Can turpentine be used to detox the body?

By November 27, 2023 Uncategorized

We came across this video and post on X (formerly Twitter) which claims that turpentine – an essential oil distilled from tree resin – can be ingested as a “body detox.”According to the poster, Andrew Kaufman, turpentine can have multiple medical applications when prepared a certain way. Kaufman regularly dispenses naturopathic medical advice on his social media pages, and while he does have an active medical license, it should be noted that he is licensed and trained as a psychiatrist instead of in natural medicine.

Previous profiles on Kaufman have pointed out his track record in recent years of denying the existence Covid-19 and pushing alternative health treatments while offering natural healing consultations on his website.More detailed instructions on Kaufman’s Facebook page show that he recommends a maximum intake of 1 teaspoon, mixed with sugar or castor oil in a 3:1 ratio, ingested orally. Kaufman has also appeared on podcasts and given interviews recommending turpentine as a treatment to “detox” or remove “parasites.”

Turpentine oil can be found in small amounts in topical treatments such as congestion rubs and eczema cream, or in other soaps or cosmetics. Another common use of turpentine is as an ingredient in industrial products such as paint thinner. Historically, turpentine has been used in the past as a medical treatment – for instance to kill tapeworms or other intestinal parasites. However, the current medical consensus is that turpentine is extremely harsh, with potential adverse effects far outweighing any possible positive ones. Further, we were unable to find a peer-reviewed medical study that has shown conclusively that positive “detox” effects even exist.

Although Kaufman provides dosages and cautions against improper usage, the regular ingestion of turpentine introduces a risk of turpentine poisoning – which can cause loss of vision, renal failure, hypotension or even death, among other symptoms. This can also occur after ingesting too much of it at once – as little as 15ml can be lethal for a child according to some research.  While the ingestion of turpentine as an alternative medical treatment is not new, Kaufman’s claims have been widely viewed and shared on social media. We have also come across other videos on TikTok and Instagram discussing different ways to ingest turpentine regularly. This claim, when spread through visual mediums with examples and instructions, can be compelling to some – particularly with some posters giving personal, first-hand accounts.

However, our research suggests that there is no medical evidence that turpentine has effective “detoxing” properties and numerous studies have shown its potentially toxic effects on the human body.  We therefore give this claim a rating of false.

While some users on social media claim to regularly ingest turpentine with positive results, there is no way of knowing how truthful these claims are. Although turpentine is a naturally derived product which some might associate with wellness and safety, it can nevertheless be extremely dangerous for humans to consume; something even proponents of turpentine have pointed out.

This is exacerbated by the short-form nature of social media medical advice. Kaufman’s general recommendations on social media (“do not exceed 1 tsp per dose”) do not clearly state, for instance, how many doses per day are necessary or how usage should vary between child and adult. While he might expound on this in extended interviews, this is not immediately accessible in the shorter, more widely viewed social media posts.

Given that to some, Kaufman represents a reliable, natural, and credible authority on alternative medical treatment (particularly after his audience increased during the Covid-19 pandemic), it is highly possible a portion of his viewers might try consuming turpentine despite the post now having a community note warning against it. The role of influential figures when it comes to the spread of medical mis/disinformation is therefore one which must be recognised and viewed with extreme caution.

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