Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Cliff Rosendahl, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

You might’ve heard the name black salve floating around in the media lately, accompanied by horror tales and even worse photos. But a quick google of the term will find just as many glowing reviews of miracle cancer cures.

Black salve is a product derived from the plant Sanguinaria canadensis, a perennial flowering plant native to northeastern America. It’s known colloquially as “blood root”, “Indian paint” and “red root”. The specific ingredients vary but commonly include zinc chloride (a destructive agent, which is corrosive to metals) as well as sanguinarine (a toxic plant extract).

Blood root was used by the American Indians, who harvested the plant from which they drained a red liquid. They thickened this into a paste, which they used to treat infected wounds. Early European settlers in America also used blood root to treat a variety of skin conditions including warts and moles.

Blood root is a strong escharotic, meaning it is a caustic and destructive material. The zinc chloride and sanguinare are corrosive, but dealers claim when it’s applied to damaged skin the healthy skin will separate and not be damaged. There’s no evidence to support this.

Instead, there’s evidence all tissue that comes into contact with the material is damaged, causing profound inflammation and eschar (a dry, dark scab or falling away of dead skin).

This can reasonably be compared to the result that would be expected from burning tissue by applying a strong caustic substance such as hydrochloric acid.

Its use in contemporary society dates back to the 1930s when researcher Fred Mohs used a preparation containing a low concentration of blood root to stabilise a tumour so he was able to examine it under a microscope.

This historical use has been used to give credibility to the use of black salve to treat skin malignancies, despite the fact Mohs publicly renounced its use for this purpose.

what is black salve and why do people think it can cure cancer? The salve doesn’t only destroy cancerous tissues, but all tissue. Flickr/Eli Christman, CC BY

Read more: Science or Snake Oil: can a detox actually cleanse your liver?

What is claimed about black salve’s benefits?

In the 1930s-50s Harry Hoxley, a self-proclaimed cancer specialist, sold salve to treat a variety of internal and external cancers in clinics in America. By the end of the 1950s, due to a lack of scientific evidence and concerns by medical authorities, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had prohibited its sale.

One brand of black salve, Cansema (manufacturer Omega Alpha Labs), is marketed on the internet 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.

Many testimonials praising the results of Cansema are also listed on the internet. Within Australia, black salve has been marketed for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Multiple websites provide testimonials supporting its use in this way and there are claims it’s not harmful to normal cells.

what is black salve and why do people think it can cure cancer? Cancer cures at bargain basement prices? Screenshot http://www.blacksalve.biz/

Read more: Science or Snake Oil: do men need sperm health supplements?

Is there any evidence black salve cures cancer?

Salve appears under a variety of trade names including Cansema (Alpha Omega Labs), Black Ointment (Dr Christopher’s Original Formulas) and Herb Veil 8 (Altered States). No manufacturers have published detailed information about the specific ingredients.

There is, however, emerging laboratory evidence sanguinarine does have therapeutic anti-cancer effects. This evidence is based on studies on cells outside the body. These found beneficial effects, with selective destruction of malignant cells, but at much lower concentrations than in existing salve products. Higher concentrations result in destruction of normal tissue as well as cancer cells.

At the time of a recent review there were no studies comparing salve to conventional treatment so the safety and effectiveness remain unknown.

Read more: Science or Snake Oil: will horseradish and garlic really ease a cold?

Is black salve dangerous?

Documented adverse effects of black salve include direct damage to the skin, as well as disease progression where users eschew evidence-based therapy. In a recent review there were nine cases of biopsy-proven skin cancer treated with black salve and then documented.

All of these cases reported adverse clinical outcomes, including severe pain or discomfort, and seven reported significant adverse cosmetic outcomes. In six of these cases the cancer worsened. Two cases reported no worsening.

In one case colleagues and I reported there was progression to metastatic disease, meaning the cancer spread to lymph nodes and other organs, after seven years following treatment of a thin melanoma with black salve. The prognosis for 20-year survival of the primary melanoma at the time of black salve treatment was 97%. The patient died shortly after our manuscript was published.

In 2012 the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration banned the sale of black salve in Australia due to a lack of evidence for its benefit. But it and its ingredients continue to be available for purchase through the internet and overseas.

In the future laboratory studies and ethical clinical trials might discover a beneficial role for blood-root products. But at present the use of black salve has no justifiable place in medical practice.

Read more: Science or Snake Oil: is A2 milk better for you than regular cow’s milk?

Authors: Cliff Rosendahl, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/science-or-snake-oil-what-is-black-salve-and-why-do-people-think-it-can-cure-cancer-97000

Why the Black Lives Matter protests must continue: an urgent appeal by Marcia Langton

arrow_forward

Sweden eschewed lockdowns. It's too early to be certain it was wrong

arrow_forward

‘The Epilogue’ to Traidmarc’s incredible story of conviction

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Reinventing The Outside Of Your Office

Efficient work is a priority in most offices. You need a comfortable interior that is functional too. The exterior also affects morale. Big companies have an amazing exterior like university ca...

News Company - avatar News Company

Kaspersky and Ferrari partnership: tailoring cybersecurity for an iconic brand

Kaspersky is commemorating the 10 year anniversary of its strategic partnership with iconic, global brand - Ferrari. The cybersecurity company is a sponsor of the brand’s Formula One racing team...

News Company - avatar News Company

Instant Steel Solutions Review

Are you keen on having the right guidance, knowledge and information about the right kind of steel purchases for your industries? If yes, then you are in the right place. There is no doubt that ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion