Origin

This is the product of at least two different species of Abies, the Abies excelsa or Norway spruce, and Abies picea or European silver fir; both lofty and beautiful trees, growing in the middle and northern regions of Europe. it is obtained by removing portions of the bark, and collecting the juice which exudes and concretes on the wounded surface. This is then melted with water and strained. Much, however, of what is sold for Burgundy pitch is a purely factitious substance. it often contains impurities as imported, from which it may be freed by melting it in hot water and straining.

Properties

Burgundy pitch is hard, brittle, opaque, of a brownish-yellow colour, and a feeble odour and taste, resembling those of turpentine. it is readily fused by heat, and has the property, which gives it character as a plaster, of softening and becoming adhesive at the temperature of the surface. it contains resin, water, and a little volatile oil, and depends, probably, for its rubefacient power, mainly upon the last-mentioned ingredient.

Medical Effects and Uses

Burgundy pitch is in general gently irritant,

* When oil of turpentine is exposed, in a partly filled bottle, to the direct rays of the sun, it ozonizes a portion of the oxygen of the air above it, and itself undergoes changes, which probably alter somewhat its physiological action. Some oil treated in this way is said to have acquired a smell like that of mint, and when given internally to lower animals, was found to produce powerfully irritant effects. [Med. Times and Gaz., April, 1861, p. 387.) Until further investigation shall have proved the harmlessness of the oil thus changed, it would be advisable to avoid the u?e of it in the ordinary modes and doses. Possibly the exceedingly violent action which it has occasionally evinced, and which has been ascribed to idiosyncrasy on the part of the patient, might sometimes have been traced to the use of ozonized oil, had a knowledge existed at the time of this relation of the oil. {Note to the third edition.) producing, when spread on leather and applied to the skin, a feeling of warmth, tingling, and itching, with some increased secretion, and a very slight inflammation. On some persons, however, like oil of turpentine, it acts as a violent irritant. A person consulted me for excessive swelling and redness of the scrotum, which was covered with eczematous vesicles. Upon inquiry, I learned that he had shortly before been scraping an old Burgundy pitch plaster, which had on a former occasion been applied to his leg, and that the plaster at that time had produced an effect on the leg similar to that of which he was now complaining on his scrotum. It appeared that the present complaint originated in his having applied his hands, covered with the powder from the scraped plaster, to the seat of the affection.

Melted and spread on leather, in the form of plaster, this product is much used, as a mild rubefacient, in rheumatic affections of the muscles and joints, moderate cases of spinal irritation, and internal chronic inflammations, as catarrh, pneumonia, pleurisy, hepatitis, etc. It may be worn a long time, and, operating very gradually, is safe in lumbago, sciatica, and pleurodynia, when more active rubefacients might endanger a transfer to internal parts.

Though capable of being thus used unmixed, the properties of Burgundy pitch as a plaster may be improved by adding one-twelfth of its weight of wax. In this combination, it forms the Plaster of Burgundy Pitch (Emplastrum Picis Burgundicae) of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. The two ingredients are melted together, strained, and stirred constantly while cooling. This admixture gives additional consistence to the pitch at the temperature of the body, and obviates the tendency to break in cold weather.