Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, gum turpentine) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. It has a potent odor similar to that of nail polish remover. It is sometimes known colloquially as turps, but 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
As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Its industrial use as a solvent in industrialized nations has largely been replaced by the much cheaper turpentine substitutes distilled from crude oil.
Venice turpentine is produced from the Western Larch Larix occidentalis.
Turpentine is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine. These pinenes are separated and purified by distillation. The mixture of diterpenes and triterpenes that is left as residue after turpentine distillation is sold as rosin.
Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its "clean scent".
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 ailments. Many modern chest rubs still contain some turpentine (e.g., Vicks).
- Internal administration of turpentine is no longer common today, though it was once the preferred means of treating intestinal parasites due to its antiseptic and diuretic properties.
- Drinking turpentine is extremely dangerous and can be life threatening. In addition, drinking turpentine is not an effective way to induce an abortion
Turpentine is an organic solvent, and thus poses many of the same hazards as do other such substances. Being "natural" does not make it less harmful than artificial solvents. Its vapor can burn the skin and eyes, damage the lungs and respiratory system, as well as the central nervous system when inhaled, and cause renal failure when ingested, among other things. It is highly flammable.
- Barnhart R.K. The Barnhart Consise Dictionary of Etymology (New York: Harper Collins, 1995).
-  Pregnant teen forced to drink turpentine to induce abortion, cops say
- Chemical Database: Turpentine (EnvironmentalChemistry.com)
- IPCS INCHEM Turpentine classification, hazard, and property table
- Gum naval stores: Turpentine and rosin from pine resin
- Turpentine produced in forced labor camps "Turpentine Camps" in the 30s and 40s aka "Debt Slavery"
- Florida State Archive photographs of turpentine camps and laborers
- Timber and Turpentine Industries