the most effective emmena-gogues, when exhibited in depressed states of the uterus, unattended with general excitement. in the opposite condition of uterine excitement and general fever, it is strongly contraindicated. it has also been given with other objects.
Notwithstanding its emmenagogue properties, it has been employed, with asserted advantage, in uterine hemorrhage; and, in cases of this kind, depending on a relaxed and debilitated state of the uterine vessels, it might be expected to prove useful.
Its pervading stimulation renders it beneficial in chronic and obstinate cases of rheumatism, in which it appears to act, like the turpentines, by changing the condition of the ultimate tissue in which the disease is seated.
Hufeland extols Savine as extraordinarily efficacious in chronic gout. He has succeeded with it after failure with the most powerful remedies.
It is also considered anthelmintic, and enters into certain popular vermifuge remedies.
The dose of the powder is from five to fifteen grains, three or four times a day. it may also be given in infusion, made in the proportion of half an ounce to a pint of boiling water, and administered in the dose of a fluidounce.
The Oil of Savine (Oleum Sabine, U.S., Br.) is officinal. it is colourless or yellowish, has strongly the odour and taste of the leaves, and is lighter than water. The dose is from one to five drops.