History of Bloodroot Salve

historyA Potted History

In its most basic form, Bloodroot salve is a paste of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and a mineral caustic. The most suitable caustic is zinc chloride, with a pH of 5, safe for skin. (Read more…) Dermatologists today call it Mohs’ Paste.

We know Paracelsus made escharotic salves in the fifteenth century using a plant extract and a caustic. Bloodroot salve has been used in its current form for about 150 years.

Native Americans used bloodroot, apparently without a caustic, to draw out cancers and other lesions. Some tribes treated breast and uterine cancer with bloodroot paste. (They also used the plant for other medicinal purposes, both topically and orally). It is also an excellent germicidal. Medical doctors in Europe and America in the 18th century are known to have modified these bloodroot formulae and applied them with success. The great benefit of the salve was noted by many writers, particularly for its success on skin lesions.

Mohs and Fell used “Black Salve”

Until the 1960s, the two best known modern doctors using bloodroot salve were Dr J. Weldon Fell and Frederic E. Mohs, MD, both of the United States. (They both found that zinc chloride was the safest non-botanical ingredient). Fell was a faculty member of New York University and later was one of the New York Academy of Medicine founders. In the early 1850s, he moved to London and built up a very successful breast cancer practice in Middlesex Hospital. He published his results extensively to prove that bloodroot has strong anti-tumor action.

In the 1930s, Dr Frederic Mohs developed an approach he called ‘chemosurgery and used a fixative paste of bloodroot and zinc chloride on skin cancers. He did not wait for the tumor to slough away but used surgery and analysis, which put his procedure on a scientific footing, showing research that spanned decades. A 1990 report on his work stated he had a verifiable and documented 99% success rate in treating skin cancers.

Vipont Pharmaceuticals

In the late 1960s, Vipont Pharmaceuticals was formed, specifically to research and develop a bloodroot salve for FDA approval. An investigator at the Mayo clinic stated in writing that he had not tested anything that came close to the anti-tumor effect of the salve. Toxicity testing showed that the herb is safe for internal use in low doses. In high doses, it is toxic and irritant. FDA stated that the bloodroot was approved for personal hygiene products, but cancer treatment was too diverse from its original patent.


The FDA and the TGA (Australian FDA) have now labelled “black salve” a fake cancer cure and banned its sales, but its popularity continues to grow. An unfortunate result is that poor quality salves and counterfeit products now abound, with no control. Regulatory bodies resist natural products; they exhibit a contradictory attitude that encourages condemnation of a product. 

They will forbid the sale of a natural product if as few as two people have reported they possibly have had an allergic reaction while tolerating synthetic drugs that can cause great harm and even death. Two examples: Graviola, long recognised as an effective and safe medicinal (soursop, custard apple), is not to be sold for application on the skin. DMSO is the first non-steroidal anti-inflammatory since aspirin, with over 1200 papers claiming efficacy for various conditions, yet it has only been approved for one condition in the USA.

Its Action

Bloodroot salve works apparently as an escharotic on pre-cancerous and cancerous tissue. It de-activates cancer cells, turns them into a scab, and then promotes the body’s immune reaction to expel it from the body. I have seen basal cell carcinomas removed with only light eschar formed. Youtube is an excellent source for videos of people’s treatments. Look at Success Stories for more.


Detractors say the salve eats away tissue (“burns” is the term of choice), whether it is healthy or not, but many happy users realize that this is simply NOT TRUE. The “scary pictures” that they show are the eschar stage, but they will not show the next step after healing. Zinc chloride is not a dangerous caustic; its pH is 5.0. The pH of the salve is too low to damage skin.

Medical Attitude

Bloodroot salve has come and gone over the years, as far as ‘mainstream medicine’ is concerned. Usually, doctors who use it are treated with disdain and worse. Modern dermatological surgeons are now, in 2014, rediscovering the benefits of using these substances to ‘treat’ even deep melanomas! Firstly they cut away the skin and apply the paste to the raw tissue – no DMSO for them. The paste is left in situ for enough time to penetrate the tumor and consolidate it. Then the attempt is made to remove the tumor surgically. Whereas, if they left it alone, the tumor would come out by itself. Read more… 

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