Black Salve – Bad Advice… Bad product

Last month I brought attention to a particularly nasty product currently promoted online to vulnerable people as a cancer cure. Black salve is a paste made from a mixture of Bloodroot extract and zinc chloride that, when applied directly to the skin, will cause the cells to die. It does this by physically burning the skin with zinc chloride and inhibiting sodium-potassium pumps on the surface of the cells with compounds found in the Bloodroot extract. This creates a thick black dry clump of necrotic tissue called an “eschar” which will eventually separate from the surrounding area causing scarring and potentially serious injury and disfigurement. This paste is the stuff of nightmares and will burn whatever human flesh it comes into contact with yet despite this undeniable fact, there are some online that promote the idea that it has the magical ability of “drawing out” cancer from underneath the skin and that it won’t harm healthy cells.


You would think that something that only exists as an alternative cancer cure with the potential to burn holes in you would be hard to obtain, but a quick search on eBay reveals multiple people willing to sell you this quackery. One of them caught my interest and I decided to buy it (despite the seller not replying to my email asking where they sourced their all natural DMSO and zinc chloride) to see if it came with any warnings or advice on how to use it. When it turned up at my door a week later, I was shocked at the horrific instructions it came with.


The people selling this know exactly what it’s going to be used for and they know exactly how dangerous is. They admit in their instructions that it can and will cause scarring and, worried about the potential legal ramifications of selling such a product, include a disclaimer.

“This information is summarised for its educational value and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease. When you are buying and applying this product you are agreeing to be fully responsible for your own health, and hold the seller free of any liability. The seller assumes NO responsibility for any adverse reactions from the usage of application of these products.”

Although they don’t directly say what the paste can be used for in their instructions, they do tell the buyer to google black salve and join the Facebook group.

“A Google Search ‘Black Salve’ will provide you with more details as to the working of this product. We have received hundreds of testimonies from our customers to the effectiveness of this product. There is also a very vibrant black salve users community on Facebook and we suggest that you join the group to gain support/a wider understanding on the powerful and successful uses of this product.”

I would only suggest Goggling ‘black salve’ if you have a strong stomach as you will be confronted with some rather upsetting images and page after page of horror stories. Yes, there are websites like Natural News who are actively promoting this alternative treatment, but there is an equal if not greater number of sites warning people to stay away.

The Facebook black salve community is, however, a series of closed moderated groups that silence those who speak out about the very real dangers of using the paste. In these echo chambers people are encouraged by their peers to self-diagnose every bump, pimple, and blotch as cancer and then to smear this corrosive substance on their skin. They often upload multiple horrific images of the damage caused by black salve whilst the whole time being egged on by fellow subscribers. The result is a false sense of accomplishment and a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering from people who, likely, never had cancer to begin with. These groups also promote the idea that black salve will only somehow target cancer cells – something which is also promoted in the leaflet.

“Salve is unique in its ability to discriminate between healthy/abnormal tissue.”

“If abnormal cells are present the effects of the salve will continue to work for several days.”

“Some areas may need more than one application. Clean, and reapply in and reapply in and around the crater where the scab has fallen out.”

NO! NO JUST NO! This ludicrous idea that black salve has the magical ability to seek out and fight cancer is disgusting and most likely the reason why so many people in the Facebook groups think that it works. They are told by the people pedaling this crap that it will only burn the cancer cells, leaving healthy ones alone. Therefore if it burns you, your self-diagnosis of cancer was correct and now you are cancer free. In reality, as I previously said, there is no possible mechanism for the bloodroot extract or the zinc chloride to discriminate between healthy and abnormal cells and everyone trying this product will be hurt. Put simply, it will burn whatever it comes into contact with and to tell people that if it continues to burn then you must still have this imaginary cancer is beyond comprehension.

There is a special place in hell for the person who sold me this!

About Myles Power (759 Articles)
Hello Internet! My name is Myles Power and I am a chemist from the North East of England, who loves to make videos trying to counter pseudoscience and debunk quackery in all of its various forms! From the hype around GMOs through to Atrazine turning the freakin’ frogs gay, I’ll try to cut through the nonsense that’s out there!

3 Comments on Black Salve – Bad Advice… Bad product

  1. Sorry You are incorrect just been reading scientific study of Black Salve by minesota university and it shows to be effective are you a big pharma stooge being paid to tell lies ??? I just removed a tumour from my leg and the salve only works on infected tissue and does No damage to the rest of my skin even put on wart and No effect and no zinc chloride in it bloodroot dmso aloe are the main ingredients, also they found it to be effective with leukimia so try doing your research this study was 2016

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Used it myself… on a problematic mole. It is powerful stuff and worked *exactly* as it should have. I’m sure the location and size is what matters. My mole was relatively small and wasn’t on my face, thankfully. The eschar was painful but calmed down after a week (a day or two deserved Tylenol). Eschar fell out after a couple of weeks. The crater filled in with new skin and I’m happy. I have the photos of the progress, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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