Black salve is a paste for external use made from a variable mixture of herbal and non-herbal ingredients. It usually contains bloodroot and/or chaparral and/or zinc chloride which are all ingredients that render the products corrosive. This means black salve destroys living cells that come in contact with it.

Black salve is said to originate from native American tribes who used the paste as a treatment for various conditions. It was adopted by conventional medicine during the Victorian era as a treatment for a range of skin problems, including skin cancers. When effective treatments became available, it became obsolete.

Black salve was recently re-discovered by some practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) who now recommend it as a natural treatment for various skin conditions, including cancer. Black salve is readily available, for instance, via the Internet. Several national regulators have issued warnings to consumers not to use it. Consumers have little means of telling what is the nature, quality or strength of the black salve they might be purchasing.

No compelling evidence exists that black salve is efficacious for any condition, especially not for any type of skin cancer. Rigorous clinical trials testing its efficacy are not available. A recent review[1] of the published evidence concluded as follows: Black salve is not a natural therapy. It contains significant concentrations of synthetic chemicals. Black salve does not appear to possess tumour specificity with in vitro and in vivo evidence indicating normal cell toxicity. Black salve does appear to cure some skin cancers, although the cure rate for this therapy is currently unknown. The use of black salve should be restricted to clinical research in low risk malignancies located at low risk sites until a better understanding of its efficacy and toxicity is developed. Where a therapy capable of harm is already being used by patients, it is ethically irresponsible not to study and analyse its effects. Although cautionary tales are valuable, black salve research needs to move beyond the case study and into the carefully designed clinical trial arena. Only then can patients be properly informed of its true benefits and hazards.

Due to its erosive nature, black salve burns away the tissue with which it comes into contact. Numerous case reports of the resulting deformations have been published.[2],[3] Many horrendous pictures of patients maimed by their use of black salve are available on the Internet and give a dramatic impression of the harm caused. Black salve is unquestionably a treatment that can cause considerable damage and should be regarded as unsafe. One paper concluded that it is vital that members of the public are aware of the potential effects and toxicity of commercial salve products.[4]

In conclusion, black salve is not of proven efficacy as a treatment of any condition. It is well documented to cause much harm. Its use should be discouraged. Practitioners who employ or recommend it are, in my view, irresponsible to the extreme.


[1] Croaker A, King GJ, Pyne JH, Anoopkumar-Dukie S, Liu L. A Review of Black Salve: Cancer Specificity, Cure, and Cosmesis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:9184034. doi:10.1155/2017/9184034

[2] Ong NC, Sham E, Adams BM. Use of unlicensed black salve for cutaneous malignancy. Med J Aust. 2014;200(6):314. doi:10.5694/mja14.00041

[3] Saltzberg F, Barron G, Fenske N. Deforming self-treatment with herbal “black salve”. Dermatol Surg. 2009;35(7):1152-1154. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.2009.01206.x

[4] Lim A. Black salve treatment of skin cancer: a review. J Dermatolog Treat. 2018;29(4):388-392. doi:10.1080/09546634.2017.1395795

33 Responses to Black salve: Practitioners who employ or recommend it are irresponsible to the extreme.

  • I have used black salve to successfully remove at least four moles. It took about a week for the moles to come off on the bandaid, completely intact. There was no pain, but I did feel a pulling sensation, presumably of the roots.

    I also saw my mom’s two large tumors fall off in 3 weeks using it, leaving fresh pink skin beneath. Amazing. I photographed the process.

    My son has used black salve as well, for spots on his scalp. He recently told me that he isn’t sure what he would use in the case of cancer, but he thinks black salve would be a first choice.

    I also have taken black salve capsules internally at various times.

    I am so convinced of the efficacy of black salve that I now grow blood root in hopes of some day being able to find a recipe and make my own black salve. I want to have access to it even if it isn’t available commercially at some point in time.

    I have heard that blood root (black salve) was traditionally used for gangrene, although (thankfully) I have not needed to use it for that.

  • In one of a series of YouTube videos from 8 years ago a Mr Ken Murray claims that he cured his skin cancers with Cansema Black Salve. He says he did it under the supervision of his doctor. He published no evidence of the diagnosis or of the doctor’s supervision.

    In the 5th video he says specifically that Cansema Black Salve does not work by caustic burning, but rather, that the ingredients trigger an immune response in the skin that kills off cancer cells leaving healthy cells unaffected.

    Why then do some people speak of using Black Salve to remove MOLES, (and, indeed, other skin blemishes) which are not cancers?

    There has been nothing from Mr Ken Murray since about six years ago, and if indeed he had skin cancers, one wonders whether he is still living.

    • He is in a good health..
      If you searched a little, you could easily find his spot on the video-sharing website Youtube.
      Scroll the video’s to find the Black Salve items..

      • Thank you. I am glad to know that he is in good health. I did search, but not on YouTube. I will check there now for further information.

      • Eelco_G it was on YouTube that I saw Mr Murray and his series of videos about Cansema Black Salve. I see that he has some recent videos about beekeeping. It is good to know that he seems to be well. I don’t see any video clearly identifying what type of cancer he had, and how its cure by Cansema Black Salve was montored and medically certified.

  • There is an interesting story on Quackwatch where an Amish farmer was prosecuted by the FDA for selling this concoction 3 years ago. He was given a 6 year jail term.

  • The last lunatic has not been born. ?

  • YouTube videos about Black Salve are a very mixed bunch. How can you know what’s in the stuff people are seen putting on thier skin?

    Some make a point that Black Salve only affects cancer cells and leaves healthy skin cells unaffected. One or two demonstrate this by putting Black Salve on a healthy patch of skin, occluded by a band-aid, and then demonstrating the skin with hardly a trace even of erythema when the band-aid is removed next day. But how can you know what was in that black stuff? Or how long it was actually on the skin? You are entirely relying on the YouTube person to be telling the truth.

    Other vidoes purport to show that Black Salve will remove other kinds of skin blemish that are not cancerous, which of course entirely contradicts the YouTubers who say that Black Salve only kills cancer cells.

    Still other YouTube vidoes show horrendous tissue damage purportedly through the use of Black Salve.

    Some, even Doctors, refer to Black Salve as homeopathic. Dr Paul Nassif of “Botched” does so, and so does another plastic surgeon in reviewing that particular “Botched” episode.

    I well recall being told, when I was a young boy, not to handle leaky batteries as they were caustic and could burn the skin. That was long before the days of leak-proof Alkaline or Lithium batteries. They were Zinc Chloride batteries.

  • Black salve is an escharotic.
    The main ingredient is Sanguinaria canadensis, which contains a number of phytochemicals and the alkaloid poison, sanguinarine.
    It destroys both healthy and abnormal cells.

    It is also potentially carcinogenic – another reason for not using it.
    It is far too indiscriminate and dangerous to be used safely in ANY circumstances – and most certainly NOT by untrained amateurs and quacks.

    It is also highly irresponsible to use something of this sort on undiagnosed “moles” and “cancers” especially where there is no means of determining whether the lesion has been adequately identified and will be adequately cleared by this “treatment.”
    In addition horrific wounds, infected sores and unsightly scarring have frequently been reported.

    There is a lengthy description on Science Based Medicine regarding its use

    • Similar reports could be given on chemotherapy and/or radiation and their ill effects and carcinogenicity in humans, and would be much more accurate.

      I have bought black salve from at least three different sources and all of them have worked.

      Moles can be cancerous. I have removed at least 4 moles with black salve. Some moles I put it on did not have the typical reaction when black salve is applied to the suspect spot (turn gray within 24 hours) and nothing happened. There was no reaction, no pain, nothing. The only reasonable explanation to me is that those moles were not problematic.

      I have photo journeys of all my black salve experiences. The day a mole falls off is a a day of celebration. I just look and look at those little gooey lumps and am amazed at how plants can do such incredible things.

      • “am amazed at how plants can do such incredible things”. Don’t forget the Zinc Chloride (ZnCl2)!

        Deanne, anecdote is not evidence.

      • Moles can BECOME cancerous. But if they are not, then what’s the position of those who say Black Salve distinuishes between cancerous and non-cancerous cells, leaving non-cancerous tissue untouched? If that is true, then non-cancerous moles ought to be left untouched by Black Salve. Deanne, you say this happened for you. How do you think Zinc Chloride and Sanguinaria root distinguish between cells, and modify their action accordingly?

        One can well imagine that repeated insult to a mole with caustic substances (actually I think ZnCl2 is acidic rather than alkaline) might well TRIGGER neoplastic changes and turn a mole cancerous.

        • Reread my comment, so I don’t have to type it in again.

          • Thank you for that full and helpful response.

          • Deanne, I am sure it would be so much appreciated, since you have written here of your success with Black Salve, if you could take a little time to answer the questions I asked regarding the Black Salve you bought from three different suppliers:

            Was this the SAME brand of Black Salve (for example, Cansema) bought from three different places, or was it three DIFFERENT formulations of Black Salve?

            Can you tell us what was in the Black Salve?

          • Sorry for the delay. I’ve been crazy busy.

            Unfortunately, the first black salve we purchased was 7 years ago, and I don’t think I have the container any more. That was from a source recommended by the man I first learned about black salve from (on YouTube). I don’t have a list of the ingredients, but I am certain it contained blood root. (This is the one I used to remove my moles.)

            The second place we got black salve was through a doctor’s office. It was a different maker/supplier, not the same product as the first and just purchased from a different place. The ingredients aren’t listed, but again, I am sure blood root is a primary ingredient. They do say there are only three ingredients in it. (This is the one we used to remove my mom’s large tumors, each at least 4 by 6 inches.) A couple months ago, I contacted them to see if they would share their recipe, due to my concerns about TEOTWAWKI and the possibility of not being able to purchase items through the mail, but the person who replied doesn’t own the rights to the product and couldn’t give out the product ingredients or ratios, so I don’t know exactly what the ingredients are.

            The third source has the ingredients listed clearly. I purchased this brand, but I don’t know that I have used it. My son has. The ingredients are: Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot powder), Zinc chloride, Distilled water, Larrea tridentata (chaparral powder), Trifolium pratense (red clover powder), Arctium lappa (burdock root powder), Annona muricata (soursop powder).

            Black salve from a fourth source, which I have complete confidence in and would like to try has these ingredients: zinc chloride (ZnCl2), chapparal (Larrea mexicata leaf), glycerine (used as a humectant, to keep the product moist), graviola leaf extract (distilled water, Annona muricata), oleander leaf extract (distilled water, Nerium oleander), and sanguinaria root powder (Sanguinaria canadensis).

            To me, true black salve would need to contain blood root (sanguinaria canadensis).

            I once saw a container of “black ointment” somewhere. I purchased it, thinking it was black salve, and wanting to keep some on hand. Later, I realized it was not what I thought it was. My fault. I should have paid more attention and looked at the ingredients before purchasing, but it didn’t claim to be “black salve” – just “black ointment.”

            I do also sometimes take black salve capsules. The ingredients are: graviola, burdock root, chaparral, bloodroot, as well as natural rice flour. This company does not include zinc chloride in their products for internal consumption.

            Hope this helps.

          • Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed response, Deanne. Sanguinaria Canadensis and Zinc Chloride seem to be the two main ‘active ingredients’ in most Black Salve formulations. What type of tumors did your mother have?

          • Diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma by a mainstream oncologist with a biopsy.

        • David B,

          Moles can BECOME cancerous.

          There is no reason why a skin tumour should arise in a mole rather than anywhere else; what might appear to be a mole could indeed be a cancer. The appearance of a new mole is one of the danger signs (others are changes in size, shape or pigmentation, and bleeding).

          • And this was the motivation for me to try black salve. A new mole appeared on my face around age 40. (I have no other moles on my face.) I do not have insurance and going to a doctor was not an option due to expense and also due to my mistrust of the modern medical establishment and my avoidance of pharmaceuticals. I had also read/seen about how Mohs surgery can be very disfiguring (not that I was considering that).

            Because I didn’t want a huge scar on my face, I first experimented on 3 moles that would not be visible if scarring happened, to decide whether or not to try it on my face. The process was painless (although there might be pain with a larger area) and the result was that all three moles fell off on about day 7. I have photos of each mole each day, maybe twice a day, but I haven’t looked at them in a while.

            I decided to go ahead with the new mole on my face. The results were quick and impressive, with that mole coming off on the bandaid on day 6. I did feel some “pulling” across my face. Apparently there are roots which are drawn in during the process. I photographed the removed mole from every angle. It was almost as exciting as having a baby. 🙂

            I have put black salve on other moles and nothing happened. I have had the skin turn a little pink with the mole remaining intact, but the pinkness quickly went away and there was no pain or damage to the skin. My son and I use black salve freely and without fear.

            For anyone who is interested, for the kinds of black salve that I have used (three different sources), the process is to apply a tiny bit of black salve to the spot, with a bandaid over it, for 24 hours. By that time it should be VERY OBVIOUS if the spot will fall off. My “bad spots” turned a sickly gray in that period. After that, twice a day you gently wash the area with soap and water and then apply a healing cream (sometimes available from the same supplier, some people just use Vaseline – not my preference), again putting a bandaid on. As you gently wash the area, you need to be very careful not to remove the mole or tumor. It will fall out when it is ready. In my personal experience, it took about a week in every case. In my Mom’s situation, following the advice of a medical professional (who in my opinion was giving us incorrect instructions – we should have gone by the directions of the producer), it took 3 weeks. Her tumors were much larger, though – approximately 4” by 6” or maybe even a little larger.

            If desired, black salve can then be reapplied to make sure all the defective cells were removed.

            The man who I first learned about black salve from (yes, on You Tube) applied it to a spot 6 times. The first 3 times, he had results; the last 3 times, nothing happened, so he figured he had gotten it all. He also had an impressive spot fall off from his chin, under his beard (the pictures were pretty neat).

            I do not recommend that anyone use black salve, but I do recommend that they do the research and decide for themselves whether or not they think they would like to try it.

            One thing is for certain – I believe that people should have the RIGHT TO CHOOSE to try black salve, and not be told they CAN’T use it if they wish to do so. If mainstream medical options are so wonderful, why does the establishment feel they have to impose their treatments by force and by eliminating any other options?

          • Thank you for that additional information, Dr M-K. I knew about the danger signs, but for some reasson, I had supposed that moles were more susceptible then other areas to neo-plastic changes. Always something new to learn!

          • One thing is for certain – I believe that people should have the RIGHT TO CHOOSE to try black salve, and not be told they CAN’T use it if they wish to do so

            And yet again, someone has failed to understand the difference between “can’t” and “shouldn’t”.

          • Look up “dysplastic naevus/nevus”, David. The wikipedia article is not bad.

            Re. “black salve” I consider it one of the most disgusting alt-med stupidities mankind has invented and not worth discussing with the idiots who promote it, they should be prosecuted for promoting self harm.

          • Your attitude is of deep concern to me. The threat of making something illegal or prosecuting people is the reason I said above that I believe people should have the freedom to choose to use the medical options they wish. Someone who states what you just did is a threat to my liberty and I don’t understand why people like you can’t just allow freedom of choice in the marketplace rather than threaten people who have different preferences and opinions and wish to make different choices than you would. What you are saying is that not only should people not be permitted to choose to use black salve (or presumably anything else which you may disapprove of), but they should be penalized financially and have to waste a lot of their time in court if they do make a choice outside of your (or the mainstream medical establishment’s) list of “approved treatment options.”

            I find it very interesting that often the people who claim to be “pro choice” when it comes to all manner of other things, and who will put “coexist” bumper stickers on their cars, are extremely INTOLERANT and UNACCEPTING of any views outside the pharmaceutical, AMA, FDA, etc., protocols – to the point of trying to make anything other than their opinions illegal. It would be amusing, if it didn’t have such serious, disturbing, and far-reaching consequences.

          • Deanne, you mentioned that you have experienced success with Black Salve from three different suppliers.

            I think it would be very helpful to know – was this the SAME brand of Black Salve (for example, Cansema) bought from three different places, or was it three DIFFERENT formulations of Black Salve?

            Can you tell us what was in the Black Salve? I have been looking online, and I see that ingredients seem to vary quite a bit. I watched two interesting videos on YouTube by two different people making up a batch of Black Salve, and the ingredients and methods weren’t the same.

            I thought it was interesting that while many sources suggest that Sanguinaria Root (‘Bloodroot) and Zinc Chloride are key ingredients of Black Salve, neither of the two YouTube videos I watched used either of those two ingredients. They both based their Black Salve preparations on Plantago Major – Broad Leaved Plantain. The second one I watched was, I thought, very interesting – the fellow seems to be a real backwoodsman, and made his own tarry ingredient by heating “fatwood” (which I had to look up) in a can in a fire pit (tars of various sorts have long been used in skin treatments, and do have an effect)

            Deanne if you could tell us what the ingredients were of the Black Salve you used, I think that would be very helpful.

            I wonder from your comments, how you feel generally about Consumer Protection aka Consumer Fraud laws? In the UK and in many other countries, it is illegal to give a false description of a product offered for commercial sale . Don’t you feel that’s as it should be?

          • I’m not sure what country you are in. Here in the U. S., the pharmaceutical companies, along with the AMA, the FDA, and the mainstream medical monopoly have far too much control over what is approved. Most of what “modern medicine” has to offer is toxic, and is known to be so. For example, the Supreme Court stated that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe,” yet they are still sold and injected into tiny babies, the pharmaceutical companies have no liability, and it is the vaccine court that pays damages to those who make it through the process.

            Pharmaceutical drugs that were known to be harmful before they were approved are sold for years, and getting them off the market is difficult. Pharmaceutical companies are willing to risk people’s lives for the profits they will make. Robert Kennedy just discussed this in a “debate” with Alan Dershowitz in a video available on You Tube (unless it has been censored by now). Well worth watching.

            So, in answer to your question regarding regulations regarding product claims… who is deciding whether the claims are true or false? Someone mentioned an Amish man who was imprisoned for selling some herbal products. If it is the case I am aware of, he made no claims, but there were papers with testimonials from happy customers available. Freedom of speech in regards to health is being squelched if it doesn’t fall in line with the AMA-approved narrative, ie., if it isn’t a patentable pharmaceutical drug.

            So, although I agree in principle that people or companies shouldn’t be allowed to make false claims, I do not see it being implemented justly or even-handedly. It is drastically skewed in favor of protecting toxic pharmaceuticals and against anything natural or plant-based.

            How many people read the warning labels on the drugs they take? If they did, they might not take them and they might even wonder why they are allowed to be sold.

      • “and am amazed at how plants can do such incredible things”

        Yes, plants have some amazing capabilities:

        • I live off-grid, in the woods, and can’t watch videos here, but I saw the title of the video and can surmise the content. And pharmaceutical drugs and treatments are nontoxic? I am dumbfounded that with all the “side effects” (I call them adverse effects since they are part of the package deal, not unforeseen or unknown effects), anyone actually takes pharmaceuticals.

      • Deanne,

        Moles can be cancerous. I have removed at least 4 moles with black salve.

        I have no experience with black salve, but it sounds as though it is essentially a caustic substance which will burn off superficial skin lesions in the same way that a dermatologist might use liquid nitrogen or silver nitrate.

        This is all very well for removing small, unsightly marks, including simple moles, but to treat an undiagnosed pigmented skin lesion is potentially very dangerous. Melanomas are aggressive cancers and tend to invade the underlying skin and also spread beyond the visible abnormality (often by several centimetres). If the “mole” is in fact a melanoma, then simply removing or cauterising it will not address any spread of malignant cells into the surrounding tissue. If these are left behind they can form secondary tumours in the skin (often nodules just under the skin with no visible pigmentation), in the lymph nodes and eventually in other organs such as the lungs, liver and brain.

        If you have a new mole or one that has changed in any way the only safe thing is to have it examined by a dermatologist. If they are concerned they will remove it and send it for pathological examination. If it turns out to be a melanoma then, depending on its thickness you may need to see a plastic surgeon to have the surrounding tissue removed.

        Similar reports could be given on chemotherapy and/or radiation and their ill effects and carcinogenicity in humans, and would be much more accurate.

        I’m not sure what you mean by this. However, neither chemotherapy nor radiation has any part to play in the primary treatment of localised melanoma.

        Some moles I put it on did not have the typical reaction when black salve is applied to the suspect spot (turn gray within 24 hours) and nothing happened. There was no reaction, no pain, nothing. The only reasonable explanation to me is that those moles were not problematic.

        It is very lazy thinking to accept the first explanation for something that seems reasonable without considering alternatives, and this often results in people holding false beliefs. A few other explanations immediately come to mind:

        1. Bearing in mind that you have acquired Black Salve from a number of different sources, and that not all preparations of it are the same, perhaps the lack of the expected reaction was because you were not using your usual preparation.

        2. Perhaps the Black Salve had lost its activity as a result of age, exposure to oxygen, heat, humidity or other forms of degradation.

        3. Perhaps the effect depends on the part of the body to which it is applied – skin in different places can vary in temperature, amount of sweating, blood supply etc.

        4. Perhaps the greying of a pigmented lesion has very little to do with the action of the active ingredient. It could be due, for instance, to absorption of water by layers overlying the pigment, which would occur with any salve applied under an occlusive dressing.

        5. Possibly you are right that the greying of the “mole” depends upon the structure of the lesion. However, there is no reason to suppose that this is a reliable test for malignancy. I would think that it probably depends on how much keratin (dead skin) there is overlying the pigment cells; if this layer is thicker then it can swell more and hide the pigment more effectively.

        I just look and look at those little gooey lumps and am amazed at how plants can do such incredible things.

        If you were to study biology you would be even more amazed at the natural world. I have found that the better I understand something the deeper the wonder.

  • The ingredients of preparations called Black Salve appear to vary widely. That must of itself be a cause for concern.

    Most discussions talk of it containing Bloodroot, Creosote Bush and Zinc Chloride. This recipe on YouTube, however, appears to contain only tallow, activated charcoal, bentonite clay, lavendar essentail oil and tea tree essential oil

    Surely such widely varying preparations cannot have the same effects.

    (Incidental linguistic point: Must explore how the “l” got lost in American pronunciation of ‘salve’ and ‘solder’).

  • The following case presentation came to my attention this morning. Read with care.
    Note that recent advances in cancer therapy have radically changed the life expectancy of melanoma patients and this patient may have survived if the Homeopath had helped her seek proper attention instead of playing doctor with “Black Salve”.

    • What a horrific case.

      How can someone, when they see a treatment isn’t working, let a tumor become a huge fungating mass? Poor foolish woman. I wonder what was behind her refusal, described in the study, to see Doctors since childhood. Was she brought up to believe that doctors were evil?

      Tragically, having let an eminently treatable form of cancer progress to the point that it was untreatable, she probably went to her death thinking that doctors were useless, as she always knew……

      The study refers to her “poor nutritional status”. I wonder if that was because she had become too ill to feed herself properly, or if it was because she followed some faddish, nutritionally deficient diet.

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