From our English Pines, if their stems be wounded, the oleo-resin known as Turpentine, can be procured. This is so truly a vegetable product, and so readily available for medical uses in every household, being withal so valuable for its remedial and curative virtues that no apology is needed for giving it notice as a Herbal Simple.
The said oleo-resin which exudes on incising the bark furnishes our oil, or so-called spirit of Turpentine. But larger quantities, and of a richer resin, can be had from abroad than it is practicable for England to provide, so that our Turpentine of commerce is mainly got from American and French sources.
The oleo-resin consists of a resinous base and a volatile essential oil, which is usually termed the spirit.
The Pinus Picra, or Silver Fir-tree, yields common Turpentine; and to sleep on a pillow made from its yellow shavings is a capital American device for relieving asthma. Fir cones are called "buntins," and "oysters."
"Tears," or resin drops, which trickle out on the stems of the Pine, if taken, five or six of these tears in a day, will benefit chronic bronchitis, and will prove useful to lessen the cough of consumption.
When swallowed in a full dose, Turpentine gives a sensation of warmth, and excites the secretion of urine, to which it imparts a violet hue. It also promotes perspiration, and stimulates the bronchial mucous membrane. From eight to twenty drops may be given as a dose to produce these effects; but an immoderate dose will purge, or intoxicate, and stupefy, causing strangury, and congestion of the kidneys.
For bleeding from the lungs, five drops may be given, and repeated at intervals of not less than half-an-hour, whilst needed. The dose may be taken in milk, or on sugar, or bread.
With the object of meeting for a curative purpose such symptoms occurring as disease which large doses of this particular drug will produce, as if by poisoning, in a healthy person, quite small doses of Turpentine oil will promptly relieve simple congestion of the kidneys, when occurring as illness, it may be from exposure to cold, and accompanied by some feverishness, with frequent urination, as well as a dragging of the loins. On which principle three or four drops of a diluted tincture of Turpentine (made with one part of Turpentine to nine parts of spirit of wine), given in a spoonful of milk every four hours, will speedily dispel the congestion, thus acting as an infallible specific, and a similar dose of the same tincture will quickly subdue rheumatic inflammation of the eyes.
A pleasant form in which to administer Turpentine, whether for chronic bronchitis or for kidney congestion from cold, is a confection. This may be made by rubbing up one part of oil of turpentine, with one part of liquorice powder, and with two parts of clarified honey. Combine the first two together, then add the honey. If the Turpentine separates, pour it off, and add it again with plenty of rubbing until it unites. From half to one teaspoonful of this confection, when mixed with two tablespoonfuls of peppermint-water, will be found palatable, and may be repeated two or three times in the day.
What is called Terebene, a most useful medicine for winter cough, is produced by the action of sulphuric acid on Turpentine. From five to ten drops may be taken on sugar three or four times in the day, and its vapour acts by inhalation as a very useful antiseptic sedative in consumptive disease of the lungs.
Externally, Turpentine is stimulating and counter-irritating, and derivative. When applied to the skin, unless properly diluted, Turpentine will cause redness and smarting to a painful degree, with an outbreak of small blisters. As an embrocation, the oil of turpentine mixed with spirit of wine and camphor, together with soap liniment, proves very efficacious for the relief of sciatica, and for the chronic rheumatism of joints. Also, when compounded with wax and resin, it makes an excellent healing ointment for indolent, and unhealthy sores.
In Dublin, Turpentine is commingled with peppermint water, and used as an external stimulant for chronic bronchitis.
The famous liniment of St. John Long consisted of oil of turpentine one part, acetic acid one part, and liniment of camphor one part. This was of admirable service for rubbing along the spine to relieve the irritability of the spinal nerves, and it has proved effectual to modify or prevent epileptic attacks, by being thus applied. In cases of colic attending obstinate constipation, with strengthless distension of the bowels, Turpentine mixed with starch or thin gruel, an ounce to the pint, and administered as a clyster, makes one of the most reliable and safe evacuants. Also as a remedy for round worms, six or eight drops (more or less according to age) may be safely and effectively given to a child on one or more nights in milk.
Pills made from Chian Turpentine, which is got from Cyprus, were extolled by Dr. Clay of Manchester, in 1880, as a cure for cancer of the womb, and for some other forms of cancerous disease. From five to ten grains were to be given in a pill, or mixed with mucilage as an emulsion, so that in all daily, after food, and in divided doses, one hundred and eighty grains of this Turpentine were swallowed; and the quantity was gradually increased until five hundred grains a day were taken. In many cases this method of treatment proved undoubtedly useful.
A small quantity of powdered sulphur was also incorporated by Dr. Clay in his Chian pills. About the fourth day the pain was relieved, and the cancerous growth would melt away in a period of from four to thirteen weeks. The arrest of bleeding and the continued freedom from glandular infection after a prolonged use of this Chian Turpentine were highly important points in the improvement produced.
From the Pinus Sylvestris an oil is distilled by steam, and of this from ten drops to a teaspoonful may be given for a dose, in milk, for chronic rheumatism or chronic bronchitis.
It is most useful in the treatment of diphtheria to burn in the room, near the patient, a mixture of turpentine and tar in a pan or deep dish. The fumes serve to dissolve the false membrane, and have helped to effect a cure in desperate cases.
This tree had the Anglo-Saxon name Pimm, from pen, or pin, a sharp rock,--"ab acumine foliorum," or perhaps as a contraction of picinus--pitchy. It furnishes from its leaves an extract, and the volatile oil. Wool is saturated with the latter, and dried, being then made into blankets, jackets, spencers, and stockings, for the use of rheumatic sufferers. There are establishments in Germany where the Pine Cure is pursued by the above means, together with medicated baths. Pine cones were regarded of old by the Assyrians as sacred symbols, and were employed as such in the decoration of their temples. From the tops of the Norway Spruce fir a favourite invigorating drink is brewed which is known in the north as spruce beer. This has an excellent reputation for curing scurvy, chronic rheumatism, and cutaneous maladies. Laplanders make a bread from the inner bark of the Pine.
Tar (pix liquida) is furnished abundantly by the Pinus Sylvestris, or Scotch Fir, and is extracted by heat. The tree is cut into pieces, which are enclosed in a large oven constructed for the purpose: fire is applied, and the liquid tar runs out through an opening at the bottom. It is properly an empyreumatic oil of turpentine, and has been much used in medicine both externally and internally. Tar water was extolled in 1744, by Bishop Berkley, almost as a panacea. He gave it for scurvy, skin eruptions, ulcers, asthma, and rheumatism. It evidently promotes the secretions, especially the urine.
Tar yields pyroligneous acid, oil of tar, and pitch: as well as guiacol and creasote.
Syrup of tar is an officinal medicine in the United States of America for chronic bronchitis, and winter cough. By this the expectoration is made easier, and the sleep at night improved. From one to two teaspoonfuls are given as a dose, with or without water. Also tar pills are prepared of pitch and liquorice powder in equal parts, five grains in the whole pill. Two or three of these may be taken twice or three times in the day.
Tar ointment is highly efficacious against some forms of skin disease; but in eczema and allied maladies of the skin, no preparation of tar should be employed as long as the skin is actively inflamed, or any exudation of moisture is secreted by it.
Dr. Cullen met with a singular practice respecting Tar. A leg of mutton was put to roast, being basted during the whole process with tar instead of butter. Whilst roasting, a sharp skewer was frequently thrust into the substance of the meat to let the juices escape, and with the mixture of tar and gravy found in the dripping pan, the body of the patient was anointed all over for three or four nights consecutively, throughout all this time the same body linen being worn. The plan proved quite successful in curing obstinate lepra.
A famous liquor called "mum" was concocted by the House of Brunswick, some of which was sent to General Monk. It was chiefly brewed from the rind and tops of firs, and was esteemed very powerful against the formation of stone, and to cure all scorbutick distempers. Various herbs, as best approved by the maker, were infused with the mum in concocting it, such as betony, birch, burnet, brooklime, elder-flowers, horse-radish,  marjoram, thyme, water-cress, pennyroyal, etc., together with several eggs, "the shells not cracked or broken"! The Germans, especially in Saxony, have so great a veneration for mum that they fancy their bodies can never decay as long as they are lined, and embalmed with so powerful a preserver. The Swedes call the fir "the scorbutick tree" to this day.
Tar is soluble in its own bulk of spirit of wine, rectified, but separates when water is added. Inhaled, its vapour is very useful in chronic bronchitis.
Tar water should be made by stirring a pint of tar with half a gallon of water for fifteen minutes, and then decanting it. From half-a-pint to a pint may be taken daily, and it may be used as a wash. Or from twenty to sixty drops of tar are to be swallowed for a dose several times in the day, whether for chronic catarrhal affections, or for irritable urinary passages. Tar ointment is prepared with five parts of tar to two pounds of yellow wax. It is an excellent application for scald head in a child.
Juniper tar oil is known as "oil of Cade," and Birch tar is got from the Butcher's Broom. A recognised plaster and an ointment are made with Burgundy pitch (from the Picus Picea) and yellow wax.
Probably the modern employment of carbolic acid, and its various combinations--all derived from tar--for neutralising the septic elements of disease, and for acting as germicides, was unknowingly forestalled by the sagacious Right Reverend Lord Bishop of Cloyne, in his Philosophical Reflections and Inquiries concerning the virtues of Tar Water, two centuries ago, when the cup which "cheers but not inebriates" was first told of by him, long before Cowper. Bishop Berkley said, "I do, verily, think there is not any other medicine whatsoever so effectual to restore a crazy constitution and to cheer a dreary mind: or so likely to subvert that gloomy empire of the spleen which tyranniseth over the better sort."
In Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, the wife of Joe Gargery is described as possessed of great faith in the curative virtues of Tar water.