The word turpentine, in its general acceptation, is used to signify an oleo-resinous juice, obtained from different trees belonging to the family of pines, and has been extended so as to embrace juices, of analogous character, from other plants, without very accurate discrimination. The reader will find a notice of these products in the U. S. Dispensatory. Only, two of them are officinally recognized in this country, and to these I propose to confine myself. The others have medical properties essentially the same, and may be used for the same purposes.

1. Turpentine

Terebinthina. U. S.- Thus Americamim. Br.- White Turpentine. - Common American Turpentine. - Common Frankincense.

The product thus designated is the juice chiefly of Pinus palustris, or the long-leaved pine of our Southern Atlantic States, from which it is obtained by making excavations into the trunk of the tree. From these the turpentine is removed as it collects, and is transferred to casks, where it concretes. Portions of it are said also to be procured from Pinus Taeda, the loblolly or old field pine of Virginia and North Carolina. Vast quantities of it are collected in North Carolina; and attention has recently been turned to this source of wealth also in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. As in the shops, it is in concrete, irregular, yellowish-white masses, of various consistence, sometimes, especially when recent, and in warm weather, so soft as to be almost diffluent, in other instances hard, brittle, and translucent, and of all intervening grades.

2. Canada Turpentine

Terebinthina Canadensis. U.S., Br.- Balsamum Canadense. Ed. - Canada Balsam. - Balsam of Fir.

This is obtained from Abies balsamea, the American silver fir, or balm of Oilead tree, a beautiful evergreen, growing abundantly in our northernmost States, and in the British Provinces, and cultivated as an ornament in gardens and pleasure grounds. The juice collects in small receptacles immediately beneath the bark, forming blisters on the surface, from which it is gathered by cutting into them, and receiving it in bottles as it flows out. It is of a thick, liquid consistence, resembling that of honey, beautifully transparent, colourless or yellowish, and very tenacious. By time and exposure it becomes thicker, and ultimately solid.

General Properties of the Turpentines. The turpentines may be liquid, solid, or of any intermediate degree of consistence, according to the length of exposure, and the temperature at the time; being more solid in proportion to their age, and harder in cold than hot weather. They have a peculiar not disagreeable odour, and a warm, pungent, bitterish, and peculiar taste; and the term terebinthinate is applied to these properties, when met with of analogous character in other substances. The smell and taste vary somewhat in the different varieties; but are characteristic in all. The turpentines, if solid, soften with heat, and become adhesive. At a higher heat they melt, and at a still higher take fire, and burn with a bright flame but much smoke. They yield scarcely anything to water; but are wholly dissolved by alcohol, ether, and the liquid oils; and thoroughly unite with the fats by fusion. They consist essentially of resinous matter and volatile oil, which are in somewhat different proportions in the different kinds. The proportion of the oil in our common turpentine, when recent, is stated at 17 per cent. in the Canada turpentine at 18.6 per cent. But it varies much in the same variety in different states. The solidification of the terebinthinate juices by time and exposure, is owing partly to the escape of the volatile oil, partly to its oxidation and conversion into resin. The oil is obtained separate by distillation, and is called oil of turpentine. it is to this that the turpentines owe their effects on the system. The remaining resinous matter is designated in our Pharmacopoeia as resin or resina, and is much used for preparing ointments, cerates, and plasters. The liquid turpentines may be consolidated by mixing them with a small proportion of magnesia, which forms a solid chemical compound with the resin, and absorbs the oil.

Effects on the System

The effects of turpentine on the system are essentially the same as those of the volatile oil, being, however, produced somewhat more slowly, and in somewhat less degree. They have similar local irritant properties, though much milder, and in like manner stimulate the circulation, excite the kidneys, impart odour to the urine, irritate not unfrequently the urinary passages, and operate everywhere as alteratives upon the tissues which they penetrate. They sometimes also act as laxatives; but the same quick purgative effect, and secondary influence on the brain are not obtained from them as from large doses of the oil; because it is almost impossible to administer them in equivalent quantities, and, even were they taken thus abundantly into the stomach, the oil is so involved with the resin that it could not exercise its full powers. Whenever the turpentines act on, the system, otherwise than as local irritants or excitants, it is through the absorption of their oil.

Turpentine is at present seldom used internally; but is occasionally preferred to the oil, when a slow effect, with little general stimulation, is required. The classes of disease in which it may be given, are, 1. chronic inflammation or debility of the urinary and genital apparatus, 2. chronic bronchial inflammation, 3. ulcerative affections of the bowels, such as chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, and 4. chronic rheumatic affections, especially sciatica and lumbago. it has also been given in piles. it is unnecessary to particularize each disease; as this will be done directly, in treating of the volatile oil in reference to its influence on the urinary organs, or has been done already, when the same medicine was considered as an arterial stimulant.

The dose of turpentine is from twenty grains to a drachm, three or four times a day. it may be given in pill, electuary, or emulsion. The pill is preferable when extreme slowness of action is desired, or it is wished to direct the medicine to the lower bowels especially. The electuary may be made by incorporating the turpentine with syrup or molasses, or, if in the liquid state, by rubbing it with powdered liquorice root. On the whole, emulsion is the best form. it may be prepared by rubbing the medicine first with the yolk of egg and sugar, and then with water. if gum arabic and sugar are used as the intermedium, it would be well to bring the turpentine first into a liquid state, by means of olive or almond oil, then to mix the solution with the gum previously formed into mucilage, and finally to incorporate them with the water. Half an ounce or an ounce, suspended by these means in water, constitutes a good enema in cases of flatulence, and of threadworm, especially when the oil itself is too irritating.

The following substances may be considered in connection with turpentine, as they are derived from it directly or indirectly.