Turpentine is a fluid obtained by distillation from resin obtained from trees, mainly various species of pine (Pinus). It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Alternative names are wood turpentine, spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine and gum turpentine. It is also known colloquially as just "turps", although this more often refers to turpentine substitute (or mineral turpentine).
Important pines for turpentine production include:
- Maritime Pine Pinus pinaster
- Aleppo Pine Pinus halepensis
- Masson's Pine Pinus massoniana
- Sumatran Pine Pinus merkusii
- Longleaf Pine Pinus palustris
- Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda
- Ponderosa Pine Pinus ponderosa
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Turpentine has been used medically since ancient times.
- Applied externally to the affected areas, turpentine is a highly effective treatment for lice.
- Turpentine can be mixed with animal fat as a primitive chest rub for nasal and throat complaints. Some modern chest rubs still contain some turpentine (e.g., Vick's Vaporub).
- Internal administration of turpentine is no longer common today, though it was once the preferred means of treating intestinal parasites.
Turpentine is used as a solvent, especially for thinning oil-based paints, producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Its industrial uses have largely been replaced by the much cheaper turpentine substitute distilled from crude oil. After turpentine is distilled, the residue remaining is rosin.
Turpentine is an organic solvent, and thus poses many of the same hazards as do other substances in this class. It can burn the skin and eyes, damage the lungs and respiratory system, as well as the central nervous system when inhaled, and cause kidney failure when ingested, among other things. It is highly flammable.