I got hooked on watching videos about how things were made way back when … watching Sesame Street (Anon. 2022). (This video is on crayon making, but it’s a good one!) Then, for a while I enjoyed the Canadian show, “How it’s Made” — here’s a link to their firework segment.
As you can imagine, I enjoyed learning about the firework making process for this article.
What did I learn? Well, not surprisingly, the main ingredient in fireworks is … wait for it … Gunpowder.
Gunpowder originated in China in the 9th century and is made up of three ingredients: saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur and charcoal.
All three of these ingredients are used in both conventional medicine and homeopathy. Saltpeter, known homeopathically as Kalium nitricum; Sulfur, aka Sulphur and charcoal, known as Carbo vegetabilis.
Historically, saltpeter in its crude form (Kali nit) was used in the treatment of asthma (Brown and University of California Libraries 1917) and, today, this ingredient can be found in toothpastes formulated for sensitive teeth. Anecdotally, some people claim this kind of toothpaste has helped their asthma (Graedon and Graedon 2010).
Sulfur, the third most abundant mineral in the human body (Science et al. 2020), is used conventionally in many areas, including: allergic rhinitis, shingles and interstitial cystitis (Mount Sinai 2022).
Charcoal, primarily in the form of “activated charcoal” is used as “a safe, effective, and inexpensive alternative to more invasive treatments for poisoning” (Park 1986). (Note: Before finding homeopathy, I never traveled without activated charcoal and it has proven very useful on many occasions. I still keep it handy, but have not needed it since learning the homeopathic remedies.)
John C. Clarke’s Gunpowder As a War Remedy: A Work of Homeopathy (2016) notes that saltpeter and sulfur both have antiseptic capabilities and that standard black powder (the original gunpowder) can be used on infections, boils, blood poisoning and "other maladies". Additionally, Gunpowder is listed in the homeopathic repertories primarily for: gunshot wounds, wounds that are slow to heal, and anal fistulae.
Knowing the ingredients that make up gunpowder, I’m not surprised people decided to use Gunpowder as a medicine, both crudely and homeopathically.
Gunpowder as a healing agent dates back in literature at least to 1865 with Culpeper’s Last Legacy, in which he wrote, “A little Gun-powder tyed up in a rag, and held in the mouth, that it may touch the aking tooth, instantly easeth the pains of the Teeth” [sic].
John C. Clarke (2016a) talks about soldiers using gunpowder: “taken crude in teaspoonful doses mixed in hot water” and shepherds sprinkling it “on bread and cheese, to cure and prevent wound-poisoning acquired in shearing and handling sheep” as well as using it on the sheep themselves for their ailments.
After experimenting on himself, Clarke used homeopathic Gunpowder in a 3x trituration. The 3x potency* means some of the original substance remains in this version of the remedy but without the taste or smell “and to be in no sort of way explosive” and calls it a “most powerful and efficacious remedy.”
Dr. T. Chatterjee claims Gunpowder in high potencies can cure “obstinate psoriasis” and, in low potency is “an excellent blood purifier” and can be helpful after the extraction of an abscessed tooth.
Gunpowder remains a useful homeopathic remedy today for abscesses, boils and carbuncles and in bold-type, Robin Murphy mentions blood poisoning, also known as sepsis. (Sepsis is a life-threatening condition and needs to be treated immediately by a medical professional.)
Interestingly, historically speaking, the advent of gunpowder on the battlefields was cause for amputations as a result of gunshot wounds and the ensuing sepsis (Stansbury et al. 2007). It appears that gunpowder caused the wounds which, in turn, caused sepsis which, in turn, caused the need for amputation, which, ironically could have been avoided by treating the wound with Gunpowder in the first place and thus avoiding the amputation. A crazy version of not quite “like cures like,” but as "same cures same," which in homeopathy is termed Isopathy.
If you have a pet who has a hard time with the fireworks, try Aconite (rhymes with “fright”) or, put a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy in their water bowl.
Happy 4th of July and be careful of all those things that go BOOM!
Julia Coyte, CHom
Classically Practical homeopath
* Potency article
Anon., 2022. Sesame Street - How Crayons Are Made [online]. www.youtube.com.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia, 2003. Gunpowder summary [online].
Brown, O. H. and University of California Libraries, 1917. Asthma, presenting an exposition of the nonpassive expiration theory [online]. Internet Archive. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby company.
Chatterjee, T., n.d. My Random Notes on some Homeopathic Remedies Reprint. accessed through Radar Opus software.
Clarke, J. C., 2016a. Gunpowder As a War Remedy: A Work of Homeopathy. USA.
Compound Interest, 2015. The Chemistry of Fireworks | Compound Interest [online]. Compound Interest.
Culpeper, N., 1685. Culpeper’s Last Legacy [online]. openlibrary.org.
Graedon, J. and Graedon, T., 2010. ‘Sensitive’ toothpaste may help asthma. Chicago Tribune [online], 15 May 2010.
Mount Sinai, 2022. Sulfur Information | Mount Sinai - New York [online]. Mount Sinai Health System.
Murphy, R., n.d. Repertory, version 3. Accessed through Radar Opus software.
Park, G. D., 1986. Expanded Role of Charcoal Therapy in the Poisoned and Overdosed Patient. Archives of Internal Medicine [online], 146 (5), 969.
Pray, T. J. W., 1849. The Medicinal Properties of Sulphur. The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal [online], 40 (26), 521–523.
Schroyens, F., n.d. Synthesis Adonis. accessed through Radar Opus software.
Science, U. of H. at M. F., Program, H. N. and Program, H. N., 2020. Sulfur. pressbooks.oer.hawaii.edu [online].
Science Channel, 2020. How It’s Made: Fireworks. YouTube [online]. YouTube Video.
Stansbury, L. G., Branstetter, J. G. and Lalliss, S. J., 2007. Amputation in Military Trauma Surgery. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care [online], 63 (4), 940–944.
Further references — Homeopathy & Medicine
Casey, S., 2011. Gunpowder! Little-Known Remedy Packs a Wallop Against Wounds - Shirley Casey [online]. Hpathy.
Clarke, J. H., 2016b. Gunpowder. from Materia Medica by John Henry Clarke. Homeopathy. [online]. www.materiamedica.info.
Rxlist.com, 2021. Sulfur: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, Dosage & Interactions [online]. RxList.
The Center for Homeopathy, n.d. The Discovery of the Therapeutic Uses of Gunpowder [online]. Center for Homeopathy.
Further reference list — Fireworks & Gunpowder
Foxhall, K., 2017. gunpowder – The Recipes Project [online]. Hypotheses.com.
Jennifer, 2017. Jennifer Evans [online]. Early Modern Medicine.
** This is a fun subscription service of science experiments for kids.
Mel Science, n.d. Magnesium fireworks [online]. MEL Science.
Science Made Fun, n.d. Fireworks and their Colors [online]. Sciencemadefun.net.
United States Geological Survey, 2020. What minerals produce the colors in fireworks? [online]. www.usgs.gov.
Summer is now officially in full swing! Whether you are jetting across the world or driving to the coast or just visiting your local water park, I hope you are out and about and enjoying the sunshine … with a nice, big, wide-brimmed hat, of course!
After decades of being told to avoid the sun, at least one group is warning us that we are not getting enough sun (Alfredsson et al. 2020). As a redhead, I know too well it’s a fine line between too little and too much. Finding that sweet spot of sun is tricky.
Sunburn. I’ve been there, done this and I feel your pain!
I was always under the impression the sun reflecting off the water played a part in a beach vacation sunburn, but Diffey and Mobley (2018) say otherwise. They claim it is just a simple lack of shade at the beach that is the culprit. Those passing clouds aren’t going to help much, either! According to Cancer Research UK (2019), 90% of the UV rays can still pass through light clouds. And, it’s not just the sun from above… hot sand can result in “beach feet” (Cohen 2019). (My personal thoughts on the water and the clouds are that you just don't feel the intensity of the sun as much in those conditions so you are less likely to be taking the necessary precautions.)
Years ago, I watched a TV program which said that adding lycopene (via tomato paste, specifically) to your diet can help keep your skin from burning. Apparently, they weren’t wrong: (Stahl et al. 2001; Cooperstone et al. 2017). Other carotenoids can also be helpful, too (Stahl and Sies 2012). But, if you haven’t eaten enough tomatoes and carrots and instead you find yourself turning into a sun-dried tomato*, I have some homeopathic remedies for you.
For each of these sunburn remedy suggestions, repeat a 30c dose, every half hour or so until some relief is felt and then space the doses out.
The first remedy to turn to for any burn, whether from the sun, a chemical or a flame, is Cantharis. Burns, as well as burning pains. Restlessness. Sunburn with blisters. Even burning pains in the eyes.
Belladonna for dry and hot skin with burning sensations. Swollen skin. Throbbing pains. Bright, red skin. “Burning, pungent, steaming, heat” (Murphy 2020).
If your skin is feeling itchy or prickly after a sunburn, Urtica urens is the remedy you’re looking for. Itching, raised, red blotches. (I had a childhood friend who used to get this after any exposure to the sun. I wish I had known then what I know now. Alas.)
If your skin is burning up and you’re sweating but are inexplicably NOT thirsty, Pulsatilla may be in order.
One more idea is Similasan’s Burn Recovery** for some quick, spray-on relief.
That big beautiful glowing thing in the sky not only can be too much on your skin, it can be too much on your entire system. Horrible to experience, but not generally life threatening is a terrible headache resulting from too much sun.
Belladonna or Glonoinum is what you need here.
As mentioned above for the sunburn, the sun-induced Belladonna headache will be throbbing and intense. A Glonoinum headache will, in addition to throbbing, also be bursting with “waves of terrible, pounding pain” (Murphy 2020) with a rush of blood to the head.
The person needing Glonoinum cannot tolerate having heir head laid backward and may also experience twitching or muscle contractions.
The person needing Belladonna will be more comfortable with their head laid in a backward position and sitting quietly.
This sun headache can be indicative of worse things to come. If you find yourself at this point — get out of the sun now(!) and get some fluids in you. Do whatever you need to do to gently lower your body temperature.
The Natural First Aid Handbook (Mars 2017) suggests making a spritzer to cool yourself down by filling an 8-ounce spray bottle with water, 2 teaspoons of witch hazel, 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 10 drops of peppermint essential oil and “spray or sprinkle over yourself.”
If you are unsuccessful in regulating your temperature, Heat exhaustion or Heat Prostration is the next step when you’ve been out too long and your body is not able to cool itself. Children are particularly susceptible to this phenomenon (SunSmart 2020). Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, weakness, faintness, headache, muscle cramps, heavy sweating and nausea and/or vomiting.
Dr. Colin B. Lessell (1999) recommends giving either homeopathic Carbo vegetabilis for the exhausted person who seems ready to collapse or Bach Rescue Remedy and notes that expert medical assistance should be sought if the patient does not respond rapidly.
A further ill-effect from the sun is Heat Stroke or Sunstroke which is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. Administer Belladonna or Glonoinum while on the way to the hospital or while waiting for the ambulance.
How to tell the difference between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke? According to Lessell (1999, p. 116):
If you, like me, have a history of sunburns, check out my article on Sol, yet another homeopathic remedy which can help set things right after too much sun.
Now, get a big hat and a bottle of water, grab a friend (or a book) and head to the beach, the pool, the park or your balcony to soak up some (but not too much!) delicious vitamin D!
Julia Coyte, CHom
Classically Practical homeopath
* Bonus remedy: Consider some China officinalis if you have experienced any dehydration from too much sweating or not drinking enough water. Note: putting a little pinch of salt in your water (Lessell 1999) can help balance your electrolytes … or, grab nature's electrolyte balancer, coconut water. (Clever thing that coconuts are what you find on an otherwise uninhabitable island!)
** I have no affiliation with this company, I just like their products.
Reference list and further reading:
Alfredsson, L., Armstrong, B. K., Butterfield, D. A., Chowdhury, R., de Gruijl, F. R., Feelisch, M., Garland, C. F., Hart, P. H., Hoel, D. G., Jacobsen, R., Lindqvist, P. G., Llewellyn, D. J., Tiemeier, H., Weller, R. B. and Young, A. R., 2020. Insufficient Sun Exposure Has Become a Real Public Health Problem. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [online], 17 (14).
Cancer Research UK, 2019. The UV index and sunburn risk [online]. Cancer Research UK.
Cohen, P. R., 2019. Beach Feet: A Sand-associated Thermal Injury to the Soles of the Feet and the Plantar Aspect of the Toes. Cureus [online].
Connolly, S., Bertinetti, M., Teague, W. J., Gabbe, B. J. and Tracy, L. M., 2021. Sunburn Injuries Admitted to Burn Services in Australia and New Zealand. JAMA Dermatology [online], 157 (6), 729.
Cooperstone, J. L., Tober, K. L., Riedl, K. M., Teegarden, M. D., Cichon, M. J., Francis, D. M., Schwartz, S. J. and Oberyszyn, T. M., 2017. Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations. Scientific Reports [online], 7, 5106.
Diffey, B. L. and Mobley, C. D., 2018. Sunburn at the seaside. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine [online], 34 (5), 298–301.
Gauer, R. and Meyers, B. K., 2019. Heat-Related Illnesses. American Family Physician [online], 99 (8), 482–489.
Glazer, J. L., 2005. Management of Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion. American Family Physician [online], 71 (11), 2133–2140.
Kenny, G. P., Wilson, T. E., Flouris, A. D. and Fujii, N., 2018. Chapter 31 - Heat exhaustion [online]. ScienceDirect.
Lau, W. Y., Kato, H. and Nosaka, K., 2019. Water intake after dehydration makes muscles more susceptible to cramp but electrolytes reverse that effect. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine [online], 5 (1), e000478.
Lessell, C. B., 1999. The world travellers’ manual of homoeopathy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel.
Mars, B., 2017. The natural first aid handbook : household remedies, herbal treatments, basic emergency preparedness everyone should know. North Adams, Ma: Storey Publishing.
Murphy, R., 2020. Nature’s materia medica : 1,400 homeopathic and herbal remedies. 4th edition. Blackburg, Va.: Lotus Health Institute, November.
Pirayesh Islamian, J. and Mehrali, H., 2015. Lycopene as A Carotenoid Provides Radioprotectant and Antioxidant Effects by Quenching Radiation-Induced Free Radical Singlet Oxygen: An Overview. Cell Journal (Yakhteh) [online], 16 (4), 386–391.
Stahl, W., Heinrich, U., Wiseman, S., Eichler, O., Sies, H. and Tronnier, H., 2001. Dietary Tomato Paste Protects against Ultraviolet Light–Induced Erythema in Humans. The Journal of Nutrition [online], 131 (5), 1449–1451.
Stahl, W. and Sies, H., 2012. Photoprotection by dietary carotenoids: concept, mechanisms, evidence and future development. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research [online], 56 (2), 287–295.
SunSmart, 2020. Alarming number of infants, children and teens presenting at Victorian hospital emergency departments with sunburn - SunSmart [online]. Sunsmart.com.au.
Tripathi, R., Mazmudar, R. S., Knusel, K. D., Ezaldein, H. H., Bordeaux, J. S. and Scott, J. F., 2021. Trends in emergency department visits due to sunburn and factors associated with severe sunburns in the United States. Archives of Dermatological Research [online], 313 (2), 79–88.
Julia Coyte, CHom
I am passionate about homeopathy and I love sharing this passion. Having a working knowledge of homeopathy shouldn't be kept a secret. If people have the ability to help themselves, their children and their friends when they have minor ailments, life just gets better for everyone. That is the purpose behind Ruminating on Remedies.