Gunpowder for wound treatment?! It sounded intriguing to me in 1999 when I first read about homeopaths using Gunpowder successfully for this purpose. Of course they weren’t detonating it, but rather giving it orally as a homeopathic remedy–that is, a medicine prepared by a homeopathic pharmacy according to exact specifications and always highly diluted.
In Lyle Morgan’s Homeopathic Medicine: First Aid and Emergency Care, I read: “In 4 years of practice, using Gun powder (3x) as an adjunct treatment to homeopathic wound cleansing, I have never had any trouble from infection in a wound so treated.” And in Dorothy Shepherd’s Magic of the Minimum Dose, I read that abrasions “would not turn septic, if cleansed carefully … and a tablet of Gunpowder was given three or four times a day for two or three days.” Further research revealed that Gunpowder is not mentioned frequently in the homeopathic literature. However, John H. Clarke’s 30-page monograph, Gunpowder as a War Remedy, published in 1915, was a wealth of information. He wrote:
“The great sphere of action of gunpowder is in cases of septic suppuration–or, in other words–of wounds that have become poisoned with the germs of putrefaction. … But Gunpowder my [may] also be used as a prophylactic.
That is to say, it will not only cure septic suppuration when present, but it will afford such protection to the organism against harmful germs, that wounds will be less likely to become septic in one who is under its influence….
Now the great point about Gunpowder is that it has a broad and clear indication that hardly anyone can miss–blood-poisoning. …
The poison quickly finds its way into the blood–boils, carbuncles, eruptions, abscesses, or other manifestations appear, showing unmistakably that the blood has been poisoned. To all these conditions Gunpowder acts as an antidote.”
Gunpowder‘s potential for helping wildlife
As a wildlife rehabilitator since 1986 who has used homeopathy since 1992, I immediately realized that homeopathic Gunpowder could be of tremendous help in the treatment of wild animals because wounds are one of the most common conditions in wild animals admitted to rehabilitation. Some wounds are minor and the animals recover without incident–but others are life-threatening or fatal.
A bottle of homeopathic medicine, Gunpowder 200C, next to the original substance from which it was prepared: black powder gunpowder. © Shirley Casey
Wild animals can get wounded in a variety of ways: they may be bitten by household pets, hit by vehicles, bullets, or gardening equipment, trapped, or even bitten by other wild animals. Common wounds in wild animals include punctures, lacerations, abrasions, crushing injuries, burns, compound fractures, and more. When seen by rehabilitators, the wounds may be recent and fresh, or they may be older. They may be relatively clean and unlikely to become infected if untreated, or they can be contaminated and in the early stages of infection. Occasionally, wild animals arrive in rehabilitation with seriously infected wounds: severe abscesses, gangrene, or septicemia (blood-poisoning). It was interesting to note that Clarke described using Gunpowder with similar infections from lacerations, animal bites (including insect, squirrel, and snake bites), and sores from various toxins.
Very small animals, such as young birds, rabbits, and squirrels, are commonly admitted to rehabilitation with bite wounds. Even after aggressive wound cleaning and the use of the homeopathic remedies Ledum and Hypericum, which can be very effective for punctures and other kinds of lacerations, we rehabilitators found that some of the wounds still became infected, especially those from cat bites. Waiting until the signs of infection were apparent before selecting the homeopathic medicines matching the symptoms meant that the infection could become well established and more difficult to treat, particularly in such small or young animals. Any homeopathic remedy that could be given preventively–immediately after the wound occurred or was found, but before an infection developed as Clarke suggested for Gunpowder–greatly interested me.
Concerns about antibiotic use
Rehabilitators work closely with their veterinarians to learn basic skills and establish wound management protocols to promote healing and deter infection. Many veterinarians want rehabilitators to immediately clean, flush, and treat minor wounds, but more severe wounds are cleaned and treated by the veterinarian, such as those needing suturing or surgery. Veterinarians often prescribe antibiotics for wounds, especially those that are severe, badly contaminated, or already infected.
Veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, and many others, however, share increasing concerns about problems related to antibiotics. The World Health Organization cites antibiotic resistance as one of the top three world health problems. Antibiotics can cause a variety of undesired side effects in wild animals, including appetite loss and gastrointestinal difficulties (e.g., diarrhea). In addition, antibiotics may not be effective against some kinds of bacteria. It can also be challenging to determine safe, yet effective, doses for animals that are very small or large, or are difficult or dangerous to medicate.
Considering homeopathy for wounds
These and other concerns have prompted wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians to consider alternative treatment options for wounds. While some have tried various botanical and natural treatments, others have turned to homeopathy. Homeopathic literature discusses many remedies that have been used specifically with wounds. Most of these homeopathic remedies are well-known, such as Hypericum, Ledum, Calendula, Staphysagria, Phosphorus, Hamamelis, Apis, and Arnica. Other homeopathic medicines are commonly considered with infections, such as Hepar sulphuris, Lachesis, Crotalus horridus, Mercurius, and Pyrogenium.
So I gave a copy of Clarke’s monograph on Gunpowder to several rehabilitators and veterinarians who were already using homeopathy with wildlife, to get their reaction. They were just as enthusiastic as I was, especially since Clarke reported that homeopathic Gunpowder was helpful with both obvious existing infections and those that were expected due to the nature of the wound.
Morgan, Shepherd, and Clarke all described using lower potencies (e.g., 3X) of Gunpowder when treating people with wounds. However, as rehabilitators and veterinarians working with wildlife, we knew that wild animals often arrive in rehabilitation with a high vital force and serious, acute conditions requiring immediate attention. We had learned that that when using homeopathic remedies with wildlife, a single dose of a higher potency was often more appropriate than multiple repetitions of lower potencies. Also, minimizing the number of doses reduced the need to handle and potentially stress the animals. So, several of us ordered Gunpowder in 30c and 200c potencies.
First successful cases lead to more
During the first few years, this group of experienced and licensed rehabilitators used standard wound management protocols, worked closely with veterinarians, and used Gunpowder when it was deemed appropriate. The group also had attended training on the use of classical homeopathy with wildlife, had repertories and materia medicas, as well as Clarke’s monograph on Gunpowder, and used effective rehabilitation practices (e.g., diet, caging). We saw positive results using Gunpowder with more than a hundred cases of wildlife admitted with a wide variety of wounds.
In 2002, I described the use of homeopathic Gunpowder during conference presentations at the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AVHMA). Joyce Harman, DVM, mentioned her successful use of Gunpowder for horses with bone infections at the same AVHMA Conference.
I also started describing the use of homeopathic Gunpowder in my seminars for wildlife rehabilitators. In addition, my article “Homeopathic Gunpowder: Big Bang from a Small Remedy” was published in the Winter 2002 edition of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. (See Resources.)
Since then, we have heard that homeopathic Gunpowder has been used successfully with hundreds, if not thousands, of wildlife cases. The following are a few examples. In each of the cases, the homeopathic medicines were dissolved in water and administered orally.
Eagle shot through the wing
A state wildlife officer found a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) sitting in a field, unable to fly, so he took it to the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program in Fort Collins, Colorado, on a Friday afternoon. The bird was in mild shock and somewhat dehydrated. He had an injured right wing and broken tail feathers. While the eagle did not appear as frightened as most wild animals do when captured, transported, and examined, the experienced raptor rehabilitator still decided to administer a dose of Aconite 1M, a homeopathic remedy helpful in cases of fright, shock, and trauma.
Further examination revealed a small hole through the tip of the eagle’s wing. The bullet had shot off a small digit (bone), and the wound was close to other bones. Since the injury was several days old and dirty, the risk of infection was high. The wound was thoroughly cleaned and flushed, and then bandaged with a wet-to-dry wrap. Following this, an antibiotic and a pain medication were given according to conventional veterinary protocols.
Gunshot wound in the wingtip of Golden Eagle after a thorough cleaning. Antibiotics had been started, but photo was prior to the administration of homeopathic Gunpowder. Photo by Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.
The rehabilitator also administered a dose of Arnica montana 1M to address the trauma of the eagle’s injury and his fall after being shot while flying. Following rehydration, the eagle was placed in a cage where his movement would be relatively limited.
The rehabilitator had recently acquired Clarke’s monograph on Gunpowder and two potencies of the remedy: 30c and 1M. She thought that homeopathic Gunpowder could be a good match for the eagle since the wound was contaminated, older, and had the potential to develop a serious infection. She decided that the higher potency would be the best choice because the condition was acute and the eagle’s vital force seemed high. So after consulting with a homeopathic veterinarian, she gave Gunpowder 1M about 6 hours after the Arnica. The eagle ate well and improved over the weekend.
On Monday morning, the rehabilitator and two conventional veterinarians examined the eagle’s wound. The veterinarians were amazed that the bird’s wound was healing so well and in record time. The rehabilitator explained that she had also consulted with a homeopathic veterinarian on the case and that the remedies Arnica and Gunpowder had likely accelerated and enhanced the eagle’s healing.
Two-and-a-half days after the administration of homeopathic Gunpowder, the eagle’s wound was healing faster than similar wounds had healed with good wound cleaning and antibiotics alone. Photo by Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.
It took more than a year of care in rehabilitation for the eagle to molt and new feathers to grow back on the wing tip and tail. Also, the eagle had to adjust to his missing digit and learn to fly again. The rehabilitators and others involved in the eagle’s recovery were convinced that homeopathy played a key role in the eventual release of this magnificent bird back to the wild.
Release of a Golden Eagle that had fully recovered after a gunshot wound. Children and adults celebrated its return to a life of freedom in the wild. Photo by Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.
A squirrel’s stubborn abscess
A veterinary clinic called a local wildlife rehabilitator about a juvenile Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis) that had been attacked by a client’s cat. The veterinarian had found three deep punctures in the squirrel’s shoulder and left front leg. He had cleaned the wounds and started the squirrel on a week-long course of antibiotics before the rehabilitator picked up the squirrel at the clinic.
Within two days, however, the squirrel’s shoulder and left leg were slightly swollen and inflamed. Another examination by the veterinarian resulted in adding a second and stronger antibiotic that would be given for ten days. The squirrel’s leg continued to swell and the inflammation increased. Within four more days, the leg became so hard and swollen that the squirrel could not bend his elbow or toes, and the leg seemed very painful when touched. Warm compresses helped to reduce the swelling and pain while they were applied, but by the end of the eighth day, the squirrel was clearly in a very serious condition, even with the antibiotics.
Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel being fed squirrel milk replacement formula with special feeding syringe. © 2006 Shirley Casey
Consultation with the veterinarian resulted in the rehabilitator contacting a homeopathic veterinarian who prescribed Hepar sulphuris 30c because it is frequently effective with abscesses. Unfortunately, there was no change in the abscess by the next day. In light of the small squirrel’s rapidly deteriorating condition, they gave Lachesis 200c since it is often effective with abscesses and infections that are becoming septic. Again, there was no improvement in 12 hours–and there should have been if the remedy was the correct match for the condition.
They decided to switch to homeopathic Gunpowder and gave the squirrel one dose in the 200c potency. Within eight hours, the swelling had softened and a cream-colored discharge started draining through small holes that had appeared in the leg. The swelling soon decreased 40% and the squirrel was able to bend his elbow and toes.
The rate of improvement slowed at about 48 hours. Another dose of Gunpowder 200c was administered and the squirrel’s improvement continued steadily. Within four days of the original dose of Gunpowder, all signs of infection were gone and the squirrel was not showing any difficulty with the leg or shoulder. After another month in rehabilitation during which he appeared healthy and active, the squirrel was released back to the wild.
Blue Jay with a bone infection
A woman found a young Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) sitting on a gravel and dirt parking lot one Tuesday. Since it did not fly away, she took it home, placed it in a box, and fed it for a couple of days. The diet of dry dog food soaked in water was not the best for Blue Jays but it was acceptable for a few days. When the bird still was not standing or trying to fly by that Saturday evening, she took it to a wildlife rehabilitator.
The rehabilitator knew from past experience that wild animals that have recently been captured can suffer ill effects from fear, and this bird appeared to be severely frightened. So she gave the bird a dose of Aconite 1M, placed him in a small, warm, quiet cage, and let him calm down for an hour. She then conducted a basic examination of the calmer bird. His weight and general energy were good, but he had some swelling and bruising related to a simple fracture of the left leg. While there was a small scratch on the leg, she observed no signs of infection. After giving a dose of Arnica montana 1M to address the traumatic injury, help reduce pain, and accelerate his recovery, she thoroughly cleaned the small scratch. Since the veterinarian’s office was already closed for the weekend, she carefully set and wrapped the leg to stabilize it according to the previous directions of her veterinarian. A few hours later, she administered a single dose of Symphytum 200c to reduce pain from the fracture and accelerate bone healing. The bird ate well and seemed better.
On Monday morning, she removed the wrap to check the leg. While bird bones do heal faster than mammal bones, she was impressed to find that the bone was already fairly solid. The rehabilitator had seen similar rapid healing of bird fractures when homeopathic remedies such as Symphytum or Ruta graveolens were used.
However, she was concerned about an area near the scratch that was warm, swollen, and blue and red with a slight greenish color. The leg appeared to be developing a serious infection. The rehabilitator consulted with a homeopathic veterinarian. Since the skin on a bird’s leg is so thin that an infection can easily involve the bone, they decided to administer a dose of Gunpowder 200c immediately. If the leg did not start to improve by the next morning, antibiotics would be given. The veterinarian also advised the rehabilitator to soak the bird’s leg in warm water with Epsom salts three times a day.
By the next morning, the jay’s leg color was better, and the swelling and inflammation were significantly reduced. By the second day, there were no signs of infection. After close monitoring for two weeks in an indoor cage, the bird was placed in an outdoor flight cage to practice flying. He was released with other young Blue Jays when they were ready for independence.
Chimney Swift nabbed by a cat
A homeowner saw a Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) that had become soaked during a heavy rainstorm. She then watched a neighbor’s cat grab the bird before it was dry enough to fly. After scaring the cat into dropping the bird, she took the bird to a rehabilitator.
The Chimney Swift was cool, with shallow breathing and dull eyes–a combination of signs that indicated he was in shock. While trembling with fear, he still appeared to have a strong will to live. The rehabilitator gave the bird Aconite 1M and placed him on heat in a small, quiet cage. When the rehabilitator checked the bird an hour later, he was warm, strong, and alert, so it appeared that the Aconite had helped.
There were no signs of wounds or injuries, but since a cat had captured the bird, the rehabilitator knew there were likely punctures; also, punctures from cat bites often close quickly and may not be visible. Concern about rapid infection and septicemia resulting from the bacteria in cats’ mouths prompts many veterinarians to routinely prescribe antibiotics when small animals are injured by cats. The rehabilitator gave a single dose of Gunpowder 30c as a prophylactic as directed by a veterinarian. Within a day, the Chimney Swift was acting normally and was placed in an outdoor flight cage. He did not show any signs of infection or other problems. The recovered bird was released 14 days later–well after infection would have appeared if there had been any.
Big results from a “small” remedy
Two of the cases described above show how homeopathic Gunpowder was used successfully as a prophylactic to prevent infection from occurring. In the other cases, Gunpowder was used with wounds that were already infected. Gunpowder appears to have been highly effective in all four cases. There are many more cases where rehabilitators have used Gunpowder successfully, such as a young opossum with multiple abdominal abscesses from cat bites; an infant squirrel with an infected umbilicus; a raccoon with septicemia that had not responded to multiple courses of antibiotics; and a duck with a bone infection.
Homeopathic Gunpowder is not well represented in the repertories; nor is it a match for all wounds, but it nevertheless is worth considering. As Lyle Morgan says in Homeopathic Medicine: First Aid and Emergency Care, homeopathic Gunpowder “… is a valuable, but all too often ignored remedy.” Those who have seen homeopathic Gunpowder at work are likely to add it to wound rubrics in their repertories, and are not likely to forget its beneficial effects.
“Homeopathic First Aid Tips for Wildlife” by Shirley Casey and Betty Jo Black, DVM, 2002. www.ewildagain.org/Homeopathy/homeopathictips.htm
“Homeopathic Gunpowder: Big Bang from a Small Remedy” by Shirley Casey, Winter 2002, Journal of American Holistic Veterinary Medicine. www.ewildagain.org/Homeopathy/gunpowder.htm
© 2011 Shirley J. Casey. Reprinted with permission of the author. Similar articles are available at www.ewildagain.org.