Doc: Is turpentine really a remedy?
Dear Dr. Roach: I have a lot of chronic pain and an illness that frustrates me because it doesn’t seem to matter how good I am about taking my medication, going for my labs, following my diet, etc. I’m always tired and feel unwell.
Recently, I have been looking at more natural remedies as a possible source of relief, and I discovered that people are taking turpentine. They put a certain amount of it on a teaspoon of sugar and ingest it. Apparently it is killing the excess Candida and parasites in their body, and they say they feel better when they follow a certain protocol schedule. They also use it topically to treat all kinds of ailments and bathe in it.
This more “natural” treatment method makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think this is a good idea. But with so many people reporting excellent results, it really makes me wonder how harmful it would be to try it.
Dear N.E.: Turpentine is the product of distillation of pine-tree resin. (I’m not sure that makes it “natural,” since many chemicals are extracted or derived from plant products.) Turpentine isn’t one chemical, but a mixture of many.
I am aware that it has been used as a folk remedy; however, I recommend strongly against turpentine as a medicine for any purpose, internal or external. Although it is useful as an industrial solvent, it is listed as a hazardous substance due to its toxicity to skin, eyes and airways. Taken internally in sufficient doses, it will damage the kidneys and the central nervous system. Turpentine is ineffective for any medical indication I know, and it is quite toxic (deaths have been reported with ingestion of as little as 1 tablespoon).
There are effective treatments for Candida, a yeast found on the skin and in the gut of healthy people, but which can cause disease with overgrowth, especially in people who have problems with their immune system or who have taken antibiotics (which can reduce the healthy bacteria that normally keep yeast and unhealthy bacteria under control). Disease-causing parasites are uncommon in the U.S. and Canada, and should be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.
Medicines don’t come from the hardware store.
Dear Dr. Roach: I know that grapefruit does not interact well with many medications, specifically statins, and that they should not be eaten together. However, if the medicine is taken at breakfast, can grapefruit be eaten many hours later at dinner, or must it be avoided altogether? Also, I take lemon juice in the morning, followed by my medications and breakfast. Does lemon juice also have a negative effect on some meds?
Dear S.G.: Grapefruit juice was proven to more than double the blood levels of simvastatin (Zocor) and lovastatin (Mevacor) while having less-potent effects on atorvastatin (Lipitor) when taken in very large doses by healthy volunteers (over a quart a day). At more reasonable “doses,” like eight ounces of juice or half a fresh grapefruit, the effect on drug metabolism was quite small and unlikely to be of clinical significance.
Lemon juice has almost no activity on the enzyme that metabolizes these (and other) drugs, called cytochrome P450 CYP3A4. However, pomegranates, Seville oranges and limes (and their juice) have some degree of activity on the enzyme. Again, very large amounts need to be ingested in order to have meaningful effects.
Separating the juice from the drug in time by several hours will minimize these modest effects.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.