Turpentine is not a treatment for sepsis—it is poisonous when swallowed

30 November 2023
What was claimed

Turpentine can be swallowed to treat sepsis.

Our verdict

This is not a recognised or evidence-based treatment. Turpentine is regarded as a poison and can be fatal if swallowed even in small doses. Sepsis must be treated urgently in hospital including giving antibiotics. Symptoms merit a 999 call.

Social media clips from Dr Andrew Kaufman, a US psychiatrist and self described “Natural Healing Consultant”, claim that drinking turpentine is a treatment for severe illness and sepsis.

Sepsis is a potentially fatal condition and must be treated rapidly with antibiotics. Failure to do this risks septic shock which can cause death in hours. 

Turpentine is not a recognised treatment for sepsis, and it is in fact poisonous when swallowed.

False information about treatments for disease can cause harm if the substance is toxic, and if people delay seeking effective treatment. We have written many times before about alternative treatments that can actually be toxic, and supposed treatments for infections and diseases for which there is no evidence.

The clip has been posted on Instagram and Facebook by Dr Kaufman in recent weeks, but is taken from the full interview video (at around 26 minutes) which was posted to Rumble over two years ago.

We have contacted Dr Kaufman regarding these claims but we have not received a response at the time of writing.

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Sepsis is a life-threatening condition. It is triggered by an infection, and involves the body’s immune response damaging its own tissue and organs.

The NHS advises calling 999 for anyone, from babies to adults, if they have any signs or symptoms of sepsis, which can vary with age.

The main treatment for sepsis is antibiotics. Intravenous fluids and oxygen may also be needed. Patients with severe sepsis may need to be managed in ICU for mechanical support with breathing or if they need medications to keep their blood pressure high enough to survive.

Any infection can lead to sepsis. Even though sepsis can be caused by viral infections, which aren’t treatable with antibiotics, it is considered too dangerous to delay giving these while waiting to find out the source.

Healthcare in the UK has integrated an approach called the Sepsis Six, which defines tests and treatments that must be given to patients within an hour of recognising sepsis in a hospital. This includes giving intravenous antibiotics. The approach has been found to be associated with reduced death rates.

Dr Ron Daniels, intensive care consultant and Joint CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust told Full Fact: "Sepsis is a life-threatening condition in which the body's abnormal response to an infection causes organ damage. 

“If we suspect sepsis and identify one of the 6 symptoms, it's critical that the patient is transferred to hospital immediately: every moment counts.” 


In the video Dr Kaufman advocates for consuming a teaspoon of turpentine mixed into a quarter cup of castor oil, and repeating this daily. He says this should be done in “systemic illness, even like sepsis”.

Dr Daniels said: “Although turpentine has some disinfectant properties when used on the skin, ingestion can result in an overwhelming inflammatory response and multi-organ failure. 

“We cannot endorse any therapy for sepsis other than that which is evidence-based, and suggest that this advice is potentially dangerous."

The International Programme on Chemical Safety report on the substance says of turpentine: “If this liquid is swallowed, aspiration into the lungs may result in chemical pneumonitis. The substance may cause effects on the central nervous system, bladder and kidneys. This may result in irritability, convulsions and kidney impairment. Exposure at high levels could cause tachycardia, unconsciousness, respiratory failure and death.” 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises immediate medical attention if turpentine is swallowed.

We were unable to find any evidence of turpentine being effective in sepsis.

In the full interview (at around 15 minutes), Dr Kaufman refers to “the maximum safe dose that you should ever use in one day” which he says is one teaspoon, and says “the lowest dose that has been reported that was fatal, and this was of a young child, was three tablespoons.”

There are case reports of death after as little as two teaspoons in children, among other poisonings at various doses, and when used as an alternative medication. As detailed above, there are a number of harmful outcomes other than death. Dr Kaufman does not address these. 

Featured image courtesy of Ruth Hartnup

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