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What is medical turpentine?

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Turpentine oil has medical uses, including applying it to the skin to relieve joint, muscle, nerve and toothache pain, explains WebMD. Additional uses include inhaling the oil's vapors to decrease chest congestion that accompanies lung diseases. Taking turpentine oil by mouth can cause kidney and brain damage, coma and death.

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There is not enough evidence as of June 2015 to establish the oil's medicinal effectiveness, notes WebMD. Turpentine oil works by warming the skin, helping to relieve pain in the underlying tissue. It is generally safe to use the oil on small areas of the skin, but it can cause irritation. Inhaling the oil can lead to airway spasms, especially in whooping cough and asthma patients. Pine tree resin is used to make turpentine oil, which must be distinguished from gum turpentine, the resin.

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