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Turpentine

Scientific Name(s): Pinus palustris Mill., Pinus
Common Name(s): Gum thus, Gum turpentine, Turpentine, Turpentine balsam, Turpentine oil

Clinical Overview

Use

Turpentine has been reported to be useful for its antiparasitic effects, particularly in the treatment of myiasis. Turpentine has been used experimentally in baths for treatment of disseminated sclerosis and sexual dysfunction; however, data are limited and safety and efficacy have not been established.

Dosing

Not applicable.

Contraindications

Refer to Adverse Reactions and Toxicology sections.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Contact allergies, hypersensitivity reactions, and benign skin tumors may occur when exposed to turpentine. Additionally, the resin has an irritant potential.

Toxicology

If ingested, turpentine is highly toxic, with fatal poisonings reported in children who have ingested as little as 15 mL. The average fatal oral dose is 15 to 150 mL. Toxic effects may include oral burning and pain, thirst, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, insomnia, dizziness, hematuria, urine odor similar to violets, difficulty urinating, albuminuria, hypotension, bradycardia, prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), coma, and death.

Source

The term "turpentine" is used imprecisely to describe the oleoresin obtained from the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.), slash pine (P. elliottii Engelm.), and other Pinus spp. that yield exclusively terpene oils, or to describe the essential oil obtained from oleoresin.Leung 1980 At least 6 additional Pinus spp. have been used in the production of turpentine.Trease 1989 The oleoresin is referred to as "gum turpentine," while the terms “turpentine” and "turpentine oil" (also known as "spirits of turpentine") refer to the essential oil.

Following steam distillation, gum turpentine yields turpentine oil and colophony resin (also known as "rosin"). Alternatively, rosin is collected by scarring the tree trunk, and then various grades of material are refined.Leung 1980, Trease 1989 Turpentine and rosin are also obtained by steam distillation of heartwood chips of pine stumps, which are byproducts of the lumber and paper industries; these sources currently account for the bulk of turpentine and rosin production in the United States.Leung 1980

In terms of volume, turpentine is the largest essential oil product in the world, with the bulk of production occurring in the United States. Because collection of oleoresin is very labor intensive, output in the United States has declined considerably. Other principal world producers are Portugal and China, and other contributors include Spain, Greece, India, and Morocco. Trease 1989

History

The primary use of turpentine has been as a solvent in paints. During the last century, it became an important starting material for the commercial synthesis of many widely used compounds, including camphor and menthol. Various products derived from turpentine have been used in chewing gums. Steam-distilled turpentine oil has been used as a food and beverage flavoring in very small quantities (typically about 20 ppm). The oil has a strong, bitter taste and is colorless.Guzel 2015 Turpentine and its related products have a long history of medicinal use, primarily as topical counterirritants for the treatment of rheumatic disorders and muscle pain. A gum derived from turpentine was used in traditional Chinese medicine for relief of toothache. Other extracts (including the semisynthetic derivative terpin hydrate) have been used for the treatment of cough and cold symptomsZiment 1991; the cis-form of terpin hydrate is used as an expectorant.Morton 1977

A variety of gum and resin products (including gum turpentine and rosin) derived from pines were used as tars and pitches in the early naval industry. Consequently, the terms "wood naval stores" and "gum naval stores" came to be associated with these pine-derived products.Trease 1989

Chemistry

Turpentine is composed primarily of monoterpene hydrocarbons, the most prevalent of which are the pinenes, camphene, and 3-carene. Rosin contains mostly diterpene resin acids, such as abietic acid, dehydroabietic acid, palustric acid, and isopimaric acid. Numerous other compounds are present in small quantities in all turpentine products.

Canada turpentine, or Canada balsam, is an oleoresin obtained from the stems of the balsam fir (Abies balsamea [Family Pinaceae]).

Uses and Pharmacology

Turpentine and its related products (the oil and rosin) are important in commerce and traditional medicine. These products can pose a toxicity risk and should be handled and stored carefully.

Antibacterial effects

In vitro data

In an in vitro study, turpentine oil exerted antibacterial effects against Staphylococcus epidermidis and Escherichia coli. It was also found to exert activity against 2 strains of yeast.Schelz 2006

Anti-inflammatory effects

Animal data

Literature primarily documents turpentine use in experimental animal models of inflammation to induce a systemic inflammatory immune response, with demonstrated beneficial effects.Elhija 2006, Pous 1992

Antiparasitic effects

Turpentine has been noted to possess varying antiparasitic effects. It has been used in the treatment of myiasis. Specifically, it is useful in helping to remove the larvae in cases of myiasis.Kumar 2012

Clinical data

A case report describes a 28-year-old male patient with a history of maxillofacial trauma who presented with oral myiasis. He received topical cotton application of turpentine oil on the area infested with maggots. After 10 to 12 minutes, the cotton was removed, and the maggots were subsequently removed. Further treatment with surgical debridement and oral ivermectin was provided.Kumar 2012 Another case report describes removal of blowfly larvae with turpentine oil in a neonatal patient.Bapat 2000

Bone metabolism

Animal data

In a study of rats, inhibition of bone resorption occurred in a dose-dependent manner with turpentine.Muhlbauer 2003

Sclerosis

Clinical data

Abstract data from a study in Russia suggest turpentine baths may assist in the treatment of disseminated sclerosis, but the safety of this treatment has not been established.Ludianskii 1992

Sexual dysfunction

Clinical data

One study from Russia documents the use of turpentine white emulsion baths in patients with sexual dysfunctions, but the safety of this treatment has not been established.Karpukhin 2000

Dermal injury

Animal data

When applied topically, turpentine causes skin irritation and, therefore, has been shown to exert rubefacient and counterirritant actions. However, in a systematic study, a pine oil product derived from Pinus palustris and Pinus elliottii reduced dermal inflammation in a mouse ear model of contact irritant–induced dermal inflammation as well as second-degree burns to the mouse paw.Clark 2014

Dosing

Not applicable.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use during pregnancy and lactation because of the risk for toxicity.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

The contact allergenic activity of turpentine may be caused primarily by the pinenes 3-carene and dipentene. The resin also has irritant potential. In one survey of individuals involved in the manufacture of tires, patch testing indicated that 2.6% developed hypersensitivity reactions to turpentine. Benign skin tumors have been observed in animal models following chronic topical application of turpentine.Leung 1980, Rudzki 1991 A reported increase in sensitization to turpentine has been noted.Borrego 2012

Toxicology

Turpentine has been used for traditional self-medication in the United States, and fatal poisonings have been reported in children who have ingested as little as 15 mL.Boyd 1991 Turpentine is among the most commonly ingested poisons among childhood cases reported to poison control centers.Melis 1990 The average fatal oral dose is 15 to 150 mL.Guzel 2015

Turpentine oil is toxic when inhaled through the lungs or ingested through the GI tract. Signs and symptoms of toxicity generally emerge within 2 to 3 hours after exposure. After oral ingestion, patients may experience an oral burning sensation, pain in oral cavity, thirst, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea.Guzel 2015 Other toxic effects of turpentine ingestion include headache, insomnia, hematuria, urine odor similar to violets, difficulty urinating, dizziness, albuminuria, coma, and death.Guzel 2015, Leung 1980 A case report of an accidental ingestion of turpentine oil 50 mL by a 9-year-old boy describes the development of hypotension, bradycardia, and prolonged aPTT.Guzel 2015

Inhalation exposure to turpentine irritates the respiratory pathways.Filipsson 1996 A case report documented a 20-year-old male treated with oxygen, steroids, and eventually intercostal tube drainage after turpentine-induced chemical pneumonitis that evolved into a bronchopleural fistula.Rodricks 2003

References

Bapat SS. Neonatal myiasis. Pediatrics. 2000;106(1):E6.10878175
Borrego L, Hernandez N, Martel R, Almeida P. Turpentine sensitization in a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory solution user. Dermatitis. 2012;23(4):182-183.22828263
Boyd EL, et al. Home Remedies and the Black Elderly: A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers. Levittown, PA: Pharmaceutical Information Associates; 1991.
Clark SP, Bollag WB, Westlund KN, et al. Pine oil effects on chemical and thermal injury in mice and cultured mouse dorsal root ganglion neurons. Phytother Res. 2014;28(2):252-260.23595692
Elhija MA, Lunenfeld E, Huleihel M. Induction of IL-1, in the testes of adult mice, following subcutaneous administration of turpentine. Am J Reprod Immunol. 2006;55(2):136-144.16433833
Filipsson AF. Short term inhalation exposure to turpentine: toxicokinetics and acute effects in men. Occup Environ Med. 1996;53(2):100-105.8777445
Güzel A, Açikgöz. A lethal danger in the home: turpentine poisoning. Turk J Pediatr. 2015;57(2):177-179.26690600
Karpukhin IV, Li AA, Gusev ME. Turpentine white emulsion baths in the rehabilation in patients with sexual dysfunctions [in Russian]. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2000;(5):32-33.11247146
Kumar P, Srikumar GP. Oral myiasis in a maxillofacial trauma patient. Contemp Clin Dent. 2012;3(2):202-204.22919224
Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York, NY: Wiley; 1980.
Ludianskiĭ EA. The extension of the use of physical methods of treatment to patients with disseminated sclerosis [in Russian]. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 1992;(3):34-37.1413607
Melis K, Verbeke S, Bochner A. Chemical pneumonia in children [in Dutch]. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 1990;134(16):811-814.2336121
Morton JF. Major Medicinal Plants. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books; 1977.
Mühlbauer RC, Lozano A, Palacio S, Reinli A, Felix R. Common herbs, essential oils, and monoterpenes potently modulate bone metabolism. Bone. 2003;32(4):372-380.12689680
Poüs C, Chauvelot-Moachon L, Lecoustillier M, Durand G. Recombinant human interleukin 1 beta and tumor necrosis factor affect glycosylation of serum alpha 1-acid glycoprotein in rats. Inflammation. 1992;16(3):197-203.1500096
Rodricks A, Satyanarayana M, D'Souza GA, Ramachandran P. Turpentine-induced chemical pneumonitis with broncho-pleural fistula. J Assoc Physicians India. 2003;51:729-730.14621050
Rudzki E, Berova N, Czernielewski A, et al. Contact allergy to oil of turpentine: a 10-year retrospective view. Contact Dermatitis Research Group in Comecon Countries. Contact Dermatitis. 1991;24(4):317-318.1868729
Schelz Z, Molnar J, Hohmann J. Antimicrobial and antiplasmid activities of essential oils. Fitoterapia. 2006;77(4):279-285.16690225
Trease GE, Evans WC. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy. 13th ed. London, England: Balliere Tindall; 1989.
Ziment I. History of the treatment of chronic bronchitis. Respiration. 1991;58(suppl 1):37-42.1925077

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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