2013 July August

They burn metal to get more fire; a case of Petroleum

by Misha Norland

A boy age 8 came to the School of Homeopathy teaching clinic, with severe eczema all over his face, torso, arms and legs. He also has asthma, runny nose, wheezing, worse running outside in the cold.[1]


The eczema is red and inflamed, with itchy dry vesicles; he scratches and it gets infected with pus, and oozes a discharge with a fishy smell. His parents say he scratches all the time unless he is distracted with a computer game. At night, he scratches until he bleeds; the bed sheets are covered in blood and pus. He has relief if he can sleep in his mother’s bed but the father says it makes them all “cranky” because of lack of a good night’s sleep.

He is always hungry; he loves potatoes, tomato ketchup and fruit - he will eat 3 or 4 oranges.

Mind: he is affectionate and sympathetic. He is very impressionable and watching films has amplified his fear of ghosts and monsters; he won’t go upstairs on his own. 



Both parents come to the consultation. The boy arranges their chairs, lining them up in a row, tightly together. The boy and his mother are wearing matching striped tops. The parents bring a list of previous prescriptions, no summary of the effects, just a long list.

The boy has had steroid creams for his eczema, steroid inhalers for his asthma, and a list of homeopathic prescriptions, polychrests, Sulphur, Lycopodium, none of which have worked. 

The boy spends most of the consultation writing multiplication times tables in columns on a whiteboard while his parents are talking with the practitioner.

Boy’s Personality: he is polite, well behaved, although he gets restless and bored unless occupied by maths. Occasionally, he comes over and sits on his parents’ lap and hugs them when they are talking about him. He is not shy but he is conformist. He is not competitive. He is kind to other children at school and relates to children who are not included, taking care of a child with disabilities. He is sad that the other children won’t play with him because of his skin condition and says he has to control his anger when they are mean to him, tripping him up.

There is a restless, scattered feel to the session. His father fiddles on his mobile phone. The mother seems unhappy with her life. They all speak over one another. The parents pick at the boy’s skin if he sits down. He is hungry and asks for something to eat and drink.

Background: the family is Asian, living in the industrial Midlands in UK. Marriage and the move to England involved a fall of position. The mother was a doctor in India, who works as a cleaner in England. The father was made redundant from his job last year; both parents mention the stress of this loss of position and family income. There are issues of self-worth.

Medical history: the mother was ravenously hungry during pregnancy. Labour was induced and it was a forceps delivery; the mother had surgery for 3 hours afterwards. She describes red marks on the baby’s face where the forceps pulled him out. The baby was hungry all the time.

The child and his mother have both had hepatitis C, the boy when he was 3 years old. The mother was prescribed Lachesis by a medical homeopath in India, which restored her blood platelets to normal.

Case taking

The boy is kicking his legs and leaning his head on his dad’s arm.

Misha Norland (MN): Your name, what does it mean?

All talking over each other: “Fight, it means warrior.”

MN: I can see that you have quite an angry skin.

The boy jumps on his mum’s lap and hugs her.

MN: Why don’t you do us a drawing?

The boy goes over to the board, and writes out the times tables in neat columns.

Dad: "It is inflamed, oozing a watery discharge, comes out in droplets, not very sticky, like starch. It starts off as blisters, they come up and then they burst, there is yellow pus. It is all a layer, a whole big patch."

Mum: "When he is busy watching the computer, he leaves it alone, but when he is idle, his hands are always touching it. I hold his hand to stop his scratching. The whole night I hold his hand. Now, he is sleeping with me."

Dad: "When he sleeps alone, he itches a lot and scratches and there is blood everywhere. We have to change the pillow cover two or three times in night. When he sleeps with her, they wake each other up. He wakes up cranky. He has missed a lot of school. He has only 73% attendance, the school demands 94% attendance. It flares up, it has a knock-on effect on his studies."

Mum: "It is red and inflamed and discharges – flare, flare, flare, flare. When he had gastroenteritis we had to give him antibiotics. All his glands were inflamed. He has big big big big blisters, not all of them pussy, but some pus, infection was there.

The boy is doing his numbers on the white board neatly and methodically in columns, taking no notice of this conversation about blisters and pus.

Mum: "I lose my concentration and confidence, sometimes I feel it in my mind, is it better to control it, no suppression? (describing the tension between using homeopathic treatment or steroids). He was admitted in ICU when he was 3 years old, diagnosed with hepatitis C."

Mum: "It was difficult birth, they induced me, and delivered him by forceps. There were marks everywhere on his face and on the back of his head. They just pulled him. He was so stressed. When the nurse showed me, I noticed his face was very red. From birth in hospital, he was very hungry all the time; he drank 3 or 4 times the normal amount for newborns. He was so hungry I put him on other formula milk. Still, he is very hungry. He finishes a proper meal and he is hungry again. In babyhood, there was a rough patch on his temples from the moment he was born, an eruption where the forceps were holding his head, after two months everything was a layer. The second day after he was born, his motion was very yellowish, bright yellow, slightly greenish. After that motion, I first gave him Mezereum, but it didn’t work. After that, his cheeks started to be red and inflamed. During the pregnancy with my daughter, I was very nauseous. This time it was ok but I was very hungry all the time. Mentally, there was stress. We moved to this country, it was unsteady here, how will we earn? We borrowed some money from the bank in India, and that was continuously in my mind. I was angry with my in-laws."

MN: What comes up in you with this anger?

Mum: "They never recognised me, they never admitted me in the family. There was stress because I had taken a loan for studies. I got a job in a hotel, not a very good job, just cleaning to earn money. In India, I am a doctor. They are intolerant of what I am doing here. That’s also not being recognized. I think, why am I staying here? In spite of all his problems, he is very happy (the boy comes over and hugs his dad). He is starting to complain, “the other children don’t want to have friendship with me because I have eczema, they don’t want to play with me.”

Dad: "A fishy smell comes from his face. He is very humble, very merciful."

Mum: "A girl in his class has problems with her eyes and limbs, no other child would help her, no other child would play with her, but he helps her. He shouts all the time at home but not outside. He has to have something to keep him busy; laptop, television, my phone, computer, the moment you take these things away the first thing in his mind is “I’m bored”. He’s always hungry. He can’t sit in one place and watch TV, all the time he’s jumping  from here to here. If he has both hands on his computer his legs start moving. He has to have something in his hands so he’s busy."

MN: How is he with his sister?

Mum: "He protects his sister if I tell her off. There is love there but niggles as well. There has been too much tension, just picking problems, so I shout at home. They shout all the time at each other, you have to intervene."

Dad: "I was made redundant 2009, then got a job. A lot of things the kids want to do we are not able to do because finances are not there. We have tried our level best to provide it, we haven’t had a decent holiday in the last 4 years, we just can’t afford it; they stayed at home all summer. That plays on the kids’ mind – they go to school and talk with the other kids. The kids lean on each other. When I lost my job, they were both compassionate. You don’t expect an 8 year old to do that. (The boy comes over and sits on his dad’s lap, gives him a kiss).

MN: Are you frightened of anything?

Boy: "I’m scared of the dark, ever since my sister used to tell me ghost stories about dark goblins like the ones in Spiderwick movie, that’s really scary. They take over the house at night. Now, I’m thinking about ghosts, when everyone’s downstairs and it’s dark upstairs, I’m scared to go upstairs."

MN: What is your favourite thing to do?

Boy: "Ride my bike. But it got run over, we left it outside."

MN: You like your maths.

Dad: "He is a level above his class in maths. Before he answers, he thinks if it will implicate him in something, he thinks “should I say this or not say this, I might be held responsible.” He will think that extra second and then let his answer out, he’s done that since he started understanding and talking. He will come to an answer that will not put him on the spot."

Mum: "In the nightime, I notice sweat on his head, not only on his head, it’s sweaty all over his body. Just as he goes to sleep, he jerks, shudders."

Dad: "If he is intensely focused he can concentrate."

Mum: "He is very affectionate all the time, coming and hugging all the time. He is very expressive. He asks me, “mama we can give £2-£3 to those poor kids.”

Dad: "Ok, when you grow up, earn money and give money. He says ok when I’m a tennis player, then I would be a really good teacher."

MN: Tell me about playing tennis.

Boy: "It’s really energetic, fun. It’s not really about winning, it’s about being a good sport."

Dad: "He doesn’t mind losing. He is a strategist."

Boy: "Sometimes, when I look at the sun, I see dots everywhere, a black dot moving around my eyes (floaters)."

Dad: "He loves the outdoors, history."

Boy: "I don’t like dancing outside, it’s too cold."

Mum: "He is interested in religion."

MN: What’s the most important in your life?

Boy: "My family".

MN: What’s the most important thing in your family?

Boy: "That they never get divorced. Me and sister and my dad would have to live in a different country. That’s the most important thing that does not happen."

MN: What makes you angry?

Boy: "When someone’s mean to me. I get bullied a lot because of my eczema. Even though I’m the oldest in my class, they bully me because I’m weak. They trip me up on purpose. I have to control my anger."

MN: I bet you’re top of the class.

Boy:"Not really. I’m the highest boy but the girls are still higher. It’s not that important to be best, just try do the best you can do."

Remedy: Silica LM5, then LM6, LM7


It is clearly a mineral kingdom case. The parents’ linear log of dates of appointments and remedies, the boy’s focus on his task, meticulously writing out tables of maths, lining up the chairs and putting things in order. He works things out by power of reason. He is markedly unaffected by his surroundings (not plant kingdom) and shows no competition or survival issues (not animal kingdom). Although the mother suffers from jealousy and rivalry with her in-laws, the boy and father only talk of their own deficit (mineral kingdom).

Initial Repertorisation:

Food and Drinks, oranges, desires 

Extremities Lower limbs, motion amel.

Generalities, Fasting, hunger, agg,

Mind Mathematics, calculating, aptitude for  

Mind Affectionate

Mind Objective, reasonable

Mind Fastidious

Mind Reprimand agg,

Mind Harmony, desire for

Repertorisation Results: Calc; Silica; Nat mur; Bar-c; Alum; Calc-ph; Ars; Ph-ac; Plat; Merc; Nit-ac; Nat-c; Sulph; Iodum; Plumbum; Zinc; Causticum; Phos; Carb an; Carbo veg; Hepar sulph; Mag mur; Kali carb; Ferrum; Kali bi; Arg; Aur-m-n; Graphites.

Of the many remedies he has been given, Silica is the only remedy that has helped the eczema with pus. He has been taking Silica and improving, so we begin here.

Silica is in third series of the periodic table relating to family, identity and professional standing. He has a clear idea of who he is. His family is important to him. He is eager to please, yielding but not a pushover; he controls his anger when bullied and helps the weakest.

Response to the remedy: at first, he responds to the remedy, his eczema got better and his asthma improved. The pus becomes a clear discharge. He progresses quickly up the LM scale but then it stops working and his eczema relapses.

The family return for follow up and the case is reviewed.

Mum: "He is always scared driving on motorways at 60 or 70mph speed. I opened the car window, there was too much pressure of air, at the sound of air he starts crying, he shouts."

Boy: "I don’t mean to be rude but I’m hungry."

Dad: "He is always hungry. 70% per cent of rash is on his body, discharge from rashes only on his neck and ear, he is still on steroid inhaler."

Boy: "I’m bored. I want to go outside with daddy. Shall I tell you how the websites I’ve been going on affect my eczema? Monkey Quest and Space Universe. You choose the planet you go on, then you can move around. We had safe internet day assembly, if people say something rude to you, ask you where you live, you just tell a parent. I get worried and get itching. I went on space universe and they ask you where you live and I start itching. When I cry my tears are all salty, then they make me start itching. Or when people say rude things. I get silly nightmares like when my mum and dad die, and giant man eating lizards or aliens coming. It scared me, my sister forced me to watch it when mum and dad went shopping. I get nightmares about the lizard; the lizard came back from outer space, it had a giant head like a tyrannosaurus, and the body of a human. They are attracted to fire, fire can bring them into the house, they burn metal to get more fire, in the living room, they burn it. I had a dream about this little kid who gets eaten; I woke up when everyone was dead. I get scared of the dark a lot, scared that wolves can get through the window, blood eating, they’ve got really sharp teeth. My sister used to watch this programme about an evil guy called the shadow, he had a face all smudged, you can barely see his eyes, they’re like dots, he has no mouth or teeth. I thought he was downstairs. He’s a giant shadow, he goes around stealing people’s shadows. I don’t go downstairs. I ask my mum and dad. Sometimes, I’m scared if it’s night if all the lights are on upstairs, if no one is upstairs, even if it isn’t dark.

MN: What’s the most scary situation?

Boy: "Nightmares, most definitely the giant lizard one, it eats everybody. Sometimes, I dream that I’m in the movie, then I get eaten at the end of my nightmare."

MN: What’s the first thing you do if you wake up when you’ve had a nightmare?

Boy: "I go back to sleep and try and have a better dream."

MN: You don’t call for your mummy or daddy?

Boy: "If some people laugh at me because of my eczema, I don’t want them to laugh at me because of that as well." (He has a big book). It’s my favourite book of all the things in the movie, demons and dust. Traveller transport – that’s a sky ferry. This is my favourite bit. A spyfly. A flexible toe proboscis is coated with a deadly poison, which incapacitates its victims within seconds. Its tongue proboscis is really long, curled up.These are the weapons and armor.

MN: That’s quite a book, what’s the best thing about this book?

Boy: "It has these pullouts – the other thing I got a little confused on is the spirit projector. This girl goes to hunt that polar bear, then he backs off, don’t mess with her, she’s got a secret weapon. Magisterial sky ferry – high ranking magisterial officials – the luxurious way to travel."

Remedy: Petroleum LM1 

Response to the remedy: his mother and father report: "There has been an improvement in his facial and leg rashes, they are almost dry with nil or negligible discharge. Small pus vesicles are still on all the rashes on face or legs. His asthma has been better with no asthma attacks in the last couple of months, even when he plays outside in this cold weather. Appetite is much better, he is not hungry all the time. Nasal blockage at night is better. He is shouting less and is less restless than before. The boy continues to improve.



Petroleum comes top in a focused repertorisation of two of the most certain symptoms which relate to fueling a hyper-active personality:

Mother’s hunger in pregnancy, and his huge desire for food, especially oranges.

With the restlessness, fidgety legs, hunger and relentless sequencing, it could be an insect remedy but Petroleum is the hungriest – they need fuel like petrol in the tank. 

Carbon themes

Several carbons came through in the initial repertorisation, previously unnoticed: Graphites, Carbo vegetablis, Carbo animalis, Baryta carb, Kali carb and Nat carb. We can now see Carbon themes predominant in the case.

The parents’ concerns about job and material security, and issues of self worth appear in all three of them. The mother has anger as a response to this drive for material stability (hydrocarbon) while the father says: “A lot of things the kids want to do, we are not able to do because finances are not there. We have tried our level best to provide it, we just can’t afford it.”

The mother’s nausea and her hunger in pregnancy are clues to petroleum, a fuel that burns up fast. There is the second series' Carbon issues of birth and the child’s indecision of being in or out (birth). His skin is red and inflamed in response to the birth. 

The language relates the inflammation of the eczema to the highly inflammable quality of hydrocarbons: “It flares up, it has a knock-on effect on his studies. It is red and inflamed and discharges – flare, flare, flare, flare.” He likes riding his bike but it got run over.

In the second case taking, Hydrocarbon themes (which come through in the Petroleum proving in this issue) become visible: a fascination with transport, especially of space travel, futuristic transportation of the sky ferry, the boy’ fear of the shock of air pressure on the motorway and the fascination with fire, and even the child’s name refers to war.

Ghosts are a fear in Carbon remedies and this child is highly impressionable to images of monsters. “They are attracted to fire, fire can bring them into the house, they burn metal to get more fire, in the living room, they burn it.” The boy is now screaming petrol language pedal to the metal; although confusingly, he also describes insect proboscis.

Petroleum is known as a remedy for skin conditions, eczema and psoriasis, itching, cracking, bleeding, infected. Morrison ascribes list making, night sweats, and a ravenous appetite.

Petroleum products

Petroleum fuels our industry, our economy, our travel, and lays our lands waste to mountains of plastic strewn by careless hands into every corner of our planet. Some plastics (most are petroleum products) mimic hormones, mess with our endocrine functions and fertility. Plastics and petroleum products are a phenomenon of the twentieth century: explosion, power, travel, but also of pollution, contamination, confusion, exhaustion, weird feelings of alienation and the void. Petroleum is to the skin as it is to the psyche, representing breakdown, dissolving boundaries; it famously has delusions of duality, triplicity and scattering of the body into parts. Like radioactive elements it is a remedy well adapted to modern times.

[1] Case taking and analysis by Carolyn Burdet

Photos: Wikimedia Commons
Rursus goblin; public domain

Eczema leg before treatment; Misha Norland
Eczema face before treatment; Misha Norland
Eczema face after treatment; Misha Norland
Eczema leg after treatment; Misha Norland

Categories: Cases
Keywords: hydrocarbon, fuel, space travel, shock, air pressure, fire, burn metal, inflammation, eczema, itching, hyperactive, hunger, nausea
Remedies: Petroleum


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