OIL OF TURPENTINE FROM THE EUROPEAN SILVER FIR: USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF OIL OF TURPENTINE
Oil of turpentine is manufactured from the resin of the European Silver fir and used extensively in the paint industry, as a solvent. The residue from the process, the rosin oil is used for making varnishes, lacquers and carbon black which is a pigment used in inks and paints. Distilled, it is used in the food industry as a flavouring. In the cosmetics industry it is used to make soaps and bath products as it is said to be good to ease muscle and joint pains and the pains associated with rheumatism, sciatica and neuralgia. Sometimes it is used as a rub because it is a counter-irritant to relieve pain.
The early physicians, Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Galen recommended its use for lung problems and for obstruction in the internal organs, such as stones in the gall bladder which it was thought to dissolve.
However it is lethal in large doses, and as Paracelsus pointed out, “Sola dosis facit venerum” which roughly translates as “only in the dosage lies the poison.” For example in low doses it is good for the kidneys and liver, but in high doses it is very bad for them. High doses can cause nervous system disorders such as convulsions and loss of balance.
The main ingredients of the oil are ά- and β- pinene, which have been found to be effective insecticides, especially against female cockroaches and their eggs, with β- pinene, being the more effective. They are both useful against Candida yeast infections and have a similar action to tea tree oil from Melaleuca alterifolia.
Theses two compounds have also shown in vitro cytotoxic activities against human cancer cells. It has been speculated that ά-pinene might be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease as it has shown to have some positive effects on cognition and memory, although scientists say that it is only useful if combined with essential oils from other plants.
It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic properties and soothes the muscles of the intestine, and these properties support the use of the oil in traditional medicine systems in Germany and Poland where it has been used to treat diarrhoea, coughs and asthma.
In modern phytotherapy oil of turpentine is used to treat bronchial problems, as an antispasmodic, analgesic, for cystitis and other genito-urinary tract problems, for dissolving gall stones, as a haemostatic for use to relieve the pains of rheumatism and so on and as a diuretic as well as to remove worms from the gastro-intestinal tract. It is also used as an antidote to phosphorous poisoning.
β- pinene is anti-inflammatory and analgesic, and antibacterial, especially good for clearing flora from the mouth. However it is best used with ά-pinene to get rid of bacteria.
The European Silver Fir provides us with many health-giving products, as well as its wood. Next time you see one, you may view it in a different light than you did before.