What is a Cancer Salve?

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  • Written By: Casey Kennedy
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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A cancer salve is a topical salve that is applied to the skin as a treatment for cancer. It can sometimes be called Curaderm or Cansema, but it is most commonly known as black salve. Black salve is a herbal remedy used as an alternative treatment for skin cancer or cancerous tumors that are located just below the surface of the skin. It is also prescribed by naturopaths for treating warts, skin tags, and moles.

Cancer salve may have as many as 10 or more ingredients blended together to create a specialized formula. Most of these ingredients are herbs known for their healing properties and typically include bloodroot, Sanguinaria Canadensis, as the primary herb and chaparral, Larrea tridentate, marshmallow, Althaea officinalis, or Indian tobacco, Lobelia inflata, as complimentary herbs along with other types of herbs that are thought to support healing. This mixture is blended together before being added to a sticky or thick type of base material, such as pine tar or bees wax, to form the salve.

Once the salve is ready for use, it is applied to the area to be treated and either rubbed into the skin or left on the skin’s surface as a poultice. Then, it typically is covered with a bandage. The salve purportedly eats away at the damaged skin, but leaves the cancer-free skin around it unharmed.


Although the use of cancer salve can be traced as far back as the ancient Egyptians, its popularity reached a peak during the 18th and 19th century. There is renewed interest in this ancient cure due in part to the Internet where it is often promoted as a cure for cancer by entrepreneurs attempting to tap into cancer patients' desires for less evasive treatments. Also, this type of treatment might appeal to a patient who hopes that a cure can be obtained by using an alternative medicine instead of more traditional methods.

Cancer salves sold over the Internet are unregulated and may contain substances such as sulfuric acid or excessive amounts of zinc chloride. These substances don't treat cancer and may damage the healthy skin around it. Some cancer salves are considered so unsafe that they have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the companies that produce these products are prohibited from selling them in the United States.

Despite the controversy over cancer salve and whether it really can cure cancer or not, there are still proponents who swear by it. There are even claims by some that it is not just for humans, but there are canine cancer patients who have benefited from it as well. Generally, it is recommended for consumers to research the company that is providing the salve to know exactly what the ingredients are before using it either for themselves or their animals.


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