Food & DrinkDo not use: Black salve is dangerous and goes...

Do not use: Black salve is dangerous and goes by many names

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You may have seen websites selling certain balms or creams (commonly known as “black balm”) that claim to treat or cure cancer, boils, moles, and skin tags (benign or non-cancerous growths on the skin).

These claims are false. Balm products that contain corrosive ingredients, including black balm, are dangerous and are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat or cure skin conditions. especially skin cancer.

Specifically, the FDA cautions consumers not to use salves or other topical products that contain one of the following potentially hazardous 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 (the death of cells in living tissue), and infection. Additionally, the use of balm products such as black balm for serious conditions such as skin cancer can result in delayed cancer diagnosis and cancer progression.

What are the balms that contain corrosive ingredients?

Some balm products contain corrosive ingredients, highly reactive substances that damage living tissue. They act directly, chemically destroying the tissue (oxidation), or indirectly causing inflammation. Either way, the result is damaging, painful, and can result in permanent disfigurement (scarring).

Many balm products that contain corrosive ingredients claim that they only kill the cancer, leaving healthy skin intact. That is false. The ingredients in these products destroy healthy and cancerous skin alike. Use of these products may result in permanent scarring and may even result in the need for reconstructive (plastic) surgery. Also, these balms can destroy the top layer of the skin and leave cancer in the deeper layers, where the cancer can continue to grow.

How can you tell if it is a corrosive salve?

clinical photo of nose in profile, focusing on missing nostril, injury caused by black salve corrosive ointment

This patient suffered loss of the left side of the nose (nostril) and surrounding tissue as a result of the use of corrosive black balm ointment to treat suspected melanoma. Photo courtesy of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Corrosive salve products include products such as black salve. According to Cynthia Ng of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, “Consumers should be aware that ‘black balm’ is an informal term and is not the only name used for this product.”

It is also sold under names such as Extraction Balm, Red Balm, Cansema, Bloodroot, Indian Herb, Hawk Dok Natural Balm, Black Extraction Balm, and many others. Products come in many forms, including salves, pastes, creams, and poultices (soft, moist material applied to a wound). In some cases, corrosive salves may be marketed as natural or homeopathic products. In some cases, corrosive ingredients are listed as “inactive” ingredients.

Ng adds that if you are unsure if a product is, in fact, a hazardous salve product, look for these ingredients (active and/or inactive): sanguinarine, Sanguinaria canadensis, bloodroot, and zinc chloride, any of which indicate that It is a harmful product and you should not use it.

Watch for the following warning signs:

  • Balm products under the following names: Black Balm, Extraction Balm, Red Balm, Cansema, Bloodroot, Indian Herb, Hawk Dok Natural Balm, Black Extraction Ointment and many others. Products come in many forms, including ointments, pastes, creams, and poultices.
  • Products containing any of these ingredients: sanguinarine, bloodroot, bloodroot, and zinc chloride.
  • Balm products that claim to cure or treat cancer, remove moles or warts, or treat other skin conditions.
  • Products with directions that burning, pain, or scarring at the application site should be anticipated. Sellers often state that a thick, dry scab on the skin should be anticipated.

Consumers have reported harmful side effects to the FDA

The FDA has identified 24 cases of adverse events (bad side effects) associated with black balm. Fifteen of these cases were reported in the last five years.

These include cases of permanent disfigurement and cancer progression. The FDA is aware of at least one death that resulted from a person who chose to use a corrosive salve instead of following proven cancer therapies.

The agency urges consumers to consult a health care professional for an accurate diagnosis and receive appropriate treatments.

The agency also continues to issue warning letters and take enforcement action against companies that make false claims about these products.

Health care professionals and consumers should report adverse events or side effects associated with the use of these products to MedWatch, the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting and Safety Information Program:

  • Complete and submit the report online.
  • Download the form in Spanish or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return it to the address on the form, or fax it to 1-800-FDA-0178.

Other things you can do to stay safe

  • Contact your dermatologist or health care professional if you have concerns about skin cancer or other skin-related problems. Be sure to tell them about any products, including herbal or other “natural” products, that you may be using for any skin-related issues.
  • Do not use black salve or salve products containing sanguinarine, Sanguinaria canadensis, or bloodroot, alone or in combination with zinc chloride, as an alternative to proven medical therapies. This can result in permanent disfigurement and, in the worst case, death.
  • Learn to recognize health fraud.

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