Medicinal turpentine has been used extensively in the eastern Free State and KwaZulu-Natal
provinces of South Africa with reportedly excellent results. It is believed that it is able to
prevent and treat babesiosis (redwater) in cattle. Redwater is an often-fatal disease in cattle
and results in losses of large numbers every year in South Africa. This study was initiated
in an attempt to investigate the validity of the use of the turpentine as a medicinal agent.
Using a semi in vitro screening assay, Babesia caballi grown in primary equine erythrocytes was
exposed to various concentrations of turpentine in comparison to diminazene and imidocarb.
The turpentine had no parasiticidal effect following direct exposure. During the recovery
phase, the previously exposed parasites appeared to grow more slowly than the controls.
In comparison, diminazene and imidocarb were 100% effective in killing the parasites. In a
subsequent tolerance study in adult cattle (n = 6) at 1x (2 mL), 3x and 5x the recommended
dose, the product was non-toxic. Irritation was noted at the injection site with the higher dose.
The only major finding on clinical pathology was a general increase in globulins, without a
concurrent change in native babesia antibody titres. It was concluded that it is unlikely that
medicinal turpentine is an effective treatment against babesiosis.