"A liquid oleoresin obtained from Abies balsamea (Linné), Miller"—(U. S. P.) (Pinus balsamea, Linné; Picea balsamea, Loudon).
COMMON NAMES: (Of oleoresin) Canada balsam, Balsam of fir; (Of tree) Balsam fir, Balm of Gilead fir, Balsam spruce, Hemlock fir.
ILLUSTRATION: (Of Abies balsamea) Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 263.
Botanical Source.—This is a small, handsome tree, rarely above 30 feet high, and having a regular pyramidal head. The leaves range from ½ to ¾ inch in length, evergreen, linear, obtuse, bright-green above, silvery-white underneath, with a grooved line above, and an elevated one beneath. The male flowers are yellow, numerous, axillary, solitary, and about as long as the leaves; the female catkins are lateral, cylindrical, erect, and green; the bracts are obovate, tipped with a point, somewhat minutely toothed, and shorter than the broad, compact scales. The cones are 2 or 3 inches in length, about 1 inch broad, erect, cylindric, lateral, reflexed on the margin, shining, and purplish (G.—W.).
History.—This tree inhabits the northern portions of the United States and British North America, also lower latitudes on highly elevated situations. The juice procured from it is known by the names of Canada balsam, Balsam of fir, Canada turpentine, etc. It may be obtained by making incisions into the tree, but more generally by collecting the fluid, which is discharged from the cavities containing this oleoresin, which forms between the wood and the bark. Large amounts are gathered in the province of Quebec. After allowing the trees to rest for 2 or 3 years, they are again punctured but yield less oleoresin than when first tapped. Abies Fraseri, Pursh, of the mountains from New England to North Carolina also yields balsam of fir, as well as Abies canadensis, Michaux (compare Pix Canadensis).
Description.—Canada balsam is described by the U. S. P. as "a yellowish, or faintly greenish, transparent, viscid liquid, of an agreeable, terebinthinate odor, and a bitterish, slightly acrid taste. When exposed to the air, it gradually dries, forming a transparent mass. It is completely soluble in ether, chloroform or benzol"—(U. S. P.). Alcohol does not completely dissolve it, while ether and oil of turpentine dissolve it, and solution of potassa forms a soluble soap with part of its resin. Canada balsam is extensively used in microscopic investigations, as a cement, to impart a greater transparency to certain objects, and to preserve and mount objects. It is also employed in the construction of Nicol's prism, an essential part of polarizing microscopes.
Chemical Composition.—According to Flückiger, this balsam (or rather oleoresin), consists of resin soluble in alcohol and ether (60 per cent), resin soluble in ether, insoluble in alcohol (16 per cent), and volatile oil (about 24 per cent). The latter, distilled from fresh leaves and cones of Abies balsamea, Miller, was proved by C. G. Hunkel (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1895, p. 9) and H. L. Emmerich (ibid., p. 135) to contain laevo-pinene and laevo-bornyl-acetate.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—In large doses, Canada balsam acts upon the bowels, and is apt to cause nausea. In small doses it increases the urinary secretion, and also acts as a stimulant to the general system. Its vermifuge properties are inferior to those of the oil of turpentine. From its direct stimulating action on mucous tissues, it has been found a very efficient internal remedy in gonorrhoea, gleet, chronic mucous inflammation of the bladder, chronic laryngitis, bronchitis, catarrh, mucous diarrhoea, hemorrhoids, and rheumatic affections. In gonorrhoea, where the use of copaiba is not desirable, I have found Canada balsam an excellent substitute in the following combination, viz.: Take of Canada balsam, 2 fluid ounces; oil of turpentine, 4 fluid drachms; spirits of nitric ether, 8 fluid ounces; pulverized camphor, 2 drachms. Mix these together. The dose is 1 fluid drachm, 3 times a day. In cases where the inflammatory symptoms have been subdued, pulverized kino, 2 drachms, may also be added (J. King).
Applied to the skin, Canada balsam produces redness and slight irritation; and is frequently employed as a stimulant to indolent and erysipelatous ulcers; it likewise enters into the composition of several salves and irritating plasters. The dose of Canada balsam varies from 5 to 20 grains, which may be repeated 2 or 3 times a day. It may be administered in emulsion, or in pill form. When mixed with about 1/28 part of its own weight of calcined magnesia, Canada balsam solidifies in about 12 hours (P.).
European and Rarer Turpentines.—COMMON TURPENTINE (Terebinthina communis) is derived from Pinus sylvestris, Linné, that official in the German Pharmacopoeia is obtained from Pinus Pinaster, Solander (Pinus maritima, Poiret), the source of French or Bordeaux turpentine, and from Pinus Laricio, Poiret, which yields Austrian turpentine.
The French Codex recognizes STRASBOURG TURPENTINE from Pinus Picea, Linné, BORDEAUX or COMMON TURPENTINE, VENICE and CHIO TURPENTINE. (Also see Pix Burgundica, Pix Canadensis, Terebinthina, Resina, etc.)
CHIAN TURPENTINE (Terebinthina Chia; Terebinthina Cypria) is obtained from the Pistacia Terebinthus, Linné, growing in western Asia and in the basin of the Mediterranean. It takes its name from the island of Chio or Scio, where most of it is collected. The use of Chian turpentine by Paracelsus as a cancer remedy was revived in 1880 by Mr. Clay, of England, who strongly recommended it for uterine cancer, others, however, declare it wholly inefficient. It is yellowish, greenish, or bluish-green, translucent, viscid, and thick like molasses. Its odor is rather pleasant and suggestive of fennel, and its taste less acrid than most of the turpentines. It gradually hardens by age, and is often adulterated with the cheaper turpentines.
VENICE TURPENTINE (Terebenthina veneta, Terebenthina laricis, or laricini), is furnished by the Larix europaea, De Candolle, or Pinus Larix, Linné. It is procured chiefly in Switzerland, Tyrol, and the French province—Dauphiny. When pure, it is limpid, with a yellow color, sometimes having a green tint, tenacious, and thick like molasses. Its odor is sweet, citron-like, and its taste hot, pungent, and somewhat bitter. It requires an exposure to the air for many years before it becomes hard and brittle. It contains from 18 to 25 per cent of oil of turpentine, dissolves slowly but freely in alcohol, and is dissolved by the caustic alkalies. It does not harden with magnesia, and is dissolved by glacial acetic acid, amylic alcohol, and acetone. The article sold under the name of Venice turpentine in this country is often a factitious product. Uses, those of the turpentines.
The Balsam pine (Abies Menziensii, Lindley) of the Pacific slope yields a pale-yellow, fluid turpentine, upon puncturing the vesicles in the bark. Upon standing, a granular substance slowly deposits and the product assumes a solid, opaque form. In Mexico, the Pinus Teocotl, Schlechtendal, furnishes turpentine. In Japan, the Pinus densiflora yields akamatsu, and the Pinus thunbergii yields kuromatsu. They contain 18 per cent of an oil, differing somewhat from that of European turpentine, and about 80 per cent of resin, not differing from that of the latter. Pinus dammara, Lambert, of the East India Islands, yields Dammara turpentine, a product which quickly becomes hard; and a glutinous milky product is derived from Dombeya excelsa, of Chili, and is known as Dombeya turpentine.
Related Drugs and Products.—TURIONES, or GEMMAE PINI (Pine shoots). The shoots of Pinus sylvestris when about 2 inches long. They are coated with an oleoresinous exudate, and have a bitter resinous and sub-acrid taste, and a pleasant terebinthinate odor. They enter into the composition of a Compound tincture of pine shoots and a Syrup of pine shoots, the first a German, the second a French, pharmacal preparation.
TACAMAHACA.—From the American tropics; is derived from Icica heptaphylla, Aublet, and other related trees. It is brownish or yellowish, clear, glossy when broken, bitter in taste, and has an aroma which is increased by burning. A product of the same name is procured in India and the East India Islands from Calophyllum Tacamahaca, Willdenow (Calophyllum Inophyllum, Linné). The seeds of the latter yielded van Itallie (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1888, p. 41) 72 per cent of a greenish, butyraceous fixed oil (weandee or bitter oil), its odor resembling that of fenugreek; it is used in India in the treatment of rheumatism.