You may have seen websites selling certain salves or creams (commonly known as “black salve”) claiming to treat or cure cancer, boils, moles and skin tags (benign, or non-cancerous, growths of the skin).
These claims are false. Salve products containing corrosive ingredients, including black salve, are dangerous and are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat or cure any skin condition, particularly not skin cancer. Specifically, the FDA is warning consumers not to use any salves or other topically applied products that list any of the following potentially dangerous ingredients: sanguinarine, Sanguinaria canadensis, or bloodroot, alone or in combination with zinc chloride.
Although not all salves are dangerous, topically applied products with the above ingredients can destroy the skin and result in permanent disfigurement, tissue necrosis (death of cells in living tissue), and can result in infection. Furthermore, using salve products such as black salve for serious conditions like skin cancer can result in delayed cancer diagnosis and cancer progression.
What Are Salves that Contain Corrosive Ingredients?
Some salve products contain corrosive ingredients, highly reactive substances that injure living tissue. They act either directly, by chemically destroying the tissue (oxidation), or indirectly by causing inflammation. Either way, the result is damaging, painful and can result in permanent disfigurement (scarring).
Many salve products that contain corrosive ingredients claim to draw out only the cancer, leaving healthy skin untouched. This is false. The ingredients in these products destroy cancerous and healthy skin equally. Using these products can result in permanent scarring and may even result in the need for reconstructive (plastic) surgery. In addition, these salves can destroy the top layer of skin while leaving cancer behind in the deeper layers, where the cancer may continue to grow.