While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

It seems there are essential oils for a slew of sh*t these days. Some may be used for things like headaches, psoriasis relief, and more. Some are even said to be a handy little extra for your ADHD toolkit.

Turpentine is a pretty strong and versatile oil — maybe you’ve heard of her. This one is more commonly known in the art world though; good for things like cleaning brushes after using oil-based paints.

This means turpentine is not your typical addition to a home essential oil kit.

In fact, turpentine isn’t actually something you can even buy from trusted essential oil manufacturers.

Fast Facts on Turpentine

What is turpentine oil? A colorless liquid is made during the harvesting of pine trees and is often used for medicinal purposes, such as treating infections and certain types of pain.

Benefits of turpentine oil:

  • treats toothaches
  • treats certain skin infections
  • treats muscle pain
  • treats joint pain
  • treats nerve pain

Is turpentine oil safe? Applying small amounts of turpentine oil to the skin and inhaling small amounts can be safe, but only after consulting with a doctor, since it can cause severe reactions. However, it should never be taken by mouth or given to children.

Side effects of turpentine oil:

  • can cause headache
  • can cause loss of sleep
  • can cause coughing
  • using incorrectly can cause vomiting
  • using incorrectly can cause bleeding in lungs
  • using incorrectly can cause kidney or brain damage
  • using incorrectly can result in coma or death
Was this helpful?

Keep reading to learn more about turpentine, the safety concerns around it, and how it’s different from pine essential oils.

Share on Pinterest
Anna Efetova/Getty Images

Let’s be clear, turpentine is not *the* essential oil made from pine trees.

Turpentine oil is produced from the resin of particular pine trees.

Although it’s been known for certain medicinal uses, there are some glaring safety issues around it, which we’ll get to in a sec.

Pine oil, on the other hand, is a derivative of pine tree needles, famous for its strong, Christmas-tree-like aroma.

Put in a diffuser, pine essential oil can fill a room with an awesome scent, and it also works well in some cleaning products and is overall a safer way to achieve that “woody” scent with your diffuser.

You may have also noticed lots of pine essential oil anecdotes floating around online, with claims that it can offer some health benefits too.

Unfortch, there’s a major lack of science behind these right now.

Of course, like with all types of essential oils, there are possible side effects to consider with pine oil too (redness, itchiness, hives, etc.).

If you’re allergic to pine trees, it’s obvi best to keep your distance from pine oil, babe.

It’s important to point out that there’s no scientific support for these uses right now.

It’s commonly used in the cosmetic world, tossed into products like perfumes, sprays, deodorizers, and stimulating ointments (think Vicks chest rubs) and even found in soaps. It can also act as a paint solvent.

When turpentine is found in perfumes, foods, and cleaning supplies, it’s thanks to its fragrance. It can also be distilled and slapped into some foods and drinks for flavoring (the more you know!). Though, please don’t go drinking turpentine oil — it can be extremely toxic.

Effects of turpentine oil on the bod

You already know this bad boy can be applied to the skin and be inhaled since that’s what chest rubs are known for.

When it’s used topically on the skin, it can also be handy with pain relief and reducing redness in the applied area.

When turpentine oil is inhaled (safely), it may help lower congestion for some cold or allergy relief. Though you’ll likely enjoy pine essential oil better for these purposes.

Was this helpful?

Other physical Benefits

We need more research to seal the deal on turpentine’s true effectiveness in these areas, but it’s sometimes used to treat:

While there are a number of good uses for turpentine oil, we definitely recommend chatting with your doctor before using pure turpentine in your home. Peep these precautions:

  • Taking by mouth. It is unsafe (and possibly fatal) to take turpentine by mouth. DO. NOT. DO. IT.
  • Children. Don’t give turpentine to kiddos — they’re extra sensitive to it and it could lead to fatal outcomes. There’s not enough solid science around letting children inhale turpentine or applying it anywhere on their skin either, so it’s best to keep it away altogether.
  • Preggo or breastfeeding. It’s very possible taking turpentine by mouth (which you should never do, pregnant or not) during pregnancy or breastfeeding is hella unsafe — it can lead to poisoning and even miscarriage. There’s not enough research around inhaling it or using it topically during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it’s best to avoid.
  • Hypersensitivity or allergic reactions. If you find yourself having any type of adverse reaction to turpentine oil, steer clear of it. You can usually perform a patch test to find out if you’re allergic.
  • Respiratory conditions. It’s best for people with asthma, whooping cough, or other lung conditions to avoid inhaling turpentine — it may make things worse.

When it’s safe: Small amounts of turpentine oil applied to the skin are likely the safest use — but again, consult with a doctor first.

Like we mentioned, don’t ever take turpentine oil by mouth, this is not at all safe.

Possible side effects include:

While skin application is the safest use, there’s still a chance it could cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation for some. Plus, applying too much turpentine oil can possibly cause damage to the kidneys or the nervous system.

Inhaling turpentine: We know that it’s an ingredient consistent in vapor rubs that are great for soothing congestion, but directly inhaling pure turpentine oil can possibly bring on discomfort in the throat and lungs and potentially cause airways to spasm, especially for people with asthma.

If you’re looking to safely enjoy the benefits of turpentine oil, it can be found online or at most stores where other essential oils are sold.

It’s a good idea to chat with a doctor before testing it out, though. Especially since dosing will depend on several factors and the areas you would like to treat.

It’s important to read labels and instructions carefully since there are no hard and fast scientific rules about turpentine dosage right now.

Enjoying turpentine oil safely and in moderation is the best way to tap into its benefits.

Unless you’re taking up oil painting (go off, Bob Ross), there’s really no reason to test out turpentine. In fact, we don’t recommend turpentine for most things outside of the art world.

Plus, there are plenty of safer products you can apply to your skin for things like pain relief.

If you are hella intent on getting that “woodsy” aroma in your life, we recommend trying scotch pine essential oil for your diffuser instead.