Why is turpentine a new health craze? Doctors warn that it can result in pneumonia and even death
Tiffany Haddish (pictured, in 2018) has promoted turpentine as a ‘cure-all’. But Dr Alfred Aleguas, managing director of the Florida Poison Center in Tampa, says ingesting it is incredibly dangerous
In a recent bizarre interview, actress Tiffany Haddish revealed she drinks a teaspoon of turpentine every day.
The comedienne claimed that the paint thinner can help cure colds, provide mental clarity and give you ‘the best doo-doo of your f*****g life’.
Since then, it has turned into a health craze with proponents declaring it’s brightened their skin and cleansed their digestive systems.
One man, self-proclaimed healing consultant Azmyth Kaminski, revealed in a series of YouTube videos how he even went on a turpentine cleanse for 44 days.
Now doctors are speaking out yet again to warn the public that this trend is highly dangerous.
Dr Alfred Aleguas, a clinical toxicologist and managing director of the Florida Poison Center in Tampa, says ingesting turpentine can cause you to aspirate, infect you with a form of pneumonia and that drinking or huffing the equivalent of a tablespoon can kill you.
Turpentine, a fluid distilled from the resin of mainly pine trees, has been used for thousands of years as medicine.
In his book, Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest, Lawrence Earley wrote that the Romans used it to treat depression and apoplexy, a loss of consciousness due to a blood vessel in the brain that has burst.
From the 1600s to the 1800s, naval surgeons would inject hot turpentine into wounds and apply it to the end of amputated stumps.
And in World War I, doctors on the battlefields would use it for bullet wounds.
In her interview with GQ, Haddish said that slaves would often use it as a cure-all and insists that it’s safe.
”The government doesn’t want you to know that if you have a cold, just take some turpentine with some sugar or castor oil or honey and it’ll go away the next day,’ she said.
Reporter Caity Waver does try to convince Haddish that it’s not safe to be consuming turpentine – but the comedienne is not dissuaded.
Haddish also tells Waver that the substance will give you ‘the best doo-doo of your f*****g life.’
And she’s not the only one to make such claims. Videos on YouTube are abound of people claiming it’s a skin brightener, a digestive system cleanser and even a ‘gay cure’.
Turpentine, a fluid distilled from the resin of mainly pine trees, has been used for thousands of years as medicine (file image)
However, you would be hard pressed to find a modern day physician that would recommend turpentine to treat anything.
The National Institutes of Health has reported that turpentine ingestion can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches.
It has also been found to be fatal in both adults and children.
In fact, a 1991 manual said that fatal poisonings were reported in children who had consumed just 15 mL of turpentine – the equivalent of a tablespoon.
‘I don’t know where people got this idea that [turpentine] was safe; I mean that’s nonsense really,’ Dr Aleguas told Daily Mail Online.
He explained that turpentine is a type of hydrocarbon, an organic substance made up of mainly carbon and hydrogen molecules.
These are volatile substances that can cause serious toxicity when inhaled or ingested.
‘You get that into your lungs and it could be very dangerous because your lungs are made of very sensitive tissues,’ said Dr Aleguas.
‘You could start aspirating, you could get hydrocarbon pneumonitis, a type of pneumonia caused by hydrocarbons.’
He also added that if you are aspirating, or vomiting the turpentine back up, you can white out a lung.
This means that when the lung appears on an X-ray machine, the lung is not transparent but completely white because the lung is so inflamed or surrounded by fluid.
Dr Aleguas said ingesting turpentine could cause you to start aspirating, or you could come downwith hydrocarbon pneumonitis, a type of pneumonia. Pictured: 1920s Canadian ad for turpentine syrup
Taking as much as 15mL – one tablespoon – of turpentine has been found to cause death in children. Pictured: 1890s poster for turpentine oil
The National Toxicology Program collected a number of case reports and studies about reactions to turpentine.
There are reports of allergic reactions when large amounts get on the skin and one man who injected turpentine into his knee due to chronic knee pain and ended up with a joint infection.
Dr Aleguas did say that most hydrocarbons pass through the body without being absorbed.
But he warns that consuming turpentine in large amounts can wreak havoc on the body.
‘You might see some central nervous systems effects such as lightheadedness, disorientation, not thinking clearly,’ he said.
‘If the amount is high enough, you could pass out. And people that chronically do that, you can see changes in brain structure and cognitive function.’
Dr Aleguas says if you believe you have swallowed turpentine to call your local poison control center.
‘If there’s no evidence of aspiration, they’ll probably recommend you drink several glasses of water and check in on you in a couple of hours,’ he said.
‘If there is evidence of aspiration, they’ll probably recommend you go to the hospital where you could be on respiratory support for as long as a couple of days.’