Any resinous exudate or extract from conifers, especially pines; now also commonly a term for its volatile fraction, oil (or spirits) of turpentine. Semifluid mixtures of organic compounds consisting of resins dissolved in a volatile oil, turpentines can be distilled (see distillation) into the volatile oil of turpentine and the nonvolatile rosin. The oil, a mixture of monoterpenes (see isoprenoid), chiefly pinene, is a colourless, odorous, flammable liquid that does not mix with water but is a good solvent for many substances. Oil of turpentine is favoured over petroleum solvents as an oil-paint thinner, varnish solvent, and brush cleaner. Its chief use is now as a raw material for resins, insecticides, oil additives, and synthetic pine oil and camphor and as a solvent.
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Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, gum turpentine) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. It is sometimes known colloquially as turps, but this more often refers to turpentine substitute (or mineral turpentine).
Important pines for turpentine production include:
As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Its industrial use as a solvent in industrialized nations has largely been replaced by the much cheaper turpentine substitutes distilled from crude oil.
Venice turpentine is produced from the Western Larch Larix occidentalis.
Turpentine is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine. These pinenes are separated and purified by distillation. The mixture of diterpenes and triterpenes that is left as residue after turpentine distillation is sold as rosin.
Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its "clean scent".
In early 19th Century America, turpentine was sometimes burned in lamps as a cheap alternative to whale oil. It was most commonly used for outdoor lighting, due to its strong odor.
Though internal administration of these toxic products is no longer common today, it was once administered by masking the taste by dosing sugar cubes, molasses, or honey, or when unavailable, straight. It was touted as treatment for intestinal parasites due to its alleged antiseptic and diuretic properties, and a general cure-all.