Please Don’t Drink Turpentine

Please Don’t Drink Turpentine

Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish, 38, is fast becoming a fan favourite, thanks to widely-praised performances in TV sitcoms such as The Carmichael Show and movies such as Keanu and Girls Trip, along with her boisterous, earnest persona off-screen and on the stand-up stage. But for the love of God, do not take her health advice.

Tiffany Haddish, seen above promoting her upcoming show “The Last OG” last winter, is a big fan of drinking the paint thinner. Photo: Frederick M. Brown (Getty Images)

In an otherwise charming profile by GQ Magazine‘s Caity Weaver out today – which also features an anecdote about seeing Beyoncé chomped on by another actress – Haddish is quoted offering Weaver an unique home remedy.

“A teaspoon of turpentine will not kill you,” says Haddish with the breezy confidence of an unlicensed doctor. “The government doesn’t want you to know that if you have a cold, just take some turpentine with some sugar or castor oil or honey and it will go away the next day.”

To Weaver’s credit, she gently tries to persuade Haddish that turpentine isn’t the best thing to gulp down, given that it’s a toxic paint thinner, but to no avail. Haddish brushes aside Weaver’s appeal by pointing out that she got her information from a government source. She also adds that it will give you “the best doo-doo of your fucking life”.

Haddish isn’t wrong that turpentine, a “volatile” solvent made from tree resin, probably won’t kill you if swallowed, according to Alfred Aleguas, managing director of the Florida Poison Center in Tampa. But it can definitely be serious trouble if it goes down the wrong pipe to your lungs.

“You can white out a lung if aspirated either going down, or coming back up (if vomited, which is a real possibility),” he told Gizmodo via email. Whiting out is what happens when your lungs becomes so inflamed or surrounded by fluid that they look haunted when X-rayed. It’s usually caused by other joyful complications such as a severe lung infection, traumatic injury or cancer.

According to a lengthy rundown of case reports and studies collected by the National Toxicology Program (another evil government-run organisation, it should be said), turpentine can be awful for the body no matter how you’re exposed to it. It can cause allergic rashes if it gets on the skin in large enough amounts; severe pain and swelling when it gets in your eyes; and the fumes it generates can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches when inhaled.

And if you inject it straight into your leg, as one misguided soul did in an effort to cure his chronic knee pain, you might end up in the hospital for three weeks with an infected knee.

Shockingly, there isn’t any peer-reviewed research about turpentine curing your sniffles, though. “Never mind that if there was such a simple cure for the common cold someone would have been all over it,” noted Aleguas.

Yet Haddish is hardly the first person to exalt the benefits of turpentine. She told Weaver that she learned about its miracle properties on YouTube. And a cursory glance there reveals dozens of videos, some with hundreds of thousands of views, that promote turpentine (rebranded as pine tree oil) as a panacea for all that ails us. It will destroy yeast infections, cure cancer, eliminate parasites and somehow ward off gayness, these videos blare.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find any results on Pubmed for “gay cure” + “turpentine”.

Of course, there’s no shortage of celebrities endorsing or selling absolutely bewildering health fads. But it’s always tantalising in the worst way to see someone wander straight into Alex Jones land in real time. Celebs: They’re just like us!

If you suspect you or a loved one has been exposed to a hazardous substance, please call the Poisons Information Hotline at 13 11 26. Visit the Poisons Information Centre for more information.