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Although bloodroot and black salve are commonly promoted as a "natural" alternative treatment for skin cancer, as discussed below, there is little evidence they are an effective treatment. Even more concerning, numerous severe injuries associated with the use these "treatments" have been documented.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a flowering plant which grows naturally in eastern and central North America, was used by Native Americans to make tea for sore throats and fevers, and topically, to treat certain skin conditions. Bloodroot and black salve, a formula developed in the 1800's which combines bloodroot with zinc chloride, are commonly promoted as a topical treatment for skin cancer because of its caustic effects — meaning that it can chemically burn away skin tissue.

Some preliminary laboratory studies suggested that certain alkaloid compounds in bloodroot, such as sanguinarine, were specifically toxic to skin cancer cells while leaving healthy skin cells intact. However, later research showed that sanguinarine can be toxic to healthy skin cells as well.

In fact, severe tissue damage requiring medical intervention and/or reconstructive surgery has been reported in a number people who have used bloodroot or black salve in an attempt to treat skin cancer. For example, a 62 year old man who purchased black salve online in order to treat basal cell carcinoma on his nose developed a hole on the top of his nose where he had applied the salve, which had to be repaired with a surgical skin graft (Bickle, Dermatol Surg 2008). Even more severe damage was reported in two women who lost most of their noses after treatment with black salve for potential skin cancer (Quackwatch 2008; Croaker, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2017).

No clinical studies have been conducted to investigate whether bloodroot or black salve can treat or cure skin cancer. There are only two documented cases of melanoma which were treated with black salve, and in both cases the cancer worsened and spread to other parts of the body. A handful of published reports have reported successful treatment of treatment of basal cell carcinoma, a specific type of skin cancer, in people who self-treated with black salve; however, the follow-up period of one year was too short to determine whether the cancer would return and (Leecy, Pathology 2013). And, in some cases in which a skin cancer lesion seems to have improved with bloodroot or black salve treatment, lesions have been reported to re-appear or spread after a period of time (Jellinek, J Am Acad Dermatol 2005).

Also, be aware that there is no standardized black salve formula. Modern black salves sold on the market today may contain a variety of herbal ingredients in addition to bloodroot and zinc, and some may contain DMSO, a chemical solvent which can increase skin absorption of a formula, but is no longer permitted as a dietary supplement ingredient due to potential adverse effects ( has tested for DMSO contamination in certain Joint Health Supplements).

The bottom line:
Due to lack of evidence of efficacy and the potential for severe injury, neither bloodroot nor black salve should be used to treat skin cancer.

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April 14, 2019

I have been using black salve (the real deal from Ecuador) for 10 years all over my body (including several spots on my face). It works great and leaves less scarring than the surgery I used to get (including Mohs done by a plastic surgeon).

What never ceases to amaze me is how black salve somehow "knows" what tissue is diseased and what isn't. In other words, I always overlap the spot in question but the salve leaves the overlapped area alone and only zeros in on the spot that needs removal.

So to me, CL's article reads like medical establishment propaganda at worst, misinformation at best.
April 14, 2019

We appreciate that you have shared your experience. However, we are presenting facts that should be taken into consideration, as black salve can be dangerous, and to using to treat what might be a malignancy is risky.

Roger 22337
March 26, 2021

Warren, i appreciate CL's research but would still be interested in knowing the name of the product which you use. Thank you.

April 14, 2019

I have a friend who has had both surgery and used black salve on over 4 dozen skin cancers furing the last two years. One was a Melanoma. Any depressions left after the black salve killed a cancer filled in. Many woman would be envious of her beautiful skin. The proof would be in a photograph of her through the various stages. More scaring was left by the surgeons then by the black salve. There is a 4 or 5 day period of pain as the black salve is killing the cancer but after that the process has been very satisfactory.

April 14, 2019

Hey Cindy, talk about "filling in," I had a spot on the back of my leg and the hole left after the black salve did its work was about the size of half a ping-pong ball! I thought, this is going to be interesting. But the hole completely filled in with new tissue.

July 26, 2017

Black Salve is absolutely not safe. Dr. Oz just did a big segment on his show about it. Don't even think of trying this until you watch that. I'm sure it is available on his website.

July 26, 2017

I have used a black salve product for many years with success. I am very careful on where I use it and never on my face. It does a great job removing suspicious skin moles, tags and other types of skin issues. My mother and her father had a terrible amount of ugly moles and she went all the time to have them removed - as many as 50!! My skin is not as bad but I pre-empt them from getting crazy on the amount of them. Saying that, any mole that looks highly suspicious for melanoma I go to my doctor - I had pre-melanoma once. Black salve will not work on it and may promote it's growth. So bottom-line it does work on some skin issues not just all of them.
Be smart about how and when you use it!

July 26, 2017

I have used back salve 4 times with absolutely no problem - so has my husband and it removed a BCC on his chests quickly and without problem. He was booked in to have surgery. I have 5 other friends who use it as well.. One had a squamous cell carcinoma on her face and was due to have surgery. The black salve removed it without any scars. People who have used it know that the propoganda put out by the pharmaceutical companies is not true.

April 15, 2019

Thank you for sharing. Please provide the place or website of purchase.

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