Turpentine is a compound of resin (or colophony) with a peculiar volatile fluid which is known as the oil or spirits of turpentine. The latter substance gives to the whole its peculiar terebinthinate odor. It is thus a peculiar oleo-resin, and is yielded as an exudation by most trees of the Order Coniferae, chief among which is the genus PINUS. The genus ABIES also yields terebinthinate oleo-resins, some of them in large quantities; and some kinds are obtained from the LARIX. Though each species yields its own peculiar varieties, one common series of characters mark them all. Of the trees which yield the great mass of the common turpentine of the world, two only need be mentioned, as follows:
PINUS PALUSTRIS, or RIGIDA; pitch pine, yellow pine. A tree from fifty to seventy feet high; with dark-green and stiff leaves from three to five inches long, in threes, flattish, from very short sheaths. Cones two to three inches long, cylindrical, often in clusters, the scales tipped with a short and stout recurved prickle, Common on sandy soils from Maine to the Carolinas.
PINUS TAEDA, lob-lolly pine. Tree from sixty to one hundred 46 feet high. Leaves in threes, eight to ten inches long, light green, with long sheaths. Cones four to five inches long, very smooth, blunt, the scales with a short incurved spine.
The oleo-resin (often called gum turpentine) is obtained by boring and scooping a hole into the lower part of the trunk, into which the half-fluid resinous material slowly oozes. When the cavity is filled, the exudation is taken out, and the secretion goes on—the process continuing from early Spring till late in the fall. The product is at first thin and clear, but it gradually becomes opaque, yellowish-white, stiff, and even brittle. Heat increases its softness, unless it has already become hard and dry. The smell is that of an aromatic turpentine, the taste bitterish and pungent, water scarcely acts upon it, alcohol and ether dissolve it readily, and it unites with the fixed oils. The volatile portion constitutes the oil of turpentine; and when this has been distilled off, the residuum is the common resin of commerce. These properties are common to all the gum turpentines; though the color of Venice turpentine (obtained from the Larix Europea. is greenish-yellow, but most of the article of this name is simply a solution of common resin in an excess of oil of turpentine. The oil (spirits) is a well-known colorless, volatile, pungent, and strongly odorous fluid.
Properties and Uses: The gum turpentine is a relaxant and stimulant, warming to the taste, and sometimes used in sluggish conditions of the uterus, vagina, and kidneys. From three to five grains are given in pill form, three times a day. The oil is a diffusive and exciting stimulant, arousing the stomach and circulation, strongly influencing the kidneys, and presently being absorbed so as to mark the exhalations of the lungs and skin with its peculiar odor. It also gives to the urine the odor of violets. Any considerable dose, or small doses continued for a number of days, may occasion burning of the stomach, scalding urine, strangury, irritation of the kidneys and bladder, painful looseness of the bowels, and even bloody urine. Sometimes it promotes perspiration and the catamenia. Used outwardly for any length of time, it occasions redness, followed by numbness and partial paralysis; and these effects have been known to continue for many weeks after the article had been discontinued. Sometimes it has given rise to decided disorder of the mind. The principal uses made of it, inwardly, are for worms, in doses of from five to ten drops each morning for young children. It may be dropped on sugar, or mixed with an emulsion of sweet- oil or castor-oil; and several of the most popular vermifuges consist of an ounce, each, of oils of turpentine and chenopodium to a pint of castor-oil. For catarrh of the bladder and lungs, and for gonorrhea, it has been used in doses of three drops to half a drachm, in elm mucilage, twice or thrice a day; As a diuretic it is powerful, but should never be used except in cases of extreme torpor. It is commended as an antispasmodic and laxative in colic, hysteria, tympanitis, and pin worms; for which purposes half a drachm or more is mixed with six ounces of a thick mucilage of starch, and given as an injection. Externally, it has long been used in stimulating liniments designed for rheumatism and other cases. Wonderful powers have been attributed to the agent in a large variety of maladies, and at different periods in the history of medicine it has been lauded as almost a panacea; but certainly the above array of ill effects from it, shows it to be a very suspicious remedy for either internal or external use.
PIX LIQUIDA, tar, is a blackish, viscid substance obtained by slowly burning the PINUS SYLVESTRIS, or Scotch pine, in piles, so covered as to prevent any open flame, as for charcoal. The resinous substances trickle downward, and are caught in a shallow iron pan at the bottom of the pile. They contain a portion of turpentine, along with acetic acid, empyreumatic acid or wood oil, and other substances. The action of tar is that of a harsh stimulant and irritant. One part shaken with four parts of water, and filtered after twenty-four hours, constitutes the tar-water of the Pharmacopoeias; which has received a fabulous and unwarranted reputation, in doses of half a fluid ounce three times a day, for catarrh, humid asthma, and even consumption.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com