Most of us would agree that receiving a diagnosis ending in “oma” or with the word “cancer” in it is not a very comforting experience. As cancers go, however, slow-growing basal cell carcinomas are one of the least dangerous types. Although basal cell carcinoma incidence is increasing,1 with over four million cases diagnosed in the United States each year,2 these common skin cancers are extremely unlikely to spread or cause serious harm.
Nonetheless, dermatologists recommend surgery for nearly all cases of basal cell carcinoma. Are there other options? When I had a basal cell carcinoma, I took a different treatment path. Although it was not always fun or pretty, I share my story in case it is instructive to others.
TAKING IT ON THE CHIN
I initially ignored—for a couple of years—what I not-so-affectionately called a “zit from hell” on my chin just below my lower lip. With a minor background in nursing, I admit that having a sore that would not heal ought to have been a red flag. However, I didn’t think much about it, assuming that its stubborn refusal to go away might simply be the result of my incessant efforts to remove the latest scab. (By the way, I do not recommend the strategy of ignoring something that persists beyond a few weeks. It is always safer to have suspicious skin growths checked out.)
At some point, a reader of my blog told me about a presumed “wart” that would not go away because it was actually a skin cancer. I was sick of the sore on my chin by then, and I decided to show it to our family doctor, just in case. (I love this doctor because, even when he does not agree with me, he just chuckles in a friendly way and says, “OK! I just have to tell you what I think, but it’s up to you what you do with the information!”) After a biopsy confirmed that it was a basal cell carcinoma, my doctor referred me to a dermatologist for surgery.
I consider surgery, even on an outpatient basis, as a fairly major and costly intervention, so I decided to defer the surgery option. Instead, I maintained my nutrient-dense diet, which includes cod liver oil and plenty of healthy fats from pastured animals. With help from friends, I also began collecting information about less invasive methods of dealing with basal cell carcinomas, including frankincense essential oil and highly concentrated vitamin C paste.3
Over the course of this research, I came across an article by Dr. Tom Cowan about cancer salves4 as an effective treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers.5 At around the same time, people began suggesting that I use something called “black salve.” Black salve is what is known as an escharotic—a mixture of an herb (or botanical) with a mildly caustic mineral.6 Black salve combines bloodroot and zinc chloride, at a minimum.
One of my readers reported, “I have used black salve on very many suspicious spots, and if it is cancer, moles or warts, it works wonders!” Another reader shared a similar “thumbs-up for black salve,” describing it as “awesome stuff.” That person stated, “My dad used it to get rid of a cancer on his face. After applying it, the little mole pulled itself out of his face and created a HUGE monstrous-looking wound but then healed, and the skin underneath looked like a baby’s!” After hearing these stories, I decided to give black salve a try.
USING BLACK SALVE
As many other people have noted, black salve is not for the faint-hearted (see sidebar for instructions on how to apply it). When I was three days into applying the black salve on my basal cell carcinoma, I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling of something being very wrong. My lip felt like I had been numbed at the dentist. I hurried into the bathroom and could see that my whole bottom lip was huge and swollen. I could feel it on the inside, like it had burned a hole through my lip, and there was inflammation all around it. On the outside, it looked like I had a fat lip.
My heart started racing. I just “knew” that I had permanently disfigured my face. I thought, “How stupid of me to try to get rid of this naturally! I should have just had the surgeon take it off like normal people do!” I quickly removed the band-aid and wiped all the leftover salve off of my chin. Knowing that there was nothing else I could do at that point, I went back to bed in a sweat and prayed my guts out, praying “Lord, please don’t let this be permanent!” I was worried and freaked out.
My lip remained fat all morning. By noon, however, all of the swelling had gone down, and I could tell that my lip was still intact. I was very happy to see that my face even looked normal again! I left it alone and waited to see what would happen next. What happened was that it turned into a monster scab. (Strictly speaking, it is called an eschar, not a scab.) For the most part, I didn’t care how it looked, but it was a little embarrassing at church because it was very big and dark. I made myself leave it alone, and after about three days, it essentially fell off.
A couple of months after using the black salve, I could feel a bump again. This time, I resigned myself to having surgery to get the dumb thing cut out for good. I made an appointment for about a month later. At the appointment, the surgeon looked at it and sent me off to schedule an excision procedure in another couple of months.
The day before the scheduled surgery, I looked at the spot more closely. I realized that the bump had not changed at all over the past several months, and it occurred to me that the bump was probably just scar tissue. I decided to cancel the surgery. Understandably, the surgeon was not happy with me for canceling with one day’s notice, but I saw no reason to spend time and money on a procedure that I clearly did not need. Since that time, the bump has remained unchanged, and I can’t even see it unless the light is just right.
I also used the black salve to take off a hard, raised spot on my arm that had been there for a year or two. It was not skin cancer, but it had persisted unchanged for a while. I applied a little of the black salve—just enough to go over the spot—and covered it with a band-aid, as per the instructions. It hurt and itched a little—and then, after producing another doozy of a scab, it was gone for good.
VITAMIN C PASTE
Vitamin C paste is another safe, topical way to remove basal cell carcinomas. The website DoctorYourself.com notes that “vitamin C is selectively toxic to cancer cells but does not harm healthy skin cells.”3 (This selective toxicity is also a feature of black salve, which will only “go after” cancerous or abnormal tissue.7) A reader of my blog described how she followed the vitamin C protocol: “I used one teaspoon of [GMO-free] ascorbic acid powder and added filtered water drop by drop to make a paste. I then caked the paste on the spot and let it dry. The dried vitamin C just flakes off when dried. I did that three to four times a day, for three to four days, until the area was rough and painful. I would then give the area three to four days to heal and do the process all over again. It took several weeks because this basal cell carcinoma was a type that burrows in deep beneath the surface of the skin. (I did not realize that there were different types of basal cell carcinomas until I started reading in-depth about them.) I decided to persevere and keep using the vitamin C paste until I thought the basal cell carcinoma was completely eradicated. When I went for the biopsy, the area was still rather raw-looking, but the lesion itself was gone. DoctorYourself.com gives more details about how to follow the protocol.”
OUR FRIEND THE SUN
Even after my basal cell carcinoma diagnosis and warnings to stay out of the sun, I believe that it is important to get adequate sun exposure. The sun is the best way to get vitamin D, as long as you don’t burn. Sunscreens (which generally are loaded with who-knows-what chemicals) block most vitamin D. I would rather deal with another not-dangerous basal cell carcinoma than be susceptible to a much more serious disease from having vitamin D that is too low.
According to Dr. Tom Cowan,5 the sun has nothing to do with melanomas (the most dangerous skin cancers). Dr. Michael Holick, vitamin D expert and author of The Vitamin D Solution, agrees, giving readers of his book “permission” to go out in the sun.8 Dr. Joseph Mercola notes that melanomas are more common on parts of the body not exposed to the sun at all and also more common in people who work indoors than those who work outside.9
NATURAL REMEDIES ARE POWERFUL
There are many different types of skin cancer, and there is no doubt that some are dangerous and fast-growing and require speedier treatment. It is a good idea to get weird skin spots checked out, particularly if they hurt, itch or bleed and persist longer than three or four weeks.
Most people do not know about black salve or vitamin C paste, perhaps because both represent affordable options that would put quite a dent in surgeons’ pocketbooks if more people used them instead of resorting to surgery. As my experience with black salve suggests, natural remedies can be very effective but also quite powerful. Treat them with respect. It is important to do your own research, work with a naturopath or holistic doctor, if necessary, and always use common sense.
WHERE TO GET BLACK SALVE
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that it is part of its job to discredit alternative cancer therapies as “fake cancer cures,” and unfortunately, it has done a good job of closing down some black salve producers.
If you plan to purchase black salve, it is important to do your research and obtain a good-quality salve. One excellent black salve product comes from the Ecuador-based Alpha Omega Labs. Their “Amazon Black Tropical Salve” (formerly sold as Cansema) is available in the U.S. at herbhealers.com/salves-creams-tonics.
The black salve product that I used was Virxcan Sun Skin Salve, available at a variety of natural health websites. Virxcan also comes in tablet form for both internal and surface growths.
The Black Salve Info website (blacksalveinfo.com/instrbs.htm) provides detailed information about how to apply black salve and what to expect during the healing process.
TWO SALVE RECIPES AND INSTRUCTIONS
The following recipes and instructions come from a Native American woman who shared this wisdom in the 1970s.
BLACK CANCER SALVE: Mix and add water to make a thick paste. Cook for 30 minutes in double-boiler (not aluminum).
• 1/2 cup powdered bloodroot • 1/2 cup zinc chloride • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
YELLOW HEALING SALVE:
• 1 pint pure linseed oil (raw) • 1 piece of rosin (size of walnut)
• 2 ounces beeswax • 1/2 ounce oil spike (lavender solvent)
Carefully heat the linseed oil to boiling (beware, as linseed oil is flammable). Add the rosin and stir until melted. Remove from burner and allow to cool somewhat. Add the beeswax. Just before it starts to thicken, add the oil of spike, stir thoroughly and allow to thicken. Store in a suitable container.
TESTING FOR CANCER: Apply a small amount of the black salve (no more than 1/8 inch thick) to the suspected area,
cover with a band-aid, press lightly and leave on for 30 minutes. You may experience strange sensations during this time. Remove the band-aid. If the salve remains on the skin, there is cancer in that immediate area. If the salve remains on the band-aid, there is no cancer in that area. This salve will only react on cancer.
REMOVING CANCER: This treatment will make a bad-looking sore, and there will be pus, sometimes with blood, that
forms around the core of the cancer. There will be much redness around the cancer while it is working, and there may be considerable swelling and even fever. A lot of pain may be experienced while the roots are being killed. This indicates that the cancer has reached an advanced stage, so be brave and thank the Lord that your life is being spared by these two salves.
STEP ONE: Apply the BLACK salve (1/8 inch thick) over the cancer and cover with gauze or a large band-aid. A small skin cancer might be smaller than a dime (about 2 cm) while a large cancer might be larger than a half-dollar (about 4 cm). Leave this salve on for twenty-four hours, then remove and thoroughly clean and dry the area.
STEP TWO: Apply the YELLOW salve. Over the next five days, keep the yellow salve in contact with the area being treated and cover with gauze or a large band-aid. It may be necessary to clean and replace the salve several times a day, as the cancer will enter into a stage of running or oozing pus sometimes mixed with blood. This is to be expected.
STEP THREE: On the sixth day, reapply the BLACK salve for twenty-four hours.
STEP FOUR: Apply the YELLOW salve as per Step Two.
STEP FIVE: Repeat entire process until there is no reaction. Sometimes more than one core may be formed—be sure to remove all of the cancer.
1. Lomas A, Leonardi-Bee J, Bath-Hextall F. A systematic review of worldwide incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Br J Dermatol 2012;166(5): 1069-1080.
2. Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin cancer facts & statistics. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts.
3. DoctorYourself.com. Topical vitamin C stops basal cell carcinoma. http://www.doctoryourself.com/basal.html.
4. Naiman I. Cancer salves: a botanical approach to treatment. http://www.cancersalves.com/publications/book.html.
5. Cowan T. Skin cancer. Weston A. Price Foundation, August 24, 2006. https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/ask-the-doctor/skin-cancer/.
6. Dee R. Why do they want you to be afraid of escharotics? Bloodroot Salve, October 1, 2016. https://www.bloodrootsalve.com/category/bloodroot-salve-topics/.
7. Black Salve Info. How to use black salve. http://www.blacksalveinfo.com/instrbs.htm.
8. Holick MF. The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problems. New York: Plume; 2011.
9. Mercola J. Sun CAN actually help protect you against skin cancer. Mercola.com, June 16, 2011.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2017.