People sometimes opt for alternative medicine, even quackery, to address their health issues. Some alternative medicine show potential in alleviating symptoms of diseases. But some are merely a placebo and are even dangerous to overall health. Among the most controversial treatments out there is black salve, which some people claim can cure skin cancer.
In this article, we will shed light on one of the most ironic, misunderstood, and plaguing issues in medicine. Is black salve the elusive cure to skin cancer? Or, is it something more dangerous than how it appears to be?
The Origins of Black Salve
Black Salve, the name itself is quite intriguing. It is well-known in the field of alternative medicine as the supposed topical cure to skin cancer. It was way back 1850s when Jesse Fell an American Surgeon then discovered what Native Americans then used to treat some skin illnesses that they might not have identified as cancer yet then, it was a plant named bloodroot. As he sought to make improvements to this traditional herbal medicine he added zinc chloride to create a paste, Fell’s paste, that would then be sold and used as a topical cream for patients. He introduced this to London and it proved to be lucrative but at one point his venture was considered as sort of ridiculous because it did not have any strong medical basis to be considered the cure to skin cancer.
Speeding towards the 1920s, there was one particular individual named, Harry Hoxsey sold a red paste from the combination of bloodroot, antimony trisulfide, and zinc chloride. He reportedly invented this paste as he was watching horses cure themselves naturally of skin cancer by grazing on some specific plants. But the American Medical Association was quick to rule out that Hoxsey’s red paste was nothing short of quackery and that it cannot claim to single-handedly cure cancer.
1930s up to 1950s came along Dr. Frederick Mohs and used the combination of bloodroot, zinc chloride and antimony sulfide which he used to fix tissues before any surgical excision. He subsequently produced a substantial cure rate of 99.3% in some 7257 cases of BCC (basal cell carcinoma) and an equally good cure rate of 94.4% in some 2551 cases of SCC (squamous cell carcinoma). However positive these cure rates are it was not solely due to Mohs’ paste but was also observed in fresh tissue technique.
But in 1975 Almeida Goncalves of Portugal came in to observe the method of Dr. Mohs and brought back his own version but he used Alpinia officinarum instead of stibnite. But nevertheless, it was once again a failed attempt to find the elusive cure of skin cancer.
Closing out the 1990s Greg Caton along with his company Alpha Omega Labs manufactured a commercialized version of Black Salve and added Larrea mexicana (chapparel), Oleander (Nerium Oleander) and Graviola (Annona muricata) to the mix of Bloodroot and zinc chloride. However, Caton was charged by the American Food and Drugs Administration with mail fraud and the introduction of unapproved new drugs. He was found guilty and was imprisoned after which he relocated to the country of Ecuador where he brought along his business and he continued to sell his product online to unsuspecting and unknowing would-be buyers.
Components of Black Salve
Dissecting the now infamous Black Salve we have a few recurring components or basic components as one may say. One of these is the Sanguinaria canadensis which is part of the poppy family of plants and is native to the regions of North Eastern America. Sanguinaria canadensis or Bloodroot is the direct derivative from which we have Black Salve. The natives harvest the roots of this plant and make cuts on the roots which then elicits a red liquid from it which is then turned into paste. Back then the indigenous people use this paste to treat warts, polyps, and moles because it is a strong escharotic. The Sanguinarine also has antimicrobial properties. Some research also suggests that it can induce what the medical field calls melanoma caspase-dependent cell death.
As part of the adaptation of several medical practitioners and whatnot of this native American paste they also have introduced a variety of other components. The most prominent addition would be zinc chloride. Zinc Chloride, as a compound of zinc, is used for the synthesis of fats, cholesterol, and protein. It is a colorless liquid in its solution form and is slightly corrosive to metals. If exposed to the eyes, mucous membrane and skin, it can cause a burning sensation.
Black Salve may also contain several botanical extracts and other unknown synthetic compounds apart from what was already mentioned in its rich adulterated history. Other practitioners may have introduced to the mix in order to find that skin cancer cure.
The question on everybody’s mind might be is Black Salve really a cure for skin cancer or are we marching headfirst towards the danger zone. Many unsuspecting souls from then and up until now have fallen victim to the charms of this paste that can supposedly cure skin cancer. They apply it on areas of their body with lesions and what not with the misconception that Black Salve will draw cancer out but in reality, it just damages indiscriminately anything it touches. That is why dermatologists strongly advise against the use of this otherwise miracle paste. As some case studies reveal the dramatic and horrific effects of Black Salve.
One female patient who was diagnosed with superficial spreading melanoma decided to apply Black Salve on her lesion. However five years later, evidence of a metastatic spread to the lungs, liver lymph nodes, and subcutaneous tissues have manifested. On another case study, a male patient applied Black Salve on a nodule found on the right chest wall but to the dismay and fright of the patient, it did not cure the nodule rather it continued to grow and then started to ulcerate. He decided to go to the hospital to seek medical help eight months after the application of Black Salve. Doctors performed a biopsy and found melanoma.
Some reported adverse effects that other patients experience after the use of Black Salve are the following:
- Unusual skin pigmentation;
- Atrophic scarring, Hypertrophic scarring and Keloid Formation;
- Lesions, nodules etc, progress to a metastatic state;
- Burning sensations and some degree of pain;
- Formation of ulcers;
- Skin deformation; and
- Possible secondary infection
Black Salve, the New Skin Cancer Cure?
Evidence in case studies in the medical field points out that Black Salve is and will not be the much sought after cure for skin cancer no matter how enticing and alluring advertisements in the market may get. Several case studies have proven otherwise that by using it as a topical alternative medicine will most likely be more dangerous than beneficial. The components may have gone generations of revisions and testings to prove its worth however none have come to par with that elusive goal.
Black Salve is just simply a way for man to preserve himself but with utter consequences. Until new studies have come to light proving once and for all that this miracle paste is indeed miraculous then it remains to be another traditional alternative medicine that is neither beneficial but rather harmful as studies show contrary to what the people in the past may have believed.