(Probably from a wild pear, the fruit of which the cones of the fir resemble.) Fir, called also Elate Theleia.
The fir-tree is an evergreen, and coniferous, with numerous, narrow, stiff leaves, standing solitary, or unconnected at their bases with one another.
Six species afford materials for medical use. Linnaeus includes the abies in the genus of pinus.
1. Abies, Pinus sylvestris Lin. Sp. Pi. 1418.
2. Abies, the yew-leaved or silver fir. Pinus alba Lin. Sp. Pi. 1418.
These two species are natives of the northern regions; the second grows on dry mountainous places; the first in lower and moister grounds. Norway, Swit-zerland, and some parts of Germany, afford great quantities of them. They are indigenous in some parts of Britain; but are chiefly to be met with in plantations. The branches, and the fruit gathered in autumn, abound with resinous matter, and yield, on distillation, an essential oil, and a liquor impregnated with a peculiar acid, called acidum abietis; and, when added to water, is thought to communicate to it both the flavour and other properties of tar-water. This acid resembles the acetous, differing only by the addition of the turpentine which comes over with it; and the famous tar-water was not very different: it contained only a larger portion of the essential oil. This acid and the tar-water have produced good effects in some obstinate coughs, particularly in that chronic catarrh which is benefited by warm diuretics. Decoctions of the wood and tops promote perspiration and urine; are sometimes useful in rheumatic cases; and been considered as serviceable in healing internal ulcerations, particularly of the urinary passages. They are injurious if any fever attends; but may be useful where the circulation of the fluids is too languid.
3. Abies Canadensis, vel Virginiana, the Canada or Virginian fir; pinus Canadensis of Linnaeus, Sp. Pi. 1421.
All the parts of these trees contain a bitterish, pungent, essential oil, which by exposure to the air becomes a resin: turpentines are obtained by making incisions in their trunks at a proper season. For the different kinds of turpentines, see Terebinthina.
The common red fir affords the greatest quantity of turpentine; and from the turpentine is obtained white resin, see Resina; tar, see Pix liquida; pitch, see Pix nigra; and Burgundy pitch, see Pix Burgundica.
The silver fir produces the Strasburg turpentine; it is far more grateful than the common sort, and called liquid resin, to distinguish it from the dry resin, which resembles frankincense.
From the Canada fir is obtained a still finer and more grateful turpentine, called Bals. Canadense; it is discharged, during the summer heats, through incisions made in the trees, transparent, and almost colourless. It is a good substitute for the bals. capivi. See Capivi Balsamum
The balm of Gilead fir emits from its cones in large quantities a turpentine with a fragrance resembling the balm of Gilead. Spirit of wine extracts a resin both from the cones and the leaves of a similar quality. Sec Balsamum.
Rectified spirit of wine, digested on fir, extracts all its active parts, with some of its mucilage. The cones of all the sorts yield the most agreeable tincture.
Water dissolves a portion of the oil by the assistance of the gum combined with it. The wood and the cones are taken at the latter end of Autumn, for their oil; and in distillation with water a large quantity of essential oil arises. The oil drawn from the wood is nearly similar to the oil of turpentine. That obtained from the fresh cones is superior in subtility and fragrance to all the oils of turpentine usually met with. Neumann.
The tops and the cones of the fir-tree are moderately warm, promote perspiration, and increase the discharge by urine. Four ounces of the fresh tops are put to a gallon of diet-drink. Fermented with beer, they impart to it a very salutary warmth, highly useful in cutaneous complaints, scurvy, etc.
A spirit distilled from the young leaves is a suc-cedaneum for the aq; Hungarica.
The Ess. Abietis Pharmacop. August, is the balsam of the fir-tree, joined with scurvy-grass: the fir-cones, while young, tender, and of a red colour, are bruised and digested two days in four times their quantity of spirit of scurvy-grass, then the tincture is pressed out.
The tops and leaves of the silver fir are used in making Brunswick mum.