The Carbon

In all paraffin workers the opening and widening of the hair follicles exists to a certain extent as long as they remain at their occupation and the dark points on the skin of the hands and face immediately strike the observer. Individuals with dark color of the skin and hair are especially affected in this way while light people with blond or reddish hair are relatively unaffected. In exceptional instances single dark, hairy persons show the openings of the follicles so markedly that they are compelled to give up their occupation and seek another trade.

When the disease takes a chronic form, it shows the following characteristics: the back of the feet and toes, the hands and fingers and between the fingers, but not over the joints, shows a peculiar honeycomb appearance; thereby the skin is elevated, thickened, inelastic so that the flexion of a finger is difficult painful or impaired. The elevated honeycomb-like places are of natural color and not inflamed (outside of areas where the acute form gives the already described appearance but consists of thickly grouped series of hair follicles with hardened cutis between and around them.

The follicles are filled with dry brittle accumulations of epithelial desquamation and so markedly that they are easily visible through the widened mouth of the follicle. The openings are sufficiently widened to be accessible to the end of the usual sound. The hairs diminish from these areas, probably atrophying from pressure of the epidermal masses, while cracks and bleeding fissures course through the hardened part and in occasional cases as a follicular abscess somewhat alters the picture. The joints of the fingers and toes, the palms and the soles remain uninvolved. In the chronic patient the appearance is pale, the tongue is coated and the loss of weight may be traced to the result of sleepless nights which are caused by the constant irritation and the pain in the skin of the involved extremities.

We will see that the homoeopathic reports on the skin action of the petroleum also contain burning and itching, the vesicles and the nodular eruption, furuncles and inflammatory infiltration, moreover some exact reports on the total state of the skin and eczema. Intentional provings are responsible for these details.


In the gastric form of petroleum poisoning it is to be remembered that it involves chiefly a local irritative manifestation from oral administration. Lewin mentions: burning, thirst, vomiting, colicky pains and diarrhoea (the stools containing petroleum), icterus; then painful urination, odor of petroleum to the breath and the skin, albumin and casts in the urine. In a poisoning after rubbing it into the scalp for a young girl for the removal of lice, there appeared a severe hemorrhagic nephritis. 511 The excretion of petroleum in the urine of the intoxicated is debated by Lewin but is expressly stressed by v. Jaksch. 512


The cerebral actions are described as dullness, headache, vertigo, then collapse, loss of consciousness, more rarely stupor, spasms, maniacal states or resembling intoxication before the appearance of unconsciousness, fainting and hallucinations, also palpitation, small accelerated pulse, gasping respiration, asphyxia, miosis or mydriasis and general weakness.

Benzine which consists of the constituents of crude petroleum with low boiling points and indeed those no longer in medicinally used petroleum, but still to some extent approximates its volatile constituents. According to Lewin on inhalation of the fumes it causes, amongst other things, hallucinations of heating and vision. “A patient saw various shaped animals and small men or it seemed to him that the entire room was filled with waving silk threads which flickered here and there.” This report is repeated because of the similarity with some hallucinatory symptoms which are found in the drug picture of petroleum.

In the numerous cases of petroleum intoxication reported in the literature are found many manifestations outside of those described, for example, paraesthesias, neuralgias, tremor, bronchitis, pneumonia but with the varying type and purity of the preparation not much can be determined from these isolated reports. In homoeopathic literature is a detailed instance of poisoning described by J.O.Muller 513 in which vertigo and headache, moist itching eczema on the posterior scalp, furuncles, phlegmons, ear discharge, subjective auditory sensations and bronchitis stood in the foreground. A chronic poisoning with the appearance of patches of vitiligo 514 of interest in regard to the isolated report in the homoeopathic drug picture is: brown and yellow patches on the skin.



1. Hahnemann: Chron. Krank., Bd. 3, p. 5, 1828; 2 Aufl. Bd. 4, p. 479, 1838.

2. Benson: Trans. Hom. Medorrhinum Soc., St. of N. Y., p. 297, 1868, according to the Allg. Hom. Ztg., Bd. 82, p. 80 (this describes on- ly the headache and gastro-intestinal disturbances after 10 drops of D 1).


Petroleum stands very near to graphites in the skin action. This consists of the well-known unhealthiness of the skin, the smallest injuries suppurating and the suppuration extending. Itching and burning are early symptoms before the eczema appears. Scratching is said to aggravate before the eczema appears. Scratching is said to aggravate the pain and the itching is relieved only upon the appearance of bleeding. It consists of a painful sensitivity of the skin of the entire body, even the clothing hurting the skin. The skin is rough and cracked, especially at the ends of the fingers. Eczema of the hands is said to be characterized especially by an aggravation in winter, and to heal in summer. This winter aggravation is not apparent from the provings, where only freezing of the hands is mentioned. It may be assumed that this modality entered the picture through observation of patients.

Apart from this chronic fissured eczema which may give occasion for secondary infections, furuncles, etc., a less chronic from of vesicular and nodular eruptions appears on the most diverse parts of the body, preferably behind the ears, on the hairy scalp with falling out of hair, on the scrotum and about the anus with fissures, to which is added itching, burning and weeping, worse at night and from scratching.

If one carries over the reported experiences from paraffin workers, then the dorsal aspects of the feet and hands are preferred while the palms and soles remain free. This indicates an affinity for the glands of the hair follicle. To this may be added that petroleum preparations are employed externally against the falling of hair. Judged by the provings the sweat glands are not so markedly involved, still offensive sweat, particularly from the axilla is an indication. The ulcers have sticking pains. In bunions there is burning and sticking “as though they would become ulcerated.” The external and internal use in frost bites finds support in the sensation of cold “as though the ball of the great toe was frozen,” in burning and coldness in single parts, in the winter aggravation and from cold, in respect to skin inflammation.

The blepharitis is a particular localization of the eczema. Here it may be said that petroleum involves the inner angle, graphites more the outer angle of the lids. The connection here to the hair follicle glands is also obvious. From the Hahnemannian proving is the symptom: “Inflammatory swelling of the right inner angle of the lid as in the development of a lachrymal fistula, a swelling so large that the right side of the nose was dry for several days” has given the occasion for lachrymal sac suppuration and fistula. In the ear are noises as if from water, rushing as from wind, or ringing as from the pealing of bells and frequent knock- ing with difficulty in heating; however petroleum is less used in otosclerosis than graphites; petroleum comes in consideration more in a chronic catarrh of the Eustachian tube.


The gastro-intestinal complaints of acute petroleum poisoning are difficult to evaluate because of their indefiniteness and local nature. If one looks carefully into the provings on the healthy, then symptoms recur which are always encountered in the carbon- silica group: aversion to fat, meat, cooked foods, odor to the breath, bitter, acid, or foul taste in the mouth, white coated tongue, flatulence, dullness and vertigo after eating. The ever- recurring nausea is stressed more strongly than in the other agents of this group, and indeed is associated with the greater central nervous system influence of petroleum, which will be mentioned later. The chief symptom of petroleum that the gastric complaints (painful spasm and burning) necessitate eating and are relieved by eating also appears in the symptoms of graphites, but does not have the same importance there. Emptiness in the stomach, ravenous hunger also at night, temporarily relieved by eating and persistent nausea, moreover, the type of diarrhoea which is only in the morning and persists for many days, with frequent urging, appearance of hunger sensation soon after eating, probably stands in close connection with the characteristic syndrome which seems to arise from the vegetative centers. With this belong the symptoms: vertigo, worse from riding and passive motion, with collection of water in the mouth, pallor, chilliness and cold sweat, cardiac palpitation, faintness, profound heaviness and pressure in the occiput. If one adds to these the constant nausea, weak, empty, cold sensation in the abdomen, cold sensation ” as if from a cold stone in the cardiac region,” then the indication “seasickness” becomes under- standable. Nausea and vomiting on riding should also suggest petroleum during pregnancy.

Otto Leeser
Otto Leeser 1888 – 1964 MD, PHd was a German Jewish homeopath who had to leave Germany due to Nazi persecution during World War II, and he escaped to England via Holland.
Leeser, a Consultant Physician at the Stuttgart Homeopathic Hospital and a member of the German Central Society of Homeopathic Physicians, fled Germany in 1933 after being expelled by the German Medical Association. In England Otto Leeser joined the staff of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. He returned to Germany in the 1950s to run the Robert Bosch Homeopathic Hospital in Stuttgart, but died shortly after.
Otto Leeser wrote Textbook of Homeopathic Materia Medica, Leesers Lehrbuch der Homöopathie, Actionsand Medicinal use of Snake Venoms, Solanaceae, The Contribution of Homeopathy to the Development of Medicine, Homeopathy and chemotherapy, and many articles submitted to The British Homeopathic Journal,