The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869
SWEET GUM, STYRAX
Description: Natural Order, Hamamelaceae. This is a tree many times met with in the latitude of Cincinnati, from Virginia to the Rocky Mountains; but much more common to the South, where it is a beautiful tree three or four feet in diameter, and sometimes sixty feet high. Leaves palmate, deeply divided into five acuminate and serrate lobes, somewhat of the star-like form-of the leaves of the rock maple, deep green. Flowers in conical, dioecious, aments; without calyx or corolla, but with a four-bracted and deciduous involucre. Fruit a globular and compact ball, suspended by a slender pedicel, consisting of numerous capsules. The leaves are of a sweet balsamic fragrance, and yield a resinous material known as sweet-gum.
The incised bark of this tree yields a nearly transparent, amber-colored, fragrant, and somewhat sweetish balsam. Though at first fluid, it gradually dries into a sottish resinous mass, and I have seen it so dry as to be almost pulverulent. In drying, it loses a portion of volatile oil, and is less fragrant than before. It is soluble in alcohol, lard, and the fatty oils. Southern trees yield it most abundantly.
Properties and Uses: The gum (resin) is stimulating and moderately relaxing, warming yet pleasant to the taste, and mild in action. It is used with lard and sweet oil to form an ointment for tetter, ringworm, scalled head, and similar scaly forms of skin disease, for which it is pronounced excellent. Prof. S. E. Carey says the tincture on 75 percent alcohol, rarely fails to cure the itch. The ointment may be used to advantage on indolent ulcers and fistulas, where it will secure fuller suppuration and promote granulation. I have at times used a drachm in each four ounces of copaiva emulsion with happy effects in gleet and sub-acute gonorrhea. The emulsion added to such articles as aralia or prunus in sirup, may be used in catarrhal coughs and pulmonary debility. The dose of the resin is from three to ten grains, three times a day. It resembles the styrax, but is much less stimulating and nauseous.
The bark is demulcent and mildly stimulating. An infusion of it may be used freely in sub-acute dysentery, diarrhea, gonorrhea, and catarrh of the bladder, to decided advantage. It deserves the careful notice of the profession. An infusion may be prepared in milk, or a sirup made with the bark of prunus.
Medical Herbalism journal and medherb.com