March 2019

Turpentine oil: a new health craze with serious safety concerns

Believe it or not, turpentine oil is picking up steam as a “cleansing” agent for “curing any disease.” This relatively new health craze is being promoted by healthcare professional Jennifer Daniels and certain celebrities. But don’t let the hype fool you - it’s not safe.

Turpentine oil comes from the resin of certain pine trees. Most people know turpentine oil as an ingredient in paint thinner. Very small amounts are used as a fragrance in over the counter chest rub products like Vicks VapoRub. There aren’t any major safety concerns when it’s applied to the skin in these SMALL amounts. But taking it by mouth is another story.

Taking turpentine oil by mouth can be very dangerous. As little as 15 mL (about 1 tablespoon) can be lethal in children, and taking 120-180 mL (about a half cup) can be lethal in adults. Despite this, some people take turpentine oil mixed with honey or sugar cubes for stomach and intestinal infections. There is also a particularly alarming protocol that promotes turpentine oil for children with autism. The proponents of this protocol claim that autism is caused by parasites and that turpentine oil can cure these children. There is no evidence that turpentine oil is beneficial for treating infection. Furthermore, autism is a neurological disorder that is present at birth. It is not caused by parasitic infection.

Make sure your patients know that, regardless of what they may read in blogs or hear on podcasts, turpentine oil is NOT safe to ingest. In addition to the severe safety issues, there isn’t any evidence that it actually works.

Reviewed February 2023

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