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Old 09-03-2012, 02:38 PM
IceQube IceQube is offline
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[Turpentine used for] Abortion

Will drinking turpentine induce an abortion?

Well, I guess drinking enough turpentine - a solvent - will induce not only an abortion but also other things ...

So perhaps the question is more accurately phrased as: Is/was turpentine used to induce abortion (on a widespread basis)? If so, why, and how?

Last edited by IceQube; 09-03-2012 at 02:38 PM..
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:00 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Turpentine isn't generally very harmful if ingested in small quantities. It was used in folk remedies and elixirs for hundreds of years. However, it is generally toxic if taken in larger quantities and that could pose a grave danger to the mother as well as the fetus. I suppose it could be used successfully for an abortion. The woman would have to effectively poison herself just enough to kill the fetus or do enough damage so that is miscarries but not do so much damage that she couldn't recover from it herself. Good luck with that self-experiment.

NIH lists turpentine poisoning as one type of street abortion along with poisoning by other agents like bleach.

"Methods of unsafe abortion include drinking toxic fluids such as turpentine, bleach, or drinkable concoctions mixed with livestock manure. Other methods involve inflicting direct injury to the vagina or elsewhere—for example, inserting herbal preparations into the vagina or cervix; placing a foreign body such as a twig, coat hanger, or chicken bone into the uterus; or placing inappropriate medication into the vagina or rectum."

I don't know how often turpentine was used for this purpose specifically and it is really difficult to get reliable data on this sort of thing.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 09-03-2012 at 03:02 PM..
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:02 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Edited title to clarify subject. Please use descriptive titles when starting threads.

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Old 09-03-2012, 03:08 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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As an herbalist...that's a difficult question to answer.

Did/have women reported drinking turpentine to lose a baby or "restore their natural courses"? Yes. That is without question. Birth Control Review reported that in 1936, specifically referring to a group of black women in Georgia. A Dr. Rofetly of Cinncinnati, OH relates several of his patients' experiences losing pregnancies while taking turpentine (although it doesn't appear that they took the turpentine to lose the pregnancy, but for other health issues.) It's listed in many compendiums of traditional remedies as an abortifacient.

Could it theoretically be effective? Sure. It shares many of the same alkaloids rue does, and rue is without doubt an effective (although not particularly safe) abortifacient.

Was/is it effective? I'm not really sure. Because it was a home/folklore remedy, and because abortions were either illegal or so socially stigmatized they may as well have been, many women did not seek medical care for an abortion. Some of the women who took it and "lost the baby" may never have been pregnant in the first place. Others may have taken it along with doing something else to end the pregnancy, and attributed the effectiveness to turpentine. Many pregnancies are spontaneously ended around 7-8 weeks, for reasons known only to whatever divinity there may or may not be, and women who drank turpentine may have coincidentally experienced a spontaneous miscarriage that would have happened without the turpentine.

I can find no scientific studies showing it to be tested, much less effective, as an abortifacient. That doesn't mean it doesn't work, that means I don't think it's been tested.

I hope it goes without saying that I don't think anyone should try it today. Whether or not it's effective, it's certainly dangerous. There are far safer methods of abortion available today.

Last edited by WhyNot; 09-03-2012 at 03:10 PM..
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:52 PM
IceQube IceQube is offline
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How does turpentine induce abortion? Perhaps the most obvious guess is that the fetus absorbs the turpentine from the mother. But is this necessarily correct?

Last edited by IceQube; 09-03-2012 at 03:53 PM..
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Old 09-03-2012, 04:07 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Since I can't say for sure that it does, I can't say how it does.

But no, it's unlikely that the fetus absorbing the turpentine would cause an abortion in the timeframe that Dr. Rofelty describes. If all it did was kill the fetus directly, you'd probably have a dead fetus in you for a few weeks, or even months, before the body expelled it.

Most herbal/folk remedies that cause abortion do so because they contain alkaloids that make you so damn sick that it disrupts the hormonal balance needed to maintain an early pregnancy, shuts down the kidneys so they can't support a pregnancy, and/or directly stimulates the uterus to contract and expel the embryo. (I suspect this is what oral turpentine does, like rue.) Or they physically irritate the uterus or cervix and cause it to contract. (Which might happen from turpentine shoved up the vagina on a rag.) Or they cause an infection in the uterus, which causes the embryo to die and/or causes contractions. (Which might happen if you shoved turpentine up the vagina on a dirty rag.)

All in all, ugly ways to abort a pregnancy, and none of them particularly foolproof, and good reasons to keep modern abortion techniques legal and readily available.
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Old 09-03-2012, 04:09 PM
IceQube IceQube is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
All in all, ugly ways to abort a pregnancy, and none of them particularly foolproof, and good reasons to keep modern abortion techniques legal and readily available.
But .. but .. if I go to a doctor, won't he notify my parents?! I know for a fact that Home Depot won't notify my parents!!

Just kidding .
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