Q. Here’s a remedy for carpenters and parents. If you smash your finger with a hammer, plunge it into turpentine and keep it there a few minutes till the pain goes away. It prevents a blue fingernail.

I keep bottles of ‘medicinal turpentine,’ available in drug stores, in every medicine cabinet. My drugstore also sells a product called Apinol. The pharmacist says it has the same active ingredient.

When my son was two, I slammed the car trunk lid on his finger. By the time I found the key and opened the trunk, he was screaming blue murder. We were in a shopping center, so I carried him into the drug store, found the medicinal turpentine, sat down on the floor, opened the bottle and stuck his finger in it. When he quit hollering and said his finger had stopped hurting, I paid for the turpentine. He had no more pain and no blue fingernail.

A. Although we have never heard of this remedy before, a pharmacist assures us that there is “medicinal turpentine” which contains turpentine oil. It is used as an external analgesic and is also found in Vicks VapoRub.

Apinol has been around for more than a century. It is promoted for treating insect bites, stings, scrapes and bruises. If the local pharmacy doesn’t carry it, Apinol can be found on the Internet (www.apinol.com).

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  1. DW

    My Grandmother used turpentine on all internal bruises and such, since the 1920’s. Doesn’t really take away the pain immediately, but the next day it will not be nearly as sore as it would have been. Rub some on area, leave for 3 or 4 minutes and wipe off with wet cloth. I never use if skin is broken, internal bruises and blisters only. IT WORKS.

    • mlaiuppa
      San Diego, CA

      I think you mean external, not internal.

  2. Lee

    YES Turpentine works! You must have been sheltered all your life! In medical school they don’t want you knowing about these remedies–cause they work!

  3. NDC

    Would this have any effect on making an existing bruise disappear faster on some other part of the body? How best to apply it?

  4. noydb

    As a registered nurse with advanced degrees and training in both pharmacology and so-called “alternative therapies” this is a first for me – turpentine? For prevention in a minor crushing injury? I wonder just what is the mechanism of healing at work here. I also have a minor concern, but concern nonetheless, about the flammability of turpentine. I would love to know how this works, and what other uses turpentine has been effectively put to in caring for people’s health.

  5. JW

    Turpentine was a staple in my mother’s medicine chest. It was used on every bruise, sprain, smash or fever blister. (Yes, it will shorten the duration of a fever blister too.) My aunt, who was a nurse in Atlanta during the early to mid-twentieth century, said a doctor once told her that if more people knew about turpentine, he’d be out of business!

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