Black Salve (Indian Black Salve)
Black salve refers to a group of pastes applied topically to treat cancer. They are known collectively as escharotics and vary slightly from one salve to the next. All black salves however contain an ingredient known as bloodroot which some dermatologists recommend as a treatment for skin cancer.
The use of black salve to treat cancer is extremely controversial. There are many reports regarding its dangers and there is absolutely no scientific evidence that it actually works.
There are certainly plenty of anecdotal reports that black salve can help treat skin conditions including cancerous growths but the scientific basis for its use is still lacking.
Moreover, there are plenty of reports that its corrosive effects can harm the skin well beyond the area people are trying to cure. Risks of using black salve topically include severe burns, scarring and open wounds.
What is Black Salve Used For?
Black salve is a corrosive agent often referred to as escharotics. There are numerous brands available online purporting to help treat cancer. Some of the most common forms of cancer that black salve is used to treat are squamous and basal skin carcinomas. These are types of cancer often located on the face that can lead to growths and tumors on the scalp, eyes, nose and lips.
Black salve is also used as a treatment for cervical dysplasia which is a precancerous disease detected during pap smears. Proponents of the treatment believe that it can kill abnormal cervical cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. Despite these claims, there is no firm evidence that it works in this way.
While best known as a treatment for cancer, black salve is also used to help remove other skin growths such as warts, skin tags and other benign growths.
How Black Salve is Used
Black salve pastes are most commonly applied topically using one of the following methods.
- It is applied directly over the affected skin to corrode or burn away any abnormal growths and tumors.
- It is sometimes applied on the skin above the location of internal tumors. People using the salve in this way believe that the ingredients get absorbed through their skin and into their bloodstream. This helps detoxify the system and draws out the toxins which contribute to the formation of growths and tumors.
- Black salve is sometimes taken internally by putting a small amount of the paste into an empty capsule.
How Black Salve works
The effects of any black salve formula largely depend on the specific ingredients used. They typically contain zinc chloride and a powdered extract of bloodroot which is made from the perennial American bloodroot plant.
Bloodroot contains several antimicrobial compounds as well as an active alkaloid called benzylisoquinoline. This alkaloid is used in numerous medications including prescription painkillers and narcotics such as codeine and morphine.
The reason that zinc chloride is combined with bloodroot is that zinc chloride is a potent escharotic meaning sometimes used to treat ulcers and bone spurs. When combined with bloodroot, it forms a dry, thick scab known as an eschar.
Although there is evidence that similar corrosive formulas were used on the skin centuries ago, black salve was unknown in mainstream practice until the 1930s.
A doctor called Fred Mohr began using the formula on his patient’s skin before surgery and although it was accepted by some dermatologists, there have been no clinical trials proving its efficacy.
Now that you know what it is and what it is used for, let us look at the potential benefits as well as the very real potential side effects of its use.
Precautions and Potential Side Effects
Before using black salve it is important to consider the many severe side effects reported by both patients and doctors. They include:
- Severe skin burns.
- Leaving open wounds after application.
- Causing discoloration of the skin.
- Causing blisters and scaring.
- Actually facilitating the further progress and spread of cancer cells.
Several reported case studies have put the dangers of black salve into focus. One recent study published in 2014 reported the case of a woman with melanoma on the calf.
She declined surgery and instead used a black salve formula bought online. She applied the salve to her melanoma and left it in place under a dressing for 24 hours.
5 years later, on her return to the doctor, the tumor had spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, liver, scalp and tissues. The women had also suffered ulceration, pain and inflammation as a result of the wound caused by the black salve. (1)
An Australian case study published in the same year reported on an Australian man who applied black salve to a lesion on his head. Unfortunately it resulted in a severe head wound which grew to an inch diameter. (2)
Reported Black Salve Benefits
1) Anticancer Potential
There is some evidence that black salve can cause the death of melanoma cells in some instances because of its sanguinarine content. A study published in 2013 found that sanguinarine caused cell death by a process of selective oxidative cell damage.
Sanguinarine kills melanoma cells by cutting off their supply of energy. The researchers concluded that sangunarine rapidly induced melamoma cell death through oxidative stress. (3)
It should be noted however that many experts feel there is insufficient evidence regarding its safety and efficacy to recommend its use.
Apart from the study above, there is little evidence other than a few individual case studies. One such case study reported a female patient who refused conventional surgery and instead opted for ascharotic treatment.
After receiving treatment with black salve twice a week for a period of five weeks, significant improvements were noted in pap smear tests, These improvements lasted five years post treatment while her condition was being closely followed. (4)
2) Treating Skin Growths
Blood root or black salve formulas are sometimes used by practitioners to remove non-cancerous growths such as moles and skin tags. This is essentially how it was used by Native Americans in the days before conventional growth treatments.
A certain Dr Andrew Weil has reported that bloodroot was successful in reducing growths on eyelids, body folds, armpits, neck and groin regions. According to Dr.Weil the bloodroot juice is toxic when used internally but when applied externally it has the unique ability of dissolving skin growths without harming surrounding skin. (5)
3) Antimicrobial Ability
Apart from its potential ability to remove superficial growths on the skin, there is evidence that the sanguinarine content of black salve is a powerful antibacterial. Research conducted in 2014 in Germany found that sanguinarine was potentially effective against numerous drug resistant pathogens known as superbugs. When the poweful antibiotic – vancomycin was tested against 34 bacterial strains, every one of them was resistant to the antibiotic.
However, when sanguinarine was tested against the same resistant bacteria, it demonstrated a strong action against all 34 strains comparable to the effects of other standard antibiotics. (6)
Other studies however have found that sanguinarine was not especially effective against other types of bacteria including the bacteria associated with gingivitis and other oral problems. (7)
Using black salve could be a risky mistake especially if you are using it at home without proper medical attention. There is no real evidence that it can help treat cancer or other skin growths. The risk of side effects seems to me to be one not worth taking until more is known about its safety and efficacy.
(2) Black salve ointment leaves man with an inch-wide HOLE … – Daily Mail