Sex. Syst. Dioecia, Monadelphia.
(Cacumen recens et exsiccatum. Oleum e cacumine destillatum, L.—Tops, E.)
[Sabina, U. S.]
History.—This is the βραθυ of Dioscorides, [Lib. i. cap. 104.] the salina of Pliny. [Hist. Nat. lib. xxiv. cap. 61, ed. Valp.] Each of these writers notices both the cypress-leaved and the tamarisk-leaved varieties of savin.
Botany. Gen. Char.—Vide Juniperus communis.
A small bushy shrub. Branches closely invested by the very small glandular leaves. Galbulus round, purple, somewhat smaller than that of Juniperus communis.
Loudon [Arboretum, vol. iv. p. 2499.] mentions five varieties. Of these the most interesting are the two following:—
α. J. S. cupressifolia, Aiton.—The Cypress-leaved Savin. La Sabine mâle. Leaves acute, more spreading, three lines long.
β. J. S. tamariscifolia, Aiton.—The Tamarisk-leaved or berry-bearing Savin. La Sabin femelle. Leaves shorter, almost appressed and obtuse.
Another variety, J. S. foliis variegatis, has variegated leaves. A fourth, J. S. prostrata, is a low trailing plant. The fifth, J. S. alpina, is procumbent, and more slender than the fourth.
Hab.—Midland and southern parts of Europe, Asiatic Russia. Cultivated in gardens in this country. Flowers in April.
Juniperus Virginiana, Linn., the Red Cedar (the wood of which is used for black-lead pencils) is used in the United Slates as a substitute for savin.
Description.—The officinal parts of the plant are the tops (cacumina, summitates), which consist of the young branches with their attached leaves. They have, in the fresh state (cacumina recentia), a strong, peculiar, heavy odour, especially when rubbed; and a nauseous, resinous, bitter taste. The dried tops (cacumina exsiccata) are yellowish green, and less odorous than the fresh ones.
Composition.—Some experiments on the composition of savin were made by Berlisky. [Tromsdorff's Journ. viii. 1, 94.] In 1837, an analysis of this plant was made by a young chemist of the name of Gardes. [Journ. de Chim. Méd. t. iii. p. 331, 2de Sér.] The constituents are volatile oil, resin, gallic acid, chlorophylle, extractive, lignin, and cakareous salts.
Oil of Savin (see p. 311).
Chemical Characteristics.—An aqueous infusion of savin is yellowish, has the odour and bitter taste of the herb, and forms a soluble green compound (gallate? of iron) on the addition of sesquichloride of iron, but is unchanged by a solution of gelatin. Oxalate of ammonia causes, in the infusion, a white precipitate (oxalate of lime). Alcohol acquires a green colour when digested with the tops: on the addition of water to the alcoholic tincture some resin is separated. By distillation with water, both the fresh and dried tops (but especially the first) yield volatile oil.
Detection.—Savin is sometimes employed for criminal purposes, and, therefore, occasionally becomes the subject of medico-legal inquiries. Powdered savin in the stomach and bowels might, on account of its green colour, be mistaken for bile; but, when mixed with distilled water, it entirely subsides; and, provided no bile be intermixed, the supernatant liquor will be devoid of a green colour. The powder, when dry, may be detected to be that of savin by the peculiar odour of this herb. The odorous principle (volatile oil) might, if the quantity of powder be sufficient, be separated by submitting this to distillation with water. Moreover, savin powder yields a green colour to alcohol, and its aqueous infusion strikes a green colour with the tincture of the sesquichloride of iron. If the powder be coarse, the microscope may give us important aid in detecting savin. A careful examination of the woody fibres will detect their circular pores (Fig. 284, a b), characteristic of the Gymnosperms (see ante, p. 282); and by the shape of the apex of the leaves (when these can be obtained), savin (Fig. 284, c d) may be detected from another poisonous gymnospermous plant (Fig. 284, e), namely, the Yew (Taxus baccata). [See an interesting report of a case of poisoning by savin, in which the above characters were successfully made use of to detect the poison, by Dr. A. Taylor and Mr. Charles Johnson, in the Lond. Med. Gaz. for Aug 8, 1845, p. 646.]
Physiological Effects. α. On Animals.—Savin acts on animals as an acrid poison. Orfila [Toxicol. Gén.] applied two drachms of the powder to an incised wound in the leg of a dog; inflammation and infiltration of the limb took place, and death occurred in about thirty-six hours. Four drachms introduced into the stomach of a dog, and the oesophagus tied, caused death in thirteen hours; the stomach was bright red, and the rectum a little inflamed. Orfila infers that its effects depend principally on its absorption and its action on the nervous system, the rectum, and the stomach. A drachm of oil of savin was given by Hillefield [Wibmer, Wirk. d. Arzneim. u. Gifte, Bd. iii. H. 1, p. 191.] to a cat. It caused a flow of saliva, anxiety, frequent discharge of urine, dulness, trembling, and, in an hour and a quarter, bloody urine. The animal having been strangled, the bladder was found contracted, with some coagulated blood contained in its cavity.
β. On Man.—Oil of savin, the active principle of the herb, is a powerful local irritant. When applied to the skin, it acts as a rubefacient and vesicant. On wounds and ulcers its operation is that of an acrid (not chemical) caustic. Swallowed in large doses, it occasions vomiting, purging, and other symptoms of gastro-intestinal inflammation. In its operation on the system generally, it is powerfully stimulant. "Savin," says Sundelin, [Heilmittellehre, Bd. ii. S. 180, Auf. 3te.] "operates not merely as irritants generally do, as a stimulant to the arterial system, but it also eminently heightens the vitality of the venous system, the circulation in which it quickens. It next powerfully stimulates the absorbing vessels and glands, the serous, the fibrous, and the mucous membranes, and the skin. It operates as a specific excitant and irritant on the kidneys, and yet more obviously on the uterus. The increased secretion of bile and the augmented volume of the liver, both of which conditions have sometimes been observed after the copious and long-continued use of savin, appear to be connected with its action on the venous system." Mohrenheim [Murray, App. Med. vol. i. p. 59.] mentions the case of a woman, 30 years of age, who swallowed an infusion of savin to occasion abortion. Violent and incessant vomiting was induced. After some days she experienced excruciating pains, which were followed by abortion, dreadful hemorrhage from the uterus, and death. On examination, the gall-bladder was found ruptured, the bile effused in the abdomen, and the intestines inflamed. The popular notion of its tendency to cause abortion leads, on many occasions, to the improper use of savin; and the above is not a solitary instance of the fatal consequences thereof. A fatal case of its use as an emmenagogue is recorded by Dr. Dewees. [Compend. Syst. of Midwifery, pp. 133-4.] That it may frequently fail to provoke premature labour is shown by the case, related by Fodéré, [Méd. Lég.] of a woman who, in order to produce abortion, took every morning, for twenty days, one hundred drops of this oil, and yet went her full time and brought forth a living child. It ought to be well known that, in those cases in which it may succeed in causing miscarriage, it can only do so at the risk of the woman's life. Vogt [Pharmacodyn.] says that it has a tendency to induce an apoplectic state in the foetus. The emmenagogue power of savin is fully established. Perhaps the observations of Home [Clinical Experiments, p. 419.] are the most satisfactory of any on this subject, confirmed as they are by the reports of many other accurate observers.
Uses.—Savin is not much used internally; but, in cases of amenorrhoea and chlorosis depending on or accompanied by a torpid condition or deficient action of the uterine vessels, it may be given as a powerful uterine stimulant. In such cases it proves a most efficient remedy. According to my own observation, it is the most certain and powerful emmenagogue of the whole materia medica. My experience of it, therefore, confirms the statements of Home. [Ibid.] Though I have employed it in numerous cases, I never saw any ill effects result from its administration. Of course its use is contraindicated where irritation of the uterus, or indeed of any of the pelvic viscera, exists.
In chronic rheumatism, with a languid circulation in the extreme vessels, Chapman [Elem. of Therap.] speaks in very high terms of it. It has been used as an anthelmintic.
As a topical agent, savin is frequently employed, mostly in the form of the cerate, to make perpetual blisters. Equal parts of savin and verdigris, in powder, form one of the most efficacious applications for the removal of venereal warts. The powder, an infusion, or the expressed juice of the plant, is occasionally applied to warts, to old and indolent ulcers, and in cases of psora and tinea.
Administration.—By drying, savin loses part of its volatile oil, and hence the powder is not the best preparation of it. It is, however, sometimes given in doses of from five to fifteen grains. A decoction and extract are also objectionable preparations, on account of the heat employed in making them. An infusion may be prepared by digesting ℨj of the fresh herb in f℥viij of boiling water: the dose is one or two tablespoonfuls. The oil is by far the most convenient and certain preparation of savin, and is the only one which I employ. A conserve of the fresh leaves is sometimes used.
1. OLEUM SABINAE, E. D. [U. S.]; Oil of Savin.—This is obtained by submitting the fresh tops to distillation with water. It is a limpid, almost colourless liquid, having the unpleasant odour of the plant, and a bitter acrid taste. Its sp. gr. is 0.915. Its composition is analogous to that of oil of turpentine, being C20H16. It agrees with English oil of turpentine in its power of effecting the right-handed rotation of plane polarized light. Winckler [Buchner's Repertorium, 2ter Reihe, Bd. xlii. S. 330, 1846.] states that he dissolved one ounce of savin oil in the same quantity of concentrated sulphuric acid, and then distilled it from milk of lime (to remove the sulphurous acid), and obtained two drachms of an oil which was undistinguished from the volatile oil of thyme. The dose of oil of savin, as an emmenagogue, is from two to six drops, diffused in a mucilaginous or oleaginous mixture.
2. UNGUENTUM SABINAE, L. D.; Savin Ointment, E. [U. S.]; Ceratum Sabinae.— (Fresh Savin, bruised, lb ss; White Wax ℥iij; Lard lb j. Mix the savin in the lard and wax melted together, then press through a linen cloth. The Edinburgh College orders of Fresh Savin two parts; Beeswax one part; Axunge four parts. Melt the wax and axunge together, add the savin and boil them together till the leaves are friable; then strain. The Dublin College orders Savin Tops, dried and in fine powder, ℨj; Ointment of White Wax ℨvij. Mix the powder intimately with the ointment by trituration. [The U. S. Pharm, directs Savin, in powder, ℨij; Resin Curate lb j. Mix the savin with the cerate previously melted.])—The boiling is considered objectionable on account of the loss of a portion of the oil. The colour of this cerate should be fine green, and its odour that of the plant; the former property depends on chlorophylle, and the latter on the oil of savin. Savin cerate is used as a dressing to blistered surfaces, to produce what is termed a perpetual blister. It is preferred to the ceratum cantharidis as being less acrid, and not liable to cause strangury. It is sometimes applied to seton tapes, to increase the discharge from setons.
Antidotes.—In a case of poisoning by savin herb or its oil, the first indication is to remove the poison from the stomach and bowels. Opiates and demulcent drinks should then be given. The warm bath may be advantageously employed. Bloodletting should be resorted to if the inflammatory symptoms indicate, and the condition of the system permit it.
The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1853.