Ammonium bituminosulfonate

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Ammonia bituminosulfonas; Ammonium bituminosulfonate; ammonium sulfichthyolicum; Ammonium sulfobitol-zinc oxide shaking mixture 25% (NRF 11.2.); Ammonium sulphobitol-zinc oxide shaking mixture containing ethanol 25% (NRF 11.4.); Bitumen; Bituminosulfate; Black pull ointment; Ichtammolum Ph.Eur.8; Ichthyol; Oil shale distillate; Oil shale product; Rosacea paste (nach Braun-Falco); Shale oil; Shale oil cream W/O 5%; Shale oil lotio 2%; Shale oil ointment 100%; Shale Oil Ointment 10/20 or 50% (NRF 11.12.); Shale oil ointment 50%; Shale oil paste 2%; Shale oil paste skin-coloured 2%; Shale oil-zinc ointment 2%; Shale oil-zinc oxide shaking mixture Ethanol containing 25% ethanol (NRF 11.4.); Tension ointment black

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Ammonium bituminosulfonate is a complex organic-chemical compound with a characteristic odor. Ammonium bituminosulphonate is produced by dry distillation of oil shale rich in sulphur (oil shale is produced in Seefeld, Tyrol, Bärental/Tyrol, Meride/Ticino and other places). Oil shale is produced from dead phytoplankton, which was stored under anoxic conditions for many thousands of years. After the dry distillation a sulphonation with concentrated sulphuric acid and finally a neutralisation with ammonia takes place. If the neutralization is carried out with sodium hydroxide, the sodium bituminosulfonate is formed.
Ammonium bituminosulfonate is a syrup-like black liquid. As a sulphonate salt, it is surface-active and soluble in water (essential difference to coal tar), glycerine, wool wax and vaseline. Ammonium bituminosulfonate is poorly soluble in fatty oils, ethanol and ether.

s.a. Ammonium bituminosulfonate, light and ammonium bituminosulfonate, dark, ammonium, tumenolsulfonic acid

Spectrum of action
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Ammonium bituminosulfonate is a multi-component mixture. The main components are water-soluble ammonium salts of thiophene sulphonic acids, ammonium sulphate. The content of organically bound sulphur is above 10.5 % according to the pharmacopoeia requirements of Ph. Eur. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are only present in small traces.
Ammonium bituminosulfonate has antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-eczematous effects.

The antibacterial efficacy is very good against Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus piermidis, Stretoococcus pyogenes, Propionibacterium acnes and, at higher concentrations (>5%), also against gram-negative bacteria.

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Used in various applications and dilutions (0.5%-50%) in the treatment of various skin diseases such as acne, perioral dermatitis, seborrhoeic eczema, furuncles (in case of furuncles, the application is carried out as so-called black pulling ointment or black ointment in 10, 20 or 50% concentration).

Undesirable effects
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Allergic reactions to components of the extract. There is insufficient experience with use in pregnancy and lactation (Engst R et al. 2002)

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Two ammonium bituminosulfonate variants are commercially available:

  • the light ammonium bituminosulfonate variant "Ammonium bituminosulfonate, light" -monograph of the DAC as Leukichtol- which is used up to 10% in external applications.
  • The most common dark ammonium bituminosulfonate variant, the so-called black traction ointment or black ointment in 10, 20 or 50% concentration (monograph of the European Pharmacopoeia).

Finished products: Ichtho Bad®, Ichtholan®, Ichthyol® (raw material for pharmacy prescriptions), Black Ointment Lichtenstein®, Thiobitum®, Drawing Ointment effect®, Sulfo Oil Bath Cordes®.

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  1. Cholcha W et al (1994) The adverse effects of dark sulfonated shale oil following local and systemic administration. Drug research 44:844-849.
  2. Diezel W et al (1992) Ammonium bituminosulfonates (Ichthyol). Anti-inflammatory effect and inhibition of the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme. Dermatologist 43:772-774.


Last updated on: 29.10.2020