Blog Post

Herbal Remedy Leaves Woman Scarred

black salveA young woman suffering from a treatable form of skin cancer opted to use alternative treatment known as “black salve” which burned a quarter-size hole in her nose.

The Daily Mail is reporting on the story of a woman whose story was posted on Youtube in an attempt to warn people away from the corrosive salve which has been called a “fake cancer cure” by the Food and Drug Administration. The gruesome video begins with a look at a small pink spot on the tip of her nose which was diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer that is almost never deadly. Her doctor recommended Mohs micrographic surgery which removes thin layers of the tumor at a time until only cancer-free tissue remains.

But the woman was afraid of scarring and decided against the procedure, opting to “go the natural route” by investing in a jar of black salve.

Black salve has been around since the early 1900’s when it was widely used to treat skin lesions. According to this case study appearing on Pub Med, a similar compound was used by Dr. Fred Mohs to fix tissue prior to surgical excision but the method has subsequently been replaced by fresh tissue excision.

“Mohs’ original formula included zinc chloride, bloodroot and antimony sulphide," the study reports. "The ingredient zinc chloride is a strong escharotic and has been used for the debridement of chronic leg ulcers and for chemo-surgical debridement of osteolytic bone. The other major ingredient Sanguinaria canadensis is a perennial flowering plant native to North Eastern America and the ingredient is known colloquially as bloodroot, Indian Paint and redroot. When the root is harvested and cut, a red liquid drains which thickens to a paste. This paste is also a strong escharotic and has been used by indigenous Americans to treat warts, polyps and moles.”

Ironically, the woman turned down a more effective treatment developed by the same doctor who was using something similar to black salve in the early part of the last century! Instead, she bought a jar of the ointment online and applied it to the spot on her nose and one on her forehead.

A few days after applying the salve, her face had become swollen, her left eye had nearly swelled shut and she was in so much pain that she was taking ibuprofen on top of the prescription pain killer hydrocodone.

Worried, she sought advice from an internet forum and wondered if she might have to succumb to a “real” doctor just to be sure she wasn’t’ suffering from an allergic reaction. She posted a photo of herself sporting a huge green and black scab on the end of her nose and in the middle of her forehead. (The pix are too hideous to show here. You can see them by clicking on the YouTube link provided above.)

The scabs were soon ready to fall off and when they did, she was left with a huge crater in the end of her nose that went straight through to the cartilage. In fact, if she covered her nostrils, she could actually draw air through the hole in her nose!

The end result was that she needed major reconstructive surgery.

In spite of this horrifying story, and the mountains of evidence against the use of this quack treatment, the New Age Big-Pharma-is-out-to-kill-us crowd weighed in on the YouTube video in support of the salve.

One commenter wrote: “You people need to view some of the attempts of the medical profession to cure skin cancer you can also interview some from the grave if you can. You have many to choose from. No one has died from the black salve only from the cancer.”

Another chimed in: “After using and having friends and family use Black Salve, I say she is the exception, or she overdosed ( way too much way too long) . . . You can expect trouble overdosing with any medicine. My experience is that it is brilliant, works as good as they say. Used with respect it does NOT affect you adversely.”

In fact, many of the commenters claim they’ve been using the salve for years and never saw anything like this.

Strange, because it was relatively easy to find studies detailing some very spectacular fails when it comes to the use of black salve. This study outlines 16 cases where black salve resulted in “poor cosmetic outcomes” (read scarring) and even cases of malignant tumors that were “masked by “uncontrolled escharotic treatment.”

Another case involved a 76 year-old Australian woman who was diagnosed with melanoma and also turned down highly successful surgical options for the black salve. Sadly, it didn’t work for her either and within five years, her cancer had metastasized to her lymph nodes, lungs and liver.

This study involves a man who opted to treat a skin lesion with black salve. When the lesion increased in size after use, he tried the salve again. This time it doubled in size, became ulcerated and purulent. He finally when to the emergency room at a local hospital where he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. The other man in the study, just 42 years old, was using the salve on his colon cancer. “ After 8 days, feces were noted discharging from an ulcer where the salve was applied.” (Hope you’re not reading this during lunch.)

This study reports on four cases where patients resorted to escharotic agents like black salve to treat their tumors in lieu of recommended conventional treatment.

“One patient had a complete clinical response, but had a residual tumor on follow-up biopsy. A second patient successfully eradicated all tumors, but severe scarring ensued. A third patient disagreed with us regarding his care and was lost to follow-up. One patient presented with a nasal basal cell carcinoma that "healed" for several years following treatment elsewhere with an escharotic agent but recurred deeply and required an extensive resection. The lesion has since metastasized.”

In spite of this long and sordid history, the internet is full of establishments that are willing to sell this dangerous ointment to the unsuspecting.

Consider this ad from Cansema (manufacturer by Omega Alpha Labs) which hypes black salve as “…a miraculous product with a miraculous history with roots that go back to the late 19th century.” The advertisement goes on to state: “Only suppression and greed have prevented its enormous benefits from being made available to the mainstream”

As expected, the site lists nothing but testimonials as proof of the efficacy of the product – and not a single link to the multitude of professionally written case studies about the dangers of black salve that are just a mouse click away on the internet.

Needless to say, black salve, no matter how lightly or how liberally it is used, is dangerous.