The Carbon

The watery daily diarrhoea with offensive flatus (also evacuation of mucus) accompanied by abdominal pain, moreover aggravation from farinaceous foods, naturally suggests a fermentative dyspepsia and likewise from the non-homoeopathic side, petroleum is taken into consideration as an intestinal antiseptic. 515 Less than with the other medicinal substances of the carbon-silicea group is the defective assimilation with its chronic effects, with stress upon the constipation and weakness of expulsion although weakness of the rectum is also observed. This peculiar deviation, a shifting of the action toward the side of nervous regulations is probably to be ascribed to the volatile constituents of petroleum.


If we presume the syndrome similar to that of sea-sickness is due to a central action of the special volatile constituents of petroleum, then this will be emphasized by single psychic symptoms: forgetfulness, confusion, absent mindedness with the particular: “loses his way on streets well known to him.” Then the sensory deception of reduplication of the extremities and “believes there are people besides him who are not actually pres- ent” and “the entire air is filled with peculiar forms.” The last hallucination was a striking similarity with that reported by Lewin from benzine. The occasional observation that wine and smoking causes extraordinary intoxication also shows a cortical influence. The mental state can be characterized in the following manner: grief and fear act strongly and disadvantageously: excited over details, cannot calm himself, easily offended, easily aroused. The inability to disregard irritating matters, the indecision and dissatisfaction creates a depressive hypochondriacal state.


The symptoms on the respiratory organs, urine and sexual organs have little characteristic in petroleum which would necessitate the recounting. Likewise the occasionally observed hemorrhagic nephritis in petroleum intoxication has obtained no therapeutic significance. Rheumatic drawing and stiffness in the back and the extremities, cracking and easy dislocation of the joints (particularly the lower jaw which Stauffer cites as an indication for the disposition to luxation), aggravation of many pains before and during storms and from cold have given occasion for perceiving a chronic rheumatic agent in petroleum. However one finds similar symptoms in all chronic remedies, of which petroleum is one, and certainly the clinical significance of petroleum does not lie in this field.


Chief Trends: Skin: itching, burning; scratching aggravates. Unhealthy skin; chronic raw and fissured eczema; worse in winter, tips of fingers and dorsal aspects. Subacute: vesicles and nodules (relation to hair follicles). Preferred sites: behind the ears, on the hairy scalp, scrotum, anus, blepharitis. Offensive sweat, particularly in the axilla, frostbite.

Eye: Blepharitis and lachrymal sac suppuration.

Ear: Difficulty in heating and ear noises (from tubal catarrh?).

Gastro-intestinal: Aversion to fat, meat and cooked foods. Constant nausea. Gastric spasm and burning necessitate eating; eating transiently relieves. Empty sensation, ravenous hunger; hunger soon after stool. Diarrhoea only during day with cutting abdominal pain, frequent urging (worse from vegetables). Sensorium: vertigo (worse from riding) with symptoms like collapse (collection of water in mouth, pallor, chilliness, cold sweat). Occipital pain, heavy as lead; cold sensation in the abdomen (and in the cardiac region), seasickness.

Psyche: Confused, absent minded (loses the way).

Sense delusions: reduplication of parts; peculiar forms in the air. Long maintained action of anger and fear, easily excited over details, depressive hypochondriacal.


Aggravation through riding, in winter, perhaps before and after storms. Improvement from eating.


It is most commonly prescribed in the D 6, the one with which I have had experience. Still it is prescribed in the third and has been recommended in the 30th decimal dilution.


Wood charcoal is obtained by the dry distillation of wood. In his provings Hahnemann 516 employed that from birch, others have used copper beech. The product (caput mortum) of the dry distillation of the wood consists for the most part of carbon, but it also contains ash constituents, amongst which potassium carbonate is the most important. In general we may attribute the actions of carbo vegetablis to the carbon.

According to Hahnemann’s prescription animal charcoal is prepared from beef leather; later it was prepared from flesh or bones and in modern medicine blood charcoal is preferred. Indeed the admixtures vary according to the original material.

Animal charcoal shows physico-chemically and biologico- therapeutically extensive similarity with wood charcoal. For this reason it is sufficient to merely mention some differences.


In the original form animal charcoal is porous, more finely divided than wood charcoal. Therefore it has a different adsorption coefficient for various materials. According to L.Jaque and E. Zunz 517 animal charcoal adsorbs diphtheria toxin and antitoxin strongly while neither is adsorbed by wood charcoal. They found also that the adsorption of diphtheria toxin in the organism is reversible, but in the test tube irreversible. Serum protein can prevent the adsorption of diphtheria toxin and antitoxin by animal charcoal. In the organism the relations from the concurrence of several adsorbents around an absorpt are different than in a test tube. As a crude adsorption agent in dysentery animal charcoal is often preferred.

Even Pliny mentioned the use of wood charcoal in carbuncles. The employment of wood charcoal in old ulcers for the removal of odor, as a lavage for the offensive odor of the mouth, or the removal of odor from the stool in spring diarrhoea was common before Hahnemann. In addition to this adsorptive action of wood charcoal, Hahnemann knew still a chemical action and contrasted it with a “dynamic,” which first appeared by trituration with sugar of milk in one part to a million. Today we would include the actions entirely under the physical. The fine state of division of wood charcoal permits its extensive use in industry as an adsorbent.

At glowing heat amorphous carbon withdraws the oxygen from most oxides and therefore is a good reduction agent in chemistry. On the other side carbon can act as an oxygen carrier and through the delivery of absorbed oxygen can produce oxidation.

The crude absorption action has, as said above, been long known and therapeutically utilized many times. It has not, as Poulssen 518 believes, been displaced by the modern treatment of wounds, because for example in a filthy carcinoma charcoal is to be preferred even today over the modern disinfectants. Likewise the use in tooth powders is supposed to be disadvantageous, according to Poulssen, because the sharp particles penetrate and tattoo the gum. In this respect I can say from personal experience with the finely divided linden charcoal that such a bluish discoloration of the gum margin is to be feared at most when the gum has been previously loose.

Adsorption therapy has been reintroduced i recent times by Lichtwiz 519 and a number of works have appeared on the absorption of poisons by charcoal. 520 Even in 1830 the apothecary Thouery took one gram of strychnine (10 times the fatal dose) with 15 grams of charcoal powder and remained well. Sabbatini 521 avoided the poisonous action of strychnine by an intravenous injection of six times as much colloidal carbon. Like other colloids charcoal is employed in excessive acid secretion in the stomach as well as fermentative processes. Lichtwiz employed it for obesity. In the adsorption of bacteria charcoal has been fou- nd far superior to other adsorbents. In infectious intestinal catarrhs, in particular dysentery, the use of wood or animal charcoal (of bolus alba) is now very extensive.


The adsorptive action of unpotentized wood charcoal is employed in suitable cases, particularly in filthy ulcers. But of great signficance for us are the finer actions which wood charcoal unfolds in the organism only in the higher grades of dispersion. In principle they rest indeed on the same physical properties as in colloidal charcoal. But as with all colloids an optimal action is possible only at great dispersion, because it occurs only (perhaps at the 5-6 decimal potency) when the size of the particle has been attained that can be compared to the serum. Through absorption it will be brought into a crude state of dispersion and flocculated, that is, brought near to flocculation.

This signifies the exclusion of the so-called complement, that constituent or much more state of normal serum which plays an essential role in the occurrence of immunity, in the defense from bacteria and foreign protein. This would also indicate that the power of resistance of the blood serum is reduced when the carbon particles have reached a sufficiently small size to groin to reciprocal action with the serum. But if the serum defense power (” complement”) is brought against the protein poison (“antigen”), then a complement binder such as collodial carbon is in a position to serve as a complement linkage and intermediator. But to do the colloidal carbon particles, either by their size or number, must appear as an activator. For the promotion of defense the greater dispersion and a moderate number of particles at the suitable time will be desirable. These theoretic reflections would hang in the air if we didnot have factual knowledge of the corresponding and related silicic acid. For the understanding of the septic tendency in the drug picture of wood and animal charcoal these basic ideas of the mechanism of action may be taken over.

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,