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.
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.