You may have used turpentine to thin paints and clean brushes, which is its most typical (and sensible) use, but some people regard it as a natural alternative to modern medicine. Turpentine is an essential oil distilled from pine tree sap – so it does have “natural” origins.
The major active ingredients in turpentine are aromatic hydrocarbons called turpenes, natural chemicals widely found in essential oils that provide the aroma and flavour of many everyday products.
Is Turpentine An Ancient Remedy?
Turpentine has been used medicinally since ancient times, as topical and sometimes internal home remedies. Topically it was used for abrasions and wounds, as a treatment for lice and when mixed with animal fat it was used as a chest rub, or inhaler for nasal and throat ailments. Many modern chest rubs such as Vicks, still contain turpentine in their ingredients.
Taken internally, it was used as a treatment for intestinal parasites and candida because of it’s antiseptic and diuretic properties. It was thought to be a general cure-all and sugar, molasses or honey were sometimes used to mask the taste and bait parasites.
It was also a common medicine used by seamen during the age of discovery and was one of the products carried aboard Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet in his first circumnavigation of the globe.
Why risk using Turpentine as an alternative medicine?
It is surprising that in the 21st century, when modern medicine is freely available in the UK, that there are still people who happily pay for alternative medicines, such as homeopathic remedies, which have no proven efficacy. If they were proven medically, they would no longer be referred to as alternative, but simply be labelled medicine..If someone is told that they don’t have an infection that requires antibiotics, they’re generally pretty happy. But when you explain that “detox” is a marketing term, and there is no need to waste money on a “detox” kit, sometimes it only seems to reinforce the belief that supplements are useful, that taking supplements is safer and as effective as prescription drugs. Red yeast rice is a poor substitute to statins following a heart attack and yogurt is not a reasonable alternative to chemotherapy when treating bowel cancer. Many people, however have a negative perception about the risk and benefits of prescription drugs, with the opposite perception about the merits of various “alternative” remedies.
The problem with alternative medicine is, that though it often sounds benign, this is rarely the case. Homeopathic remedies will not fight infection and drinking turpentine as a cure for anything is positively dangerous, as you might expect from the poison label on the bottle. It can cause hydrocarbon poisoning. As little as a teaspoonful can be fatal for a child. Severe and sometimes fatal lung inflammation can result in inhalation in addition to heart arrhythmia. Even the vapour can irritate the mucous membranes in the mouth eyes and nose.
A wee tip for cleaning your brushes
So turpentine has it’s uses, but maybe sticking to thinning your paints and cleaning your brushes is the safest option. However, please remember that as Turpentine is from the Eucalyptus tree, the liquid contains tiny resin balls, which over time will stick in you brush, and harden it, making it more or less unusable. So for brushes that are high quality, or ones that you want to last, we recommend you clean your brushes with White Spirit, or a natural alternative like Zest IT