Balsam Spruce, Balsam of Gilead, American Silver Fir.
Description: Natural Order, Coniferae. Abies balsamifera of Micheaux; Pinus balsamea of Linnaeus; Picea of Loudon.
Genus ABIES: Staminate catkins more or less clustered toward the ends, of the branches; scales peltate; stamens short, often sessile. Fertile cones erect, growing laterally upon the branches; scales closely imbricated, thin at the edges, (they are thick in Pinus,) even, bracteolate, bearing two ovules on their inner side; bracts deciduous; cotyledons three to nine.
A. BALSAMEA: Cones erect, more or less scattered, two to three inches long, violet when young, brownish when matured; bracts obovate, short, slightly serrulate, mucronate and commonly appressed at the sides. Leaves scarcely an inch long, solitary, linear, grooved and bright-green above, ridged and whitish beneath, mostly growing ill two rows on the sides of the nearly horizontal branches. Bark smoothish, dotted with numerous small blisters containing a resinous balsam. This tree is a slender, compact evergreen, growing in moist soils and on cold hill-sides through the Northern States and Canada, seldom attaining a height of more than twenty-five feet, and presenting a pyramidal appearance. It blooms in May, and is often cultivated for its beauty. The balsam contained in the blisters under the bark, is the portion of this tree most commonly employed in medicine. It is known in commerce as Balsam Fir or Canada Balsam, and is obtained by puncturing the blisters and pressing out their contents into a spoon or other shallow vessel. When first obtained, it is a tenacious fluid, nearly transparent, with a delicate amber tint and agreeable aroma. On long exposure to the atmosphere, it parts with some of its volatile portions and becomes nearly solid and of a deeper tint. By admixture with magnesia, the volatile portions are absorbed and solidification takes place within a few hours. It is a resino- terebinthinate substance, softening under a moderate heat, becoming nearly solid when its turpentine is dissipated under a higher temperature, dissolving readily in turpentine and to a limited extent in cold alcohol, and burning readily with a heavy flame and a dense smoke.
Abies Fraseri yields a balsam similar to that furnished by the above tree; and the product of the two plants is not discriminated in commerce. This species prefers more genial latitudes than the balsamea, reaching from New York to the Carolinas. Its usual height is twenty feet; cones from one to two inches long; bracts wedge-shaped, long-acuminate and strongly reflexed; leaves smooth beneath, and nearly two inches long.
Properties and Uses:I. The balsam is stimulating and relaxing, chiefly influencing the kidneys and mucous membranes, acting rather slowly. Its relaxing power is greater in the fresh exudation than in that which has been long standing. It is somewhat nauseating in large doses, And some stomachs do not receive it at all. It is inappropriate to every acute case that is accompanied by irritation, sensitiveness of the mucous membranes, or febrile excitement. To the kidneys it is applicable in chronic cases where the urine is scanty and turbid, the back persistently weak and painful, and the kidneys free from excitement. Good results maybe obtained from its use in gonorrhea, after the acute symptoms have passed away; but it is better to employ it, in conjunction, with other suitable agents, in low gleet, in which difficulty it is a good adjunct to tonics and demulcents. Though seldom used in leucorrhea, it will be found useful in chronic cases, especially if it can be made acceptable to the stomach. It has been used to advantage in low and chronic pulmonary affections—as in old coughs, chronic bronchitis, and chronic pneumonia following acute inflammation. For internal use, it should always be combined with some demulcent, as mucilage of gum arabic; and it is more acceptable to the stomach when associated with some such tonic as golden seal or poplar, with an aromatic. The dose may range from two to ten grains, repeated at intervals of three to six hours. Larger doses have been recommended, but very few stomachs will receive them. This balsam is also employed as an ingredient in salves and plasters. In indolent ulcers, and in wounds and bruises that are not disposed to heal, it may be used as a salve in any suitable unguent; but should never be employed upon sensitive, granulating, or inflamed sores. As a plaster, it is generally combined in moderate proportions with some of the gum-resins, and applied over the lumbar region in chronic weakness of the kidneys, and upon the chest in chronic pleurisy.
II. The bark, when slit into shreds and simmered in a closely covered vessel, yields a mucilaginous and gently stimulating-relaxing decoction. This is employed by the people in sub-acute dysentery and diarrhea, in settled coughs, and in soreness of the kidneys and urethra. It is less nauseating and exciting than the balsam, yet should be administered with similar cautions as to the conditions of the case. Dose, half a cupful of a pretty strong infusion every second hour, or hour.
I Emulsion. This is the most agreeable form of giving the balsam, whether it is to be used alone, or combined with copaiba, or with a tonic. One drachm of the balsam is sufficient in four ounces of a compound emulsion. (See Emulsions.)
II. Pills. The solidified balsam may be made into a pill-mass by mixing with the powder of elm, or of gum arabic. In very degenerate cases of leucorrhea, pills may be made of the common balsam and pulverized myrrh, with golden seal in excess. When used in suitable cases, such pills are excellent aids to the other medication.
III. Pectoral Drops. Balsam Fir, half an ounce; honey, two ounces; diluted alcohol, one pint. Macerate a week, and add vinegar syrup of lobelia, two ounces; essence of anise, six drachms. Used for asthma, and chronic coughs with debility and pain in the chest; contra-indicated in sensitive or inflamed respiratory organs. Dose, half to a whole teaspoonful every four hours.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com