The intense itching, burning and pain that these patients have to endure, coupled with the marked cosmetic embarrassment, make it seem imperative to them that something must be done to relieve them and done quickly.

The purpose of this paper is to recall to your attention the action of Petroleum in a variety of skin affections by presenting the histories of a small series of cases that have been treated in the past year.

It will be helpful before describing the skin pictures to review the mental symptoms of the patients treated. The repertory states that the Petroleum patient is apt to be very high strung, impatient and irritable, easily vexed and angered at trifles, much the same as the Nux vomica patient.

The intense itching, burning and pain that these patients have to endure, coupled with the marked cosmetic embarrassment, make it seem imperative to them that something must be done to relieve them and done quickly.

A set of mental symptoms that were common in all the patients was a lack of hope of being helped when treatment was begun. The attitude was not so much one of despair as it was of being cynical, as most of the patients had been treating for a period ranging from a few months to twenty years. The attitude changed, however, at the beginning of improvement to one of genuine enthusiasm at the prospect of finally having found something for which they had been searching.

In the homoeopathic treatment of skin conditions it is very necessary to instruct the patient that all external applications must be excluded, as must all light and x-ray therapy. They must be assured that relief will follow much more quickly and surely if these instructions are carried out to the letter. A few minutes spent in careful explanation of the proposed procedure is of inestimable value in securing complete cooperation.

Emotional disturbances of an unpleasant nature almost always cause an aggravation in Petroleum patients. One patient apparently well on the way to recovery had a violent recurrence of all symptoms following a family upset. Another had a reappearance of a rash after five years absence following the loss of her house by fire.

The following skin symptoms were observed in all cases:.


1. Intense itching–want to tear and claw the skin, which they do and which aggravates.

2. Burning, like fire.

3. Aggravation from water except one case which was ameliorated by cold water.

4. Worse in winter.

5. A cycle of aggravation and amelioration.

6. Abnormal sweating of either hands or feet.

OBJECTIVE–there was always:.

1. A bran-like scale.

2. Fissures and cracks that bled. These were found most frequently on the hands and behind the ears.

3. Oozing with crust formation.

4. A leather-like feeling and appearance of the skin.

5. A denuding of the skin as though it was seared.

6. Pustules, especially of the fingers and hands.

The following brief histories will illustrate the foregoing statements.

R. M., white, male, aet. 80.

Nov. 18, 1943. Eruption began in June, 1943 and gradually grew worse until it covered the entire body. Began as intense itching with oozing, Pajamas stuck to legs. Large scales all over body. Lost 20 pounds due to lack of sleep. Swelling of legs. Unable to wear shoes. Patients skin had a seared look with very profuse bran-like scales from entire body. When he pulled up his long underwear to show eruption on legs, a shower of fine bran- like scales outlines his foot on the carpet.

Petroleum 10M. with much relief within 48 hours.

Remedy repeated about every two weeks with uninterrupted improvement. Has received placebo for the past eight weeks and all that remains is a very slight irritation at bends of knees.

M. M., white, male, aet. 50.

Oct. 4, 1943. Pustular eczema of hands of twenty years duration. Unable to work due to inability to close hands. Red steaks streaks up forearms with swelling of axillary lymph nodes. Patient can control condition to a certain extent by fasting. Hands were cracked, leathery to touch and a mass of pustules. Petroleum 10M.

Oct. 9, 1943. Much better. Patient states that for the first time since he has had his trouble he actually feels that he is getting better. Petroleum 10M.

Oct. 16, 1943. Hands practically clear except for light bran-like scales. Petroleum.

Oct. 25, 1943. Discharged. Told to report if anything recurred.

Mar. 11, 1944. Slight recurrence following exposure of hands to grease. Petroleum 10M., with prompt clearing of condition.

Mrs. H. M. White, female, aet. 49.

Eczema five years. Comes and goes. Started on back of left hand. Cracks, bleeds, oozes. Itches. Used ointment which cleared it up temporarily. Gone for a year.

House burned down. Returned. Steady for the past year as a pustular eruption on back of left hand. Now gone from back of hand to palm. Water aggravates.

April 13, 1944. Petroleum 10M.

May 1. Much better.

May 11. Improvement continues. Petroleum CM.

Mrs. M. M. W. F., aet. 56.

Sept. 26, 1943. Following influenza and much old school medication in June, 1943, an eruption appeared behind right ear in July, 1943, with oozing, crusts and bleeding. Treated locally with many ointments. At this time her entire face, head, neck, chest and upper extremities were raw with oozing, crusts and fissures, and all liberally covered with several layers of lotions and ointments. Patient was in a desperate mental state and was taking large dose of barbiturates to obtain any sleep at all.

Prescribed Graphites 30x.

Sept. 30, 1943. No better. Graphites 200x.

Oct. 5, 1943. Slight improvement. Graphites 10M.

Oct. 9, 1943. No change. Mezereum 10M. This rapid change of potency and remedy indicates that perhaps the prescriber was being infected with the patients impatience.

Oct. 16. 1943. Considerable relief. Mezereum 10M.

Nov. 6, 1943. Improvement continues. Mezereum 10M.

Nov. 29. 1943. Between this and the last visit an emotional upset caused by a family trouble resulted (at least so I reasoned) in a recurrence of the skin condition. There was, moreover, a more decided aggravation of the cracking at the corners of the mouth and Petroleum 10M. was given.

Dec. 4, 1943. Much better. Placebo.

Dec. 18, 1943. Improvement continues. Petr. 10M.

Dec. 30, 1943. Improvement continues. Petr. 10M.

Jan. 29, 1944. Much improved. Petr. 10M.

Feb. 11, 1944. Better. Petr. CM. Improvement has continued until only a small area back of neck is rough.

April 8, 1944. Skin clear.

Miss. M.M., aet. 13. Daughter of M.M.

Nov. 30, 1943. Eczema since childhood. Rough, dry, with bran-like flakes over entire body. Worse face and arms. Worse winter. Intense itching and burning.

Gave Petr. 10M. on fathers history as much as on symptomatology. Patient got immediate relief.

Feb. 7, 1944. Petr. CM. Improvement continues and nearly complete.

May 11, 1944. Slight recurrence two weeks ago and patient refuses to see me any more.

There were three other cases, all of the hands, all of long duration. Two were in sisters 45 and 47 years old, one in a man 33. All revealed the leather-like feel and appearance with the small pustules under the skin. All are recently under treatment, but all have shown marked and uniform improvement.

The foregoing is not, of course, a complete picture of Petroleums action on the skin, but it may serve to refresh your acquaintance with the drug which Allen says has an action that is “very complex and not easily defined.”.

In closing may I remind you to compare Graphites, Hepar, Mezereum, Mercurius, Nitric acid, Silica, Sepia and Sulphur. NILES, MICH.


DR. ALMFELT: I have the impression in many of these cases that the base of many creams for the face and hands produce sensitized conditions in the patient. When the same subject is administered in high potency, it neutralizes that old sensitized condition in the patient, and the patient recovers.

In the doctors paper some of the old symptoms he gave looked pretty much like Graphites, but he could not clear it up until he gave Petroleum. Most of the patients probably had used a great deal of salves and ointments in which the base was petroleum in some form, and perhaps also mineral oil.

Let me add one thing. Mineral oil as a laxative is a most destructive thing. It destroys all of the Vitamin A in the body. One ounce of mineral oil will destroy all the Vitamin A you can take in a whole month; hence, please dont use it on the skin or inside.

DR. AMES: In answer to the question about the mental symptoms, I mean the aggravation causing recurrence of the condition, of course, there are many other remedies that might have that; but these emotional upsets, with accompanying, typically Petroleum rash–I just stressed the mentals because every one of the patients is almost at the point of anguish. The dont come in complacently and tell me; they say, “Do something for this!” They resemble Graphites a great deal but I have seen many Graphites babies which looked as if they were chopped up with a meat chopper and it bothers the nurse more than the child. These patients are all terrifically emotionally upset.

As I was writing this paper, it occurred to me that perhaps in the past years a great amount of petroleum products had been used in the automobiles, and so forth, and there might be some susceptibility even to the fumes of petroleum. It might be causing some of these things. Two or three of these patients definitely were aggravated by working in oil factories. One man had to give up his job. He couldnt get near the oil.

Repetition of the remedy, of course, is a matter I wont get into here, but I do repeat remedies, especially in the lower potencies, the thirtieth. I use them pretty fast, and I havent seen them kill anybody yet.

QUESTION: At what interval?.

DR. AMES: Oh, three times a day before meals, or before going to bed. I have some old ladies who have had Arsenicum album ever since I was twenty-five years old, Boericke & Tafels preparations.

John Edwin Ames