Preparations: Burgundy Pitch Plaster
Related entries: Abies Canadensis.—Hemlock Spruce - Abies Nigra.—Black Spruce - Pix Canadensis.—Canada Pitch - Terebinthina (U. S. P.)—Turpentins - Resina (U. S. P.)—Resin - Pix Liquida (U. S. P.)—Tar
"The prepared, resinous exudation of Abies excelsa, Poiret"—(U.S. P.). (Abies excelsa, De Candolle; Pinus excelsa, Lamarck; Picea excelsa, Link; Pinus Picea, Du Roi; Pinus Abies, Linné.)
COMMON NAMES: Norway pine, Spruce fir, Norway spruce fir.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 261; Woodville, Med. Bot., 208.
Botanical Source.—This tree inhabits northern Germany, the Alps, Russia, Norway, and other northern parts of Europe, as well as of Asia, And also grows now in this country. It is a large tree, often having a diameter exceeding 4 feet, and attaining an altitude of 140 feet. The leaves are somewhat tetragonal, short, scattered, mucronate, dark-green, and glossy above. The male catkins are solitary, growing out of the axils, and purplish; the scales staminiferous at the apex. The female catkins are simple, purple, growing from the summit; the ovaries 2; the cones cylindrical, pendent, with oval, imbricated, slightly indented scales. The Polyporus officinalis, or Larch agaric, is a fungus nourished on this tree.
Though only the Abies excelsa, Poiret, is given as the official source of this drug, it is also prepared from the concretions formed upon Abies Picea (Pinus Picea, Linné; Pinus pectinata, De Candolle) (see below). The term Burgundy pitch is a misnomer, since no such substance has ever been produced in Burgundy. In France, resin is produced from Pinus maritima, Poiret (P. Pinaster, Aiton and Lambert). The bulk of true Burgundy pitch comes from Finland, and smaller quantities at one time came from the Black Forest in Germany, and from Vienna (see D. Hanbury, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1867, p. 547). The resin from which Burgundy pitch is prepared is collected by making longitudinal incisions into the bark of the trees. The exudate is called Abietis resina, Thus, or Frankincense (a term also applied to Olibanum), and forms concrete tears, consisting of resin and volatile oil similar to oil of turpentine. An exudate, formerly collected in Alsatia from the same tree, and known under the name of Strassburg turpentine, is now obtained on a small scale only (see Terebinthina). Burgundy pitch proper is prepared from the exudate by boiling it in water and straining it. In composition, it largely consists of abietic acid.
Description.—Burgundy pitch is officially described as being "hard, yet gradually taking the form of the vessel in which it is kept; brittle, with a shining, conchoidal fracture, opaque or translucent, reddish-brown or yellowish-brown, odor agreeably terebinthinate; taste aromatic, sweetish, not bitter. It is almost entirely soluble in glacial acetic acid, or in boiling alcohol, and partly soluble in cold alcohol"—(U.S. P.). Burgundy pitch softens by the warmth of the hand. Much of the article now found in commerce is a concoction. D. Hanbury (1867) believes it to be obtained by melting together common resin with palm oil or other fats, water being stirred in to produce an opaque appearance. The characteristic odor of true Burgundy pitch, and its nearly complete solubility in alcohol, and especially in glacial acetic acid, may aid in establishing some of its possible sophistications.
Action and Medical Uses.—Burgundy pitch is generally used externally for the purpose of producing a redness of the surface with a slight serous exhalation. Occasionally, it produces an eruption of pimples, sometimes minute blisters, and in some rare instances has been known to cause hardness, considerable suffering, and irritation, terminating in one or more ulcers. It has been principally employed as a counter-irritant in chronic diseases, especially of the lungs, stomach, intestines, etc., as well as in local rheumatic affections. It enters into the composition of several salves and plasters.
Related Species.—Abies Picea (Pinus pectinata, De Candolle; Abies pectinata, Lamarck; Pinus Abies, Du Roi; Abies alba, Miller; Abies excelsa, Link; Pinus Picea, Linné; Pinus taxifolia of French Codex), European silver fir, Silver pine. This tree grows in the mountains of Siberia, Germany, and Switzerland (L.). Branches horizontal; leaves copious, linear, either acute or emarginate, entire, spreading more or less perfectly in two rows, sometimes curved to one side; upper surface of a dark, shining, rather glaucous green; under glaucous white. Male flowers numerous, axillary, solitary, about as long as the leaves, yellow; their axis the length of the toothed involucre; anthers remarkable for their rounded, 2-lobed crest, crowned with a pair of divaricated horns. Female catkins lateral, erect, cylindrical, green; bracts, much narrower than the capillary scales, distinguished by a long, projecting, awl-shaped point, very conspicuous in the full-grown cones, which are also erect, 3 or 4 inches long, cylindrical, of a reddish-green, till they turn brown in drying (L.). According to Tingley, this species alone furnishes the true Burgundy pitch.
RETINOL.—This product, obtained in 1838, as resin oil or resinol, from Burgundy pitch, by destructive distillation, is a yellowish, oleaginous fluid, boiling above 280° C. (536° F.). It is not soluble in water, but is itself a solvent for many substances, such as numerous alkaloids, phosphorus, phenol, iodol, cocaine, aristol, salol, etc. It is a non-irritating antiseptic, and in 8-grain doses, in capsule, it has been used in gonorrhoea. Besides being a vehicle for the application of the substances named above, it has been injected (5 to 10 per cent solution) in cystitis, and used locally in vaginitis.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.