the dangerous delusions around use of ‘black salve’

Black salve. A slightly ominous name, but to some people it seems to be the best thing since sliced bread.

A colleague has just pointed me at a discussion (on FB, where else?) around the use of 'black salve' to heal a self-diagnosed melanoma. (That bit's important – the person concerned never saw a doctor & never had a biopsy, but nonetheless is describing a 'cure'.) Sadly, a lot of commenters were weighing in on how wonderful this 'treatment' was & how it does a great job of 'drawing out' the cancer, and the original discussant made this 100% incorrect claim (which I am quoting here as the page is a public one, open to anyone to view and to comment):

Black Salve only kills the cancer cells. If you put it on a spot thet is not cancerous…it doesn't do anything.

This is a repeated claim: that the salve will not damage healthy tissue. Yet a bit later they say: 

I overdid it on the Black Salve… piled it on… overall it [the 'cancer'] turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated.

So the large ensuing wound (& it's a nasty one) was entirely cancer, in their view.

This is what Medsafe has to say about black salve: 

Black salve and related products are promoted as an alternative to conventional medicine for treating skin problems including skin cancer. These products work by ‘burning away’ (destroying) the skin (both healthy and potentially diseased) to form a thick black scab which eventually falls off. There is no scientific evidence that black salve and similar products are effective at treating disease/skin conditions.

In other words, the user had burned away both healthy and possibly diseased tissue, creating a large open wound. (If you really want to see what this would look like, google 'black salve' and click on images – but only if you have a strong stomach as the images are nauseating. And I do have a strong stomach, and was nauseated1.)

Now, this stuff is actively promoted as a 'natural' treatment that is ever so much better2 than the 'cutting, poisoning and burning' used by the surgery and radio- & chemotherapy of science-based medicine. The irony, it burns (no pun intended): remember that we're talking about uncontrolled use of something that delivers 3rd-degree chemical burns, which indiscriminately destroy healthy and unhealthy cells alike (here's Medsafe again):

Use of Sanguinarine [the active ingredient] leads to the indiscriminate death of normal and cancerous cells and results in extensive tissue necrosis with possible secondary necrotising vasculitis.

On being challenged on their promotion of this highly dubious therapy, the original poster answered that

I did my research and I feel you are not crediting others with doing theirs.

Some responses attempted to show that using this potion – and advising others to use it – is unlikely to cure much (especially something like the claimed melanoma) and highly likely to do harm. 

Where has anyone discredited people's research? I'm sorry you think that. What concerns me is people promoting their methods and processes to other people who may be so scared and vulnerable about going to a medical person that they embark on inappropriate treatments … Well-meaning people would be better off advising [that they] go to a trained medical person.

  But to no avail:

There are others out there that have used this method. Their you tubes were what gave me faith that it would work. 

Youtube videos = research?! [Incredulous squeak!]

Black salve has years of use, positive results, and its [sic] only the pharma trolls that go out and make it look fake/scary/dangerous.

That one has surely avoided looking at the images, which in many cases are posted by bloodroot users. And then the echo chamber starts, with others thanking the original poster for 

having the courage to go beyond and outside of the conventional method of treatment. Fear stops many from stepping outside of what 'the doctor' often prescribes. You have now left footprints for others to follow.

I can only hope that the spot this person 'treated' was neither melanoma nor metastatic, because then they may have struck it lucky, albeit by going through weeks of pain & discomfort from an escharotic wound (be warned that there is a rather graphically-unpleasant image at that link). 

I also hope that others aren't influenced by this to avoid medical care and try this 'all-natural' remedy instead; the endpoints may not be as pleasant.


1 I was even more nauseated when I got to the commenter who was advising that swallowing capsules of bloodroot – remember, this is a highly caustic burning agent – to treat internal cancers.

2 And I'm sure that it must be ever so cheap, if not free, given the way Big Pharma is so often dissed for making money through its drugs… (/snark)

Those who would like to read more about the harm that this 'treatment' can do should have a look at this article on Respectful Insolence. It includes links to images that I'm also not going to directly share here as some of them are quite literally stomach-churning in their effect. 

10 thoughts on “the dangerous delusions around use of ‘black salve’”

  • So how much medical trials have been done on this black salve to prove its ineffectiveness then? My aunty had a reoccurring skin cancer on her hand which was removed twice by doctors. She tried black salve and went through the pus and yucky looking stage. It healed and has never returned, that was years ago. That is factual proof enough for me not to dis it.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    It isn’t actually factual proof; it’s an anecdote with a single observation. Your aunt was probably lucky, in that black salve may well be able to remove superficial skin cancer by chemically burning away the tissues. In that, it does no less damage than medical treatment would.
    However, black salve is an escharotic – that means it produces third-degree chemical burns. There’s nothing ‘natural’ about that. It’s used in an uncontrolled way with no quality control. And there’s a gallery of the results here: (not for the squeamish). It’s often claimed that BS is a better alternative to surgery & radiotherapy or chemo; after viewing those images all I can say is, really?
    Quackwatch has this to say:

  • I gave this gear (Black salve) a go on a couple of what I was told were sun spots I had medicaly treated by a doctor with a nitrogen spray only to return 3 months later. The Nitrogen burns scabs & falls off same as the Black Salve treatment. Only diference I found was the expense of the medical treatment $180 v give this a go from a mate & the end result of pay me again v jobs done…So many Medical treatments even after years of testing & millions of dollars have been proven harmful by post “professional medical research” & withdrawn or modified. The most recent example of this is the new study into chemotherapy that suggests it actually spreads some cancers yet is still the go to for most medical professional types. Cannabis was deemed evil & voodoo thanks to greedy pharmaceutical companies & governments they donate to. Now the Pro’s v cons of it’s use in treating some ailments the “modern medical professionals” couldnt is undisputable yet still the greed gang wants to talk it down until they find a way to turn it into cash for themselves. I’m a construction worker not a doctor & have plenty of said sun spots which continue to multiply even though I am much more sun smart than I once was. My advice is Black Salve worked for me but wont be for everyone. Dont put it on with a mop or much like abuse of many prescribed medications it will not have a desirable result. See your Doc by all means but anyone can get a black light & see what shows & if nitrogen burns aren’t your thing try something else like the Black Salve what have you got to lose by saving money on getting a ‘medical processional” to do it for you.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    The new study into chemotherapy doesn’t actually demonstrate what’s claimed for it by many groups. The study looked only at what’s called ‘neoadjuvant chemotherapy’ ie chemo used before surgery to shrink tumours operable (& spare organs where possible). That is, it wasn’t looking at curative chemo (as used in leukaemia), adjuvant chemo (which follows surgery to reduce the odds of a recurrence), or palliative chemo (which in terminal cases can reduce some symptoms & improve quality of what’s left of life).
    The study was designed to identify any potential problems with neoadjuvant chemo, to see if it can be improved. It may encourage the spread of some tumour cells, while shrinking the main tumour; this has to be weighed against the fact that neoadjuvant chemo markedly increases survival for breast cancer patients. It was done in mice; such studies often don’t translate well into humans.
    There’s a very thorough examination of the research paper here:

  • At least you came at this with an open mind. LOL. Perhaps you should consider that maybe, just maybe, there are solutions outside your dogmatic beliefs.
    Perhaps, in the future, don’t wear your prejudices so openly, avoid comments such as:
    “Youtube videos = research?! [Incredulous squeak!]”
    So people can’t learn from others experiences? All knowledge must come through accredited education facilities?
    “then the echo chamber starts”
    So people sharing the same experiences is an echo chamber? (in the negative sense that you obviously implied it). Surely a university functions in the same way with so many examples of them shunning anyone who has differing views?
    Here some reading to get you started, a simple, widely available garden weed that has been used to treat skin cancer:
    These results look great to me. That study was done 6 years ago but do we see any doctors making use of it here? I haven’t.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    The results in the study you linked to look promising (there was a reasonably high reoccurrence of growth, for example). The amounts used were in the microlitre range, which is not something achieved by those promoting slathering ‘black salve’ onto their skin, & the group size was low. As to why aren’t doctors using the active ingredient yet? Perhaps because it’s still the subject of clinical trials:
    As to people learning from others – you might well ask, given the well-documented information available on the results of uncontrolled application of ‘black salve’ to a wide range of lesions. And especially given that the case about which I originally wrote had never been diagnosed as melanoma, despite the initial claims by the person promoting its use.

    • I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s death. However…

      If black salve doesn’t damage healthy skin, then perhaps you could explain why it does such massive damage: (note: this image is not for the faint-hearted). If the original lesion was skin cancer (& there’s seldom any formal diagnosis in these testimonials), it’s quite likely that surgical excision would have been considerably less disfiguring.

      The chemical make-up of black salve means that it’s an escharotic: it produces chemical burns. Period. There is no means by which it could possibly be selective, as claimed.

      And youtube videos? This is a science page, so you need to produce science-based evidence for your claims.

  • I am sorry for her suffering and your loss. The place i got mine i have not swallowed yet does state it is very acidic but in better words. They compared it to vinegar which does burn my skin if i pour some on it and leave it there as well as hydrogen peroxide. H2O2 burn and makes my skin white if I miss my wound and leave it there. lol.. But is it Not the Zinc chloride that burns the tissue or is it the bloodroot? I would Never swallow H2O2 i already have heavy metal poisoning that is now in my bones.. scrapping electronlcs thinking I had done enough research. But My BAD!

    • Hi Kat – bloodroot is what’s called an escharotic. This means that it produces serious chemical burns. It’s also described as caustic, which is not the same thing as acidic.
      If you have heavy metal poisoning you should be talking with a medical practitioner about suitable treatment for that.

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