Turpentine: More Than Just a Paint Thinner- Explore Its Industrial and Other End Uses

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 23, 2022
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Turpentine is a solvent used for paint and varnish, and it’s also used in some cleaning products. It’s made from the resin of pine trees. It has a distinctive odor and is a colorless to yellowish liquid with a strong, turpentine-like odor.

It’s a useful ingredient in many products, but it’s also highly flammable and can be harmful to your health. Let’s look at what it is and how it’s used.

What is turpentine

The Turpentine Saga: A History Lesson

Turpentine has a long and storied history in the medical field. The Romans were one of the first to recognize its potential as a treatment for depression. They used it as a natural remedy to lift their spirits and improve their mood.

Turpentine in Naval Medicine

During the Age of Sail, naval surgeons injected hot turpentine into wounds as a way to disinfect and cauterize them. This was a painful process, but it was effective in preventing infections and promoting healing.

Turpentine as a Hemostatic Agent

Medics also used turpentine to try and stop heavy bleeding. They believed that the chemical properties of turpentine could help to coagulate blood and prevent excessive bleeding. While this practice is not commonly used today, it was a popular treatment in the past.

Turpentine’s Continued Use in Medicine

Despite its long history of use in medicine, turpentine is not commonly used in modern medical treatments. However, it is still used in some traditional medicines and home remedies. Some people believe that turpentine can help to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and skin conditions.

The Fascinating Etymology of Turpentine

Turpentine is a complex mixture of volatile oils and oleoresin obtained from certain trees, including the terebinth, Aleppo pine, and larch. But where did the name “turpentine” come from? Let’s take a journey through time and language to find out.

The Middle and Old English Roots

The word “turpentine” ultimately derives from the Greek noun “τέρμινθος” (terebinthos), which refers to the terebinth tree. In Middle and Old English, the word was spelled “tarpin” or “terpentin” and referred to the oleoresin secreted by the bark of certain trees.

The French Connection

In French, the word for turpentine is “terebenthine,” which is similar to the modern English spelling. The French word, in turn, derives from the Latin “terebinthina,” which comes from the Greek “τερεβινθίνη” (terebinthine), the feminine form of an adjective derived from “τέρμινθος” (terebinthos).

The Gender of the Word

In Greek, the word for terebinth is masculine, but the adjective used to describe the resin is feminine. This is why the word for turpentine is also feminine in Greek and its derivatives in French and English.

Related Words and Meanings

The word “turpentine” is often used interchangeably with “spirits of turpentine” or simply “turps.” Other related words include “trementina” in Spanish, “terebinth” in German, and “terebintina” in Italian. In the past, turpentine had a variety of functions, including as a solvent for paint and as a drain cleaner. Today, it is still used in some industrial and artistic applications, but it is less common than in the past.

The Plural Form

The plural of “turpentine” is “turpentines,” although this form is not commonly used.

The Highest Quality

The highest quality turpentine comes from the resin of the longleaf pine, which is native to the southeastern United States. However, crude turpentine can be obtained from a variety of trees around the world, including the Aleppo pine, Canadian hemlock, and Carpathian fir.

Expensive and Complex

Turpentine can be an expensive and complex product to produce. The process involves steam distillation of the oleoresin, which can take several hours. The resulting product is a clear, white liquid with a distinctive odor.

Other Uses of Turpentine

In addition to its use in industrial and artistic applications, turpentine has been used for medicinal purposes in the past. It was believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and was used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and rheumatism.

The Ending Letter

The word “turpentine” ends with the letter “e,” which is not common in English words. This is because the word derives from the Latin “terebinthina,” which also ends with an “e.”

The Secret of Rhodamnia

Rhodamnia is a genus of trees found in Southeast Asia that produce a gum similar to turpentine. The gum is secreted from the bark of the tree and has been used in traditional medicine for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Bytes of Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, turpentine has been used since ancient times, with evidence of its use dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was also used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes. Today, turpentine is still used in some traditional medicines and as a solvent for paint and other industrial applications.

From Pine to Mushroom: The Many Industrial and Other End Uses of Turpentine

While turpentine has many industrial and other end uses, it is important to take precautions when working with or around this chemical. Exposure to turpentine can cause a variety of health problems, including:

  • Skin irritation and rashes
  • Eye irritation and damage
  • Respiratory problems
  • Nausea and vomiting

To prevent exposure to turpentine, it is important to wear protective clothing and equipment when working with this chemical. It is also important to follow proper safety guidelines and procedures when handling and storing turpentine.


So, that’s turpentine. A solvent used for painting and cleaning, with a long history of use in medicine. It’s derived from pine trees and has a distinctive odor.

It’s time to end the mystery and let the truth be known.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.