Homeopathy Papers

On The Treatment of Burns

Another experiment of not less convincing character is related by John Anderson.[12] “A lady scalded her face and right arm with boiling grease; the face was very red, very much scalded, and the seat of violent pains; the arm she had plunged into a jug full of cold water. In the course of a few minutes oil of turpentine was applied to the face. For her arm she desired to continue the use of cold water for some hours, because it had formerly been of service to her in burns (she could not say whether those had been more severe or less so than the present one). In the course of seven hours her face looked much better and was relieved. In the meantime she had often renewed the cold water for the arm, but whenever she withdrew it she complained of much pain, and in truth the inflammation in it had increased. The following morning I found that she had suffered great pain in the arm during the night; the inflammation had extended above the elbow, several large blisters had risen, and thick eschars had formed on the arm and hand. The face on the contrary was completely free from pain, had no blisters, and only a little of the epidermis had become detached. The arm had to be dressed for a fortnight with emollient remedies before it was cured.”

Who can read these honest observations of illustrious men without being satisfied of the much superior healing power of the application of spirituous fluids to that of cold water, which affords a delusive alleviation, but delays cure?

I shall not, therefore, adduce my own very extensive experience to the same effect. Were I even to add a hundred such comparative observations, could they prove more plainly, strongly, and convincingly than is done by these two cases, that (warm) spirituous fluids possess an inestimable advantage over the transiently alleviating cold water in the case of severe burns?

How instructing and consoling, then, for mankind is the truth that is to be deduced from these facts: that for serious and for the most severe injuries from burning, though cold water is very hurtful for them, spirituous applications (warm alcohol or oil of turpentine) are highly beneficial and capable if saving many lives.

These proofs will serve to guide the great numbers of mankind who require help, to the only effectual method, to the only health bringing (sanative) remedy, without which, in the case of extensive burns (that is where the greater part of the surface of the body has been scalded or burnt), delivery from death and recovery is perfectly impossible, and has never been witnessed.

This one single, and, as I have imagined, not unworthy object of my essay, was evidently not perceived by Professor Dzondi, as is proved by his violent letters to me; he only perceives in my remarks an attack upon his opinion. It is a matter of very little interest to me to find that cold water which has already been recommended ninety-nine times by others for burns, from a predilection in favour of this palliative whose effects are so injurious, is now served up to us again for the hundredth time, and I should feel ashamed to make use of a Journal so useful in promoting the happiness of the people as this is, for the purposes of merely personal recrimination and discussion. Moreover, as in the article I allude to I advised him to convince himself of the truth of my assertions by an experiment upon himself, my object was thereby to inform everyone of the conditions necessary to be observed in order to constitute a really convincing pure experiment of this kind.

I avail myself of this opportunity to expose the disadvantage of cold water (and other ordinary palliatives) in the treatment of serious burns, and call the attention of the public to the only effectual remedies, warm spirituous fluids, in order that they may avail themselves of them in the hour of need. This is not any mere idea of my own, but it has been clearly proved and irrefragably demonstrated by the observations of the most honourable and illustrious men of our profession (Sydenham, Heister, B. Bell, J. Hunter, Kentish), and especially by the convincing comparative experiments of Bell and Anderson.

I shall only observe further, that the burnt parts must be kept moistened uninterruptedly with the warm spirituous fluid, e.g. warm alcohol, for which end the linen rags soaked in it should first be simply laid upon the injured parts, and then, in order to prevent evaporation, and to keep all warm, covered with pieces of woollen cloth or sheepskin. If a very large portion of the surface of the body is burnt, then some one will be obliged to devote himself entirely and constantly to the external care of the patient, removing the pieces of cloth or skin one by one and pouring with a spoon warm alcohol (or oil of turpentine) over the linen rags upon the skin (without removing them), then as soon as they are dry, covering up the part and going on to the others, so that when the last part has been moistened and covered up, it is time to commence again with the first part, which, in the case of such a volatile fluid as warm alcohol, has in the meantime generally become dry. This process must be continued day and night unremittingly, for which purpose the person engaged in the performing it must be changed every two hours for a fresh one. The chief benefit, especially in severe and very serious injuries from burns, depends on what is done within the first twenty-four hours, or in the worst cases, the first forty-eight hours, that is, until all trace of the pain of the burn is permanently removed. A basin should be at hand containing very hot water, which should be frequently renewed, in which some vessels full of alcohol should stand, of which the attendant takes out the warmest for the purpose of wetting the rags, whilst the rest stand in the basin in order to remain sufficiently warm so that there never shall be a want of warm alcohol for the purpose of pouring on the rags. If the parts of the body on which the patient is obliged to lie are also burnt, the rags, dipped in warm alcohol, should be applied to them on the commencement, and a layer of water-proof cloth spread underneath; these parts can subsequently be wetted from above without being removed. If the greater part of the body is burnt, the first application must only consist of warm brandy, in order to spare the first shock to the patient which is the worst, the second wetting should be preformed with stronger alcohol, and afterwards the very strongest alcohol may be used. And as this operation must be continued uninterruptedly during the night, the precaution must be used of keeping the candle (or lantern) at a good distance, otherwise the warm spirituous vapour rising from the skin might readily catch fire, and prove destructive to the patient.

If the burn has been effected with gun powder, the small black particles should not be picked out of the skin before all traces of the pain of the burn are permanently removed.


[1] Homoeopathic

[2] Heister already knew and had recommended the treatment f burns by oil of turpentine, which has recently created so much sensation in England: “expeditum quoque hic esse solet terebinthinae oleum; siquidem opportune ac saepius corpori illinatur.”

[3] See Physisch-Medic. Journal, herausgegeben von Kuhn, Leipzig, 1801 Jun., s. 428.

[4] Ansfangsgr. D. Wundarz., Bd. i.

[5] The strongest alcohol heated is much more excellent in burns of various parts, even where the epidermis has come off; but in scalds of the whole body (from which no one ever recovered under the usual mode of treatment with cold water, saturnine lotions, burn-salves, or oils, all died generally within four days), we must content ourselves with ordinary spirits made very warm, or at least commence the treatment for the first hours with this, and constantly renew this warm application, keeping the patient warmly wrapped up in bed. Of all conceivable modes of treatment this is the best.

[6] Benjamin Bells system of surgery, Vol. v.

[7] On Burns, London, 1797.

[8] [See above.]

[9] Opera. Lipsiae, 1695, p.343, (Edit. Syd. Soc. p. 255). “Ambustis extus (admovendus), quo casu omnibus remedies, quotquot adhuc inventa fuere, hic liquor (spiritus vini) facile palmam praeripit, cum curationem quam cito absolvat;-nempe si lintea spiritu vini imbuta partibus ab aqua fervente, pulvere pyres, vel simili laesis, quam primum hoc infligitur malum, applicentur, eademque dicto spiritu madefacta subinde repetantur, donec dolor ab igne penitus evanuerit, et postea solum bis in die.” That cold external applications to burnt parts render them liable to increase of pains, that such parts soon become altogether painless from the application of external heat as he had often witnessed, is testified by the great observer, John Hunter, in his work On the blood and inflammation, p.218.

[10] System of Surgery, 3rd Edit. Vol. v.

[11] On Burns, London and Newcastle, 1797, two Essays

[12] Kentish’s second essay on burns, p.43.

About the author

Feonna Bartlett

Feonna Bartlett is a qualified and insured Homoeopath, living and working in Newport Gwent. She is a member of The Society of Homeopaths.

Feonna graduated from the Welsh School of Homoeopathy and is committed to ongoing professional development.

15 Comments

  • As a burns doctor I am one of the people who doesn’t listen to the voice of homeopathy. After reading this article, that is a fact I state proudly. However, since I have offered the courtesy of reading the argument for this treatment, I would invite others to read about basic burns physiology, particularly Jacksons burn wound model, descriptions of appearances of different depth burns and the natural history of each.

    To make some brief comments: heating tissues damages them. Heating them more, on purpose, damages them more and is extremely unwise. It MAY, however, cause the burn to hurt less – once a certain depth of injury is achieved the skins pain receptors are also damaged. That is why sunburn (the most superficial type of burn) is very painful, a superficial dermal burn (such as the blistered hand of the author’s daughter) moderately so, deep dermal burns are less painful and full thickness burns are painless. However, superficial and superficial dermal burns heal without scarring, whereas deep dermal and full thickness burns do not. It’s not a good idea to convert a superficial burn to a deep one because they hurt less!

    The blistered burn was always going to heal without scarring, certainly within 3 weeks. In this case it did so despite “treatment”, not because of it.

    I usually regard homeopathy as inconsequential and object to it only because it lacks evidence of efficacy. However, this is actively dangerous and, for a change, has made me quite angry.

    • Dear Dr.,
      I respect your concern for the burn patients. The author is just sharing her experience and quoting an article written in 1816 as reference.
      As an honest scientific person, can you just take the ‘observation’ for what it is, without being judgmental?
      Nowhere does the author suggest that you have to increase the severity or the degree of burn. Nowhere does it suggest application of something very hot on a burn. Nowhere does it say don’t take hospital treatment for severe burns.
      It is just arguing about the role of warm water application in small burns as a measure of first-aid relief.
      I do not deny that cold water application has been found helpful as a first-aid in burns but is it scientific to denounce an observation without testing it?
      Why not setup a small experiment where a small first degree burn in volunteers is compared for the effect of both warm (not hot) and cold water application for 20 minutes? You won’t lose anything by just keeping your beliefs aside for sometime and test an observation neutrally.

      • “Nowhere does the author suggest that you have to increase the severity of a burn.” May I draw your attention to paragraph 3: ” burnt herself and had immediately, to his horror, held the burnt area of her hand in the heat of a candle for a little while”. Putting a burn into a naked flame may count as increasing severity.

        • The author is just recounting that she saw someone doing that. She doesn’t say that you have to put every burn on candle. Indeed she did say ‘And yet some in the group were surprised, and some argued that this would be dangerous with anything other than a very slight burn…’
          Most of her article is about using warm water as first aid for minor burns.

  • Would the homeopathic treatment for burns not typically be a pill with some dilution of petrol, acid, caustic soda or the like?

  • So your evidence that this works is an anectode and an article from 1816? That is not enough to compel me to intentionally burn myself.

      • Where does the article say ‘burn yourself’?
        “His explanation was that left alone a burn, ‘burnt’, as in the vital force would produce heat. By applying cold water this burning effect was reduced and the vital force had to summon even more heat. If instead we assist the vital force by applying heat the job would be done more quickly.” Applying heat to a burn is relatively unambiguous…

        • ‘Applying heat’ and ‘burn yourself’ are not always the same thing. You can ofcourse burn yourself by applying too much heat but the article is about application of slightly warm water. The author says ‘The temperature is what I would describe as ‘hand hot’, the temperature that a normal hand understands as ‘hot’ but not unbearable.’
          Why can’t you read things in totality?

  • My great-grandmother who was 95 years old accidentally burnt her arm to the point that partially bone was seen. The Hospital in Russia sent her home to die because no treatment was available at that time in our small town and doctors did not want her to die at the hospital. My aunt have heard of oil made with Sea-Buckthorn. Twice a day she was pouring this oil on her arm and covering with cheese close. It took a lot of litters of that oil. I was 9 at the time. I remember that it too k pain away immediately (I don’t know if completely but my great grandmother was not crying after the oil was applied for the first time. Sometime past, and the skin on her arm has grown back and it looked younger than the skin on her other arm. and her hand was fully functional. Some ligaments did not grow back and a couple of her fingers were always in a different position. She lived until I was 22.

  • I recently burned my hand on the motor of a gas lawnmower. I touched it for just a second but enough to get a more serious burn than I’ve had before. I immediately ran into the house an got a handful of ice cubes. I continued the freezing treatment for about an hour (filling a work glove worked really well) while I continued to garden. The pain as significant without the ice and gone with the ice. After an hour the pain was gone completely. There is a big blister but it is not painful and I’ve been applying polysporin and vitamin E oil alternately and covering it with a bandage to keep it moist and soft. All is well and the gardening continues.

  • My peers. – I was burnt in a house fire 18 mths ago. Over 20% 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree to face, cheast, shoulders, arms etc. Additionally Roof insulation melted down my back.
    Atrociously treated by Local Alopathic Medical Training School.
    As a qualified Naturopath, Homeopath etc. I am living proof of how to treat severe burns.
    No one on earth will tell me differently as “The Proof is in The Cooking”
    People are tentative on this subject so No Fear Here.
    I would love to hear from you @ [email protected]

  • All I know is this, I just scalded my hand with boiling water accidentally while preparing pasta, Initially I ran my hand under cold water, whilst I searched the internet for treatment, i came across this article and as the cold water was not diminishing the pain, I switched to warm then hot water and I can now say the pain has diminished greatly, which was not the result of the cold water, but the hot.

  • The offense-driven nature of your replies (“if you disagree with me you are stupid and don’t understand”) is indicative of the lack of any backing to your claims. Warm water can be more effective than ice cold water. Room temp water is the most effective. As the temp gets further away from room temp, the effectiveness of the treatment declines. The evidence for this is hundreds of tests on real flesh that was treated with the different temperatures of water people use, showing that hot or ice cold water is a very bad idea.

    Also, you have to do it for 20 minutes. Minimum. If having conversations with those around you at work is what caused you to treat your burn for “a longer time” then you’re very very uninformed. Likewise if you had your daughter treat her burn for anything less than 20 minutes. Your daughter would have healed much more quickly if you had simply had whoever was looking after her INSTANTLY put the burn in room temperature water, and left it for 20 minutes. By personally picking her up and taking her somewhere, you wasted a lot of time: time is the most important factor by far, and you squandered it when you shouldn’t have. By trying to do your “special” treatment that’s “better than anyone else’s and personally mine because I’m different and special”, you made it much more likely that your daughter would experience a lot more pain.

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