Abies balsamea. Balm of Gilead.

Botanical name: 

Also see: Abies balsamea. Balm of Gilead. - Abies canadensis. Hemlock spruce. - Abies excelsa. Norway Pine. - Abies larix. Larch. - Abies nigra. Black spruce. Double spruce. - Abies picea. Silver pine.

Nat. Ord.— Pinaceae. Sex. Syst.—Monoecia Monadelphia.

Juice, or resinous exudation.

Description.—This is an elegant tree, rising from twenty to forty feet in height, and of a pyramidal form. It is also known by the name of American Silver Fir. The leaves are from six to eight lines in length, solitary, flat, either acute or emarginate, entire, glaucous, silvery-white beneath, and on their upper surface, glaucous, shining, dark-green ; somewhat pectinate, suberect above, sometimes curved to one side, and spreading more or less perfectly in two rows on the sides and tops of the branches. 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 abbreviate, obovate, mucronate, and subserrulate. The cones are large, cylindrical, erect, of a purplish color, and covered with a resinous exudation, which gives them a glossy, rich and elegant appearance.

History. — This tree inhabits Canada, Nova-Scotia, Maine, and mountainous regions further to the South. It furnishes the Canada Balsam, also called Balsam of Fir, or Canada Turpentine. The vesicles which naturally form upon the trunk and branches are broken, and their liquid contents received into a bottle.

Canada Balsam is a transparent fluid, or nearly so, colorless, or of a pale-yellow tint, tenacious, of the consistence of thin honey, of a strong, agreeable, terebinthine odor, of a slightly bitter and not very acrid taste, and very slow to consolidate. On exposure to the air, it gradually becomes concrete, owing partly to the escape of volatile oil, and partly to its conversion into resin. A moderate heat renders it completely liquid; a higher heat gives off volatile oil, leaving behind resin somewhat empyreumatised. The same result takes place when boiled with water, and the remaining unevaporated water holds a little succinic acid in solution. It is readily inflammable, burning with a dense reddish flame, and much black smoke. It is partially soluble in alcohol ; and a part of its resin forms a soluble soap with solution of potassa. It has not been satisfactorily analyzed. Bonastre obtained from 100 parts, 18.6 of volatile oil, 40.0 of resin soluble in alcohol, 33.4 of sub-resin, nearly insoluble in alcohol, 4.0 of caoutchouc, 4.9 of bitter extractive and salts, and traces of acetic acid. Its therapeutical influence upon the system is owing to its essential oil. The name balsam is improperly applied to it, as it consists chiefly of resin and essential oil, and contains no cinnamic acid, nor benzoin.

Properties and Uses. — Canada Balsam is stimulant, diuretic, anthelmintic, and in large doses, cathartic ; it acts more especially on the mucous tissues of the system, and if its use be continued too long, or in too large doses, it will irritate these tissues more or less, especially those of the urinary organs, producing strangury ; if, however, it should act as a laxative, this irritation is not apt to follow. It has been advantageously employed internally in gonorrhea, gleet, leucorrhea, piles, chronic urinary difficulties, chronic inflammations or ulcerations of the bowels, chronic catarrhal affections, and rheumatism. In gonorrhea, where the use of copaiba is not desirable, I have found the Canada Balsam an excellent substitute in the following combination, viz: Take of Canada Balsam two fluidounces, Oil of Turpentine four fluidrachms, Spirits of Nitric Ether eight fluidounces, Pulverized Camphor, two drachms ; mix these together. The dose is a fluidrachm three times a day. In cases where the inflammatory symptoms have been subdued, pulverized Kino, two drachms, may also be added.

Externally, Canada Balsam acts as a rubefacient, and is frequently employed as a stimulant to wounds and ulcers ; it likewise enters into the composition of several salves and irritating plasters. Dose, from ten to twenty grains two or three times a day, in pills or in emulsion.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.