A review of topical corrosive black salve

J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Apr;20(4):284-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0377. Epub 2013 Oct 31.


Black salve is a compound derived from various inert ingredients, but it can be transformed into a corrosive ointment by the addition of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) or zinc chloride. Black salve products have been advertised as a natural remedy for many ailments, ranging from bee stings to skin cancer. This article reviews the current literature surrounding this compound, which in its corrosive form can be dangerous for use without medical supervision. Patients should be educated about the lack of objective evidence supporting the clinical efficacy of black salve as a skin cancer treatment, as well as the possible cosmetic defects resulting from tissue necrosis secondary to the effects of bloodroot and zinc chloride.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Caustics / administration & dosage
  • Caustics / adverse effects
  • Chlorides / administration & dosage*
  • Chlorides / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Naturopathy / adverse effects
  • Naturopathy / methods
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ointments
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects*
  • Sanguinaria / adverse effects
  • Sanguinaria / chemistry*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Zinc Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc Compounds / adverse effects*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Caustics
  • Chlorides
  • Ointments
  • Plant Extracts
  • Zinc Compounds
  • zinc chloride