What are the Medicinal Properties of Coal Tar?

Article Details
  • Written By: D. Nelson
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 10 February 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
A study found that compliments and pizza are more effective than cash bonuses at increasing employee productivity.  more...

February 20 ,  1839 :  Dueling was prohibited in Washington D.C.  more...

When coal is carbonized to produce coke, a kind of fuel, or turned into gas, coal tar is the byproduct. Its natural form is black or brown liquid that is primarily used medicinally. Coal tar has two primary uses: as a shampoo to treat lice and dandruff and as a cream or soap to treat the condition psoriasis.

One use of this coal byproduct is that it is turned into coal tar shampoo. A common use of this product is as a treatment for head lice, a tiny parasitic insect that nest around human hair follicles. This special shampoo is able to slow down the growth of bacteria, impairing the spread of head lice.

Another use of coal tar shampoo is to treat dandruff. Dandruff is a condition in which flaky skin grows on the scalp. Aside from slowing the growth of bacteria, the shampoo is also able to soften and remove crust and scales. It therefore helps to remove the flaky skin that is the primary cause of dandruff.


Coal tar is often used in soaps that are meant to be used to treat certain skin conditions. This kind of soap is most commonly recommended to individuals who are suffering from psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition in which the skin becomes irritated and red. In many cases, those suffering from this condition develop patches of flaky white skin. There may also be silver-white patches of flaky skin known as scales. Coal tar soap, because it is able to loosen crust and scales, is often used to treat those who suffer from psoriasis.

There is some debate regarding the safety of these products. Any item that contains at least 5% coal tar is considered by some health organizations to be a carcinogen. A carcinogen is a term applied to cancer causing agents. For example, tobacco and alcohol are also considered to be carcinogens. Most products, such as the shampoos and soaps, contain only a very small quantity of coal tar.

Few studies have been conducted regarding the safety of these shampoos and soaps. While they are considered to be effective in curing lice, dandruff, and psoriasis, there are some potential dangers. It is not recommended that individuals who have a sensitivity to sun light use coal tar products. Individual who suffer from lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes several skin ailments, should never use products that include this ingredient without first consulting a doctor or health professional.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 3

Coal tar soap is beneficial for eczema as well. I have started using it and I'm seeing a significant improvement in my skin. The itching and rashes have reduced. I'm quite impressed. The only issue is that I have to order it online because I can't find it at stores near me. It's worth the hassle though.

Post 2

@SteamLouis-- This is actually a controversial topic. You can find strong arguments on both sides of the issue. How coal tar treats certain skin conditions is not exactly known. But as far as I know, coal tar prevents or reduces the growth of skin cells and keratin (a skin protein). So conditions like psoriasis, which is caused by too many skin cells, can benefit from coal tar. Some also believe that coal tar has antiseptic properties.

I personally think that coal tar is very useful and even necessary in some cases. But I don't believe that it should be used regularly and products with high concentrations of coal tar should be avoided. The long-term effects of regular use

of coal tar products are still not known. Some claim that regular use of coal tar creams and shampoos can cause cancer. Others claim that this is not possible because they don't contain enough coal tar for these effects. I'm not sure which is true. But it's certain that coal tar has medicinal properties. This is why people continue to use it.
Post 1

I can't believe that coal tar has medicinal properties. I had heard of it before, but I thought that it was an old wives' tale. But now I've come to know that quite a few people use products with coal tar in them for various conditions. Does coal tar have dangers or negative side effects as well? Or is it really the cure-all for skin conditions that everyone claims it to be?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?