Ichthammol, or ammonium bituminosulfonate, is a sulfurous, tarry product derived from oil shale. It is sold as an ointment with a dark color and strong odor, typically mixed with other ingredients to produce a concentration of 10 to 20 percent ichthammol. Ichthammol ointment has properties that make it effective in treating certain medical conditions in both humans and animals. Before using ichthammol ointment, a licensed healthcare practitioner should be consulted.
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In a 1996 study performed in the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, researchers found that ichthammol was effective at killing certain bacteria. The substance was tested both individually and mixed with glycerol. Ichthammol alone provided better antibacterial effects than the glycerol mixture. Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria, both of which are infective agents in ear and throat infections, were killed by the ichthammol. Other bacteria studied, including strains of proteus and pseudomonas bacteria, were not significantly affected by the medicine. While ichthammol alone was more effective, the addition of glycerol to ointments provides anti-inflammatory and dehydrating effects that are beneficial for people suffering from certain infections.
Treats Eczema Symptoms
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by itchiness, rashes and a scaly condition sometimes accompanied by flaking and pus-filled blisters. Over time, chronic eczema can produce skin thickening and hardening in a process called lichenification. Ichthammol ointment may effectively prevent this leather-like hardening of the skin, according to NetDoctor. In addition to alleviating itchiness, ichthammol prevents the tough protein keratin from being deposited in the skin cells. A preparation of ichthammol combined with waxes or fats will retain moisture and help ichthammol better penetrate trouble areas of the skin.
Relieves Dry Hooves in Horses
A preparation of 20 percent ichthammol is useful for treating weak and brittle horse hooves. Doctors Foster and Smith, a veterinary website, explains that ichthammol works as an emollient and antiseptic that reduces inflammation and fights infection in open sores and wounds. The ointment is also used for skin irritation and softening skin in horses. It may be applied twice daily to affected areas with or without a bandage. For severe hoof dryness accompanied by bleeding, a veterinarian should be consulted before applying ichthammol ointment.