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Topical Coal Tar Compounded in Rome
from Mick P.

Hello Ed.  I'm based in England and have been dropping by your site for the past six months or more and it really is an excellent place. Congratulations to you and all the contributors.

I have pretty mild P on my elbows, behind my ears, on one knee and around my anus. I've had it for about seven years and for the past couple have been using Dovonex, which, although it controlled the stuff behind my ears pretty well, was never very successful on my elbows. In fact, last summer I couldn't bring myself to wear a short-sleeved shirt to work, as my elbows were just too flaky.

I'd agree with your many visitors who rate sea water and sunshine as a good treatment. In 1999, a holiday to Crete in the Mediterranean pretty much cleared all my P (I suspect the relaxation helped, too), but it came back very quickly after returning home, despite the Dovonex.

Then last Christmas my wife was sent a calendar from her mother who lives in Rome, Italy. It had lots of herbal and natural remedies on it, including reference to coal tar as a traditional treatment for P. I checked for references on your site but only really found mention of coal tar shampoos. Wondering whether an ointment would be possible, my wife asked her mother to see if her local chemist in Rome could make some up to order. Well, they did. I didn't even try to get it made up here in England, so I'm not sure whether it would be possible, but I can't see why not.

It's a very thick, dark brown goo with an extremely strong coal tar smell (not surprisingly). I apply it fairly sparingly at night before bed and cover my elbows and knee with stretchy tubular bandage to avoid staining the sheets (hey, the wife's only got so much patience...). Well, it's been about three weeks now and the difference is astounding. Pretty much all signs of flaking have disappeared and my skin is soft and supple. I still get 'flaming' where the skin looks pink, but it seems even that is abating and more and more often the skin looks almost normal. In fact, it's been so successful that last week I wore short sleeves again for the first time in over a year. And although it's strong-smelling stuff, washing the next morning deals with that, so I don't go to work smelling like a Victorian chimney.

I'll find out more about the ingredients of the ointment and write again, but it does seem that it contains Norwegian coal tar, although I don't know yet at what concentration. Neither do I know how much it cost, because my mother in law, bless her, is refusing to tell me as she wants no repayment.

Hope this news is helpful and encouraging to some P sufferers out there.

Best wishes, and keep up the great work with the site.  -Mick P., Northamptonshire, England


Ed’s Response:  Thanks for sharing this, Mick.  Coal tar extract for topical use is probably one of the older palliatives for P.  It is good to be reminded, occasionally, that something not contrived in a pharmaceutical conglomerate’s lab may actually work well.

If you use it in California you might get cancer.  (Pun intended, between gritted teeth.  Read this.)

From your description it sounds like you are occluding the goo over night, which probably increases its potency.  Even though your concoction is not prescribed, it might be a good idea for you to review what you have and how you are using it with a dermatologist.  While I largely disdain California’s over-zealous concern, the coal tar derivatives used on the skin are an alien substance and, like most silver clouds of the medicinal kind, it, too, probably has a gray lining.  (Rather like tobacco smoke, the inhalation of which was once thought to be ‘good for the nerves.’)

And with regard to your Dovonex experience, when it’s time to relax off the coal tar you might want to try a combo therapy.  Read Good Results from Combo Therapy from Don H.

In the meantime, Mick, show off those elbows! -Ed

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