Description: The natural order and generic characters are the same as in Abies balsamea. A. EXCELSA: Leaves copiously scattered around the branches, somewhat imbricated, less than an inch long, slightly four-cornered, smooth, curved, shining on the upper surface. Male catkins ovate, cylindrical, terminal, erect, on short foot-stalks, tawny-red, with numerous spreading bracteas; anthers round, yellow, with a crimson crest. Female catkins sessile, oblong, erect, rich crimson. Strobiles pendulous, solitary, terminal, cylindrical, purple, four to six inches long; scales numerous, rhomboidal, waved at the edges, notched at the point, imbricated. Seeds two, small, oval, with two thin elliptical wings. An inhabitant of Norway and Northern Asia; now under cultivation in this country, where it thrives. A noble tree of one hundred and fifty feet, or more; with long, sweeping branches and a pyramidal appearance.
A series of small concrete tears is found on the bark of this fir, and these constitute the Frankincense of commerce. (The ancient frankincense was obtained from the Juniperus lycia, and was also called olibanum. ) These tears are brittle, brownish or amber-yellow, soften at a moderate temperature, and burn with a pleasant and stimulating aroma. By making incisions into the wood, a soft turpentine exudes; and this congeals after a little time, when it is gathered, and purified by being melted in hot water, and strained through an open cloth. This is the Burgundy Pitch of commerce, and is manufactured largely in Saxony. It is hard, even to brittleness; yellowish, opake, sweetish, and with a peculiar balsamic odor; and becomes soft at a moderate heat. The commercial article is commonly adulterated by mixing pitch and turpentine with it, and then throwing the mass into hot water.
Properties and Uses: Frankincense and Burgundy Pitch are excitants, but are not used internally. Applied to the skin, the pitch softens and becomes adhesive, and will excite redness and tenderness, and lead to blisters and small ulcers. These articles are usually mixed with the gum hemlock, beeswax, sweet oil, and similar substances, and formed into plasters, which are used to provoke counter-irritation over parts where there is deep-seated pain. There can be but little spoken in favor of them, and it is not wise to attempt to cover their character by the virtues of the good company they are generally thrown into. There is no doubt we possess far more efficient and innocent excitants.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Strengthening Plaster. Melt together three pounds of resin, and four ounces each of beeswax and Burgundy pitch. When nearly cool, add an ounce of olive oil, oil of sassafras, and oil of hemlock. Spread into plasters while still warm; or work into rolls under cold water, envelop each roll with tin-foil, and spread upon muslin or leather when wanted. This illustrates the formula for most of the common strengthening plasters, except that the oils are seldom used. My own preference would be, to replace the pitch with one-half the quantity of the hemlock resin. A strongly stimulating character can be given to the mass by the addition of two drachms' of capsicum in powder. A. F. Elliott, M. D., of Minneapolis, says that the Burgundy pitch, softened with alcohol and spread upon leather, makes a plaster that gives early and effectual relief in ligamentous forms of rheumatism.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com