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Scientific Name(S): Pinus palustris Mill. and several other species and varieties of Pinus. Family: Pinaceae

Common Name(S): Turpentine, gum turpentine, gum thus, turpentine oil, turpentine balsam

Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the complex distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly various species of pine (Pinus). It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene


Turpentine has been used experimentally in a bath for the treatment of disseminated sclerosis, and is presently being injected into animals as experiemental models of inflammation to induce a systemic inflammatory immune response.

Side Effects

If ingested, turpentine is highly toxic.


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 used in chewing gums, and steam-distilled turpentine oil has been used as a food and beverage flavoring in very small quantities (typically about 20 ppm). Turpentine and its related products have a long history of medicinal use, where they have been employed primarily as topical counterirritants for the treatment of rheumatic disorders and muscle pain. A gum derived from turpentine was used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve the pain of toothaches.

Other extracts (including the semi-synthetic derivative terpin hydrate) have been used for the treatment of cough and cold symptoms; the cis-form of terpin hydrate is used as an expectorant.

A variety of gum and resin products had been derived rom pines for use in the early naval industry as tars and pitches. Consequently the terms "wood naval stores" and "gum naval stores" came to be associated with these pine-derived products.

Source And Composition

Research suggests that the term "turpentine" is used imprecisely to describe either the oleoresin obtained from the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) or the slash pine (P. elliottii Engelm.) along with other Pinus species that yield exclusively terpene oils, or the essential oil obtained from the above oleoresin. More than a half-dozen additional Pinus species have been used in the production of turpentine. The oteoresin is sometimes referred to as "gum turpentine" while turpentine or its oil (also known as spirits of turpentine) are terms for the essential oil. Following steam distillation, gum turpentine yields turpentine oil and a resin called colophony (also known as rosin). Alternately, rosin is collected by scarring the tree trunk, and various grades of material are then refined. Turpentine and rosin also are obtained by the steam distillation of wood chips of that are by-products of the lumber and paper industries, and these sources account for the bulk of the production of these compounds. In terms of volume, turpentine is the largest volume essential oil product in the world, with the bulk of production occurring in the United States. The labor-intensive production of rosin, however, occurs to a greater extent in Spain, Greece, India, and Morocco.

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 balsamae (Family Pinaceae).


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

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