Overview

Black salve is a dark-colored herbal paste applied to the skin. It’s extremely harmful alternative skin cancer treatment. Use of this treatment isn’t backed by scientific research. In fact, the FDA has labeled it a “fake cancer cure,” and it’s illegal to sell the ointment as a cancer treatment. Still, it’s available for sale via the internet and mail-order companies.

Black salve is also known as drawing salve. It’s available under the brand name Cansema.

Some people apply this corrosive ointment on malignant tumors and moles with the intent of destroying cancerous skin cells. However, there is absolutely no evidence that black salve is effective for treating any kind of cancer. Using black salve can result in serious and painful side effects.

What is black salve?

Black salve is a paste, poultice, or ointment made of various herbs. It’s applied directly to areas on the body with the hope of burning away or “drawing out” cancer.

Black salve is commonly made with zinc chloride or the flowering North American plant bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Bloodroot contains a powerfully corrosive alkaloid called sanguinarine.

Black salves are classified as escharotics because they destroy skin tissue and leave behind a thick, black scar called an eschar.

Black salve was commonly used during the 18th and 19th centuries to chemically burn off tumors that were isolated to the top layers of skin. It has been promoted and used by naturopaths as an alternative cancer treatment with dubious results.

Scientific studies don’t support the claims that black salve is an effective treatment for melanoma and other types of skin cancer. On the other hand, some alternative medical practitioners believe black salve:

Every single one of these claims is unsubstantiated.

Dangers of black salve for skin cancer

The FDA has listed black salve as a “fake cancer cure” to avoid. Salves intended as an alternative cancer treatment are no longer legally allowed on the market.

The idea that black salve can be used to specifically draw out cancerous cells without affecting healthy cells is impossible. Black salve burns away both unhealthy and healthy tissue, leading to necrosis or tissue death. Other side effects include infection, scarring, and disfigurement.

Black salve is also an ineffective cancer treatment because it has no effect on cancer that has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body.

In one University of Utah study, people who used black salve said they sought out the treatment to avoid surgery. However, many people who use black salve need cosmetic surgery to fix the disfigurement the black salve causes.

Outlook

Skin cancer is a serious, potentially lethal condition. It’s highly treatable with conventional methods, however. Only qualified and credentialed healthcare professionals should diagnose and recommend treatment for skin cancer.

Based on the FDA’s recommendations, black salve isn’t an acceptable form of skin cancer treatment. Doctors can’t legally prescribe this treatment method because it’s ineffective.

It’s recommended you avoid using black salve if you have skin cancer because, in addition to not treating cancer, it can lead to pain and severe disfigurement.