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Black and red salves in treating cancer

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TGA warns consumers about the use of Black and Red Salves in treating cancer

19 March 2012

The TGA is advising consumers not to purchase or use unproven products that claim to cure or treat cancer, including certain types of skin cancer.

The recent use of  products marketed as containing 'Black salve' in Australia has resulted in serious harm to the skin of three Australian consumers who used the black salves for various skin conditions including the treatment of a skin cancer.

The TGA is not aware of any credible, scientific evidence which shows that any black or red salve preparation is effective in treating cancer.

These types of salves have not been formally assessed by the TGA and are not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods or exempted from inclusion. All therapeutic goods, including those used for treating cancer, must be included in the Register unless exempted. Penalties of up to $5.5m apply to the illegal importation or supply of therapeutic goods.

Patients and consumers are urged to discuss with their doctor or clinical specialist the use of appropriate medicines that are included on the Register for the treatment of cancer.

Black and red salves

TGA warns consumers and patients about using black and red salves.

Black salves are being sold to Australian patients and consumers as an 'alternative treatment' for cancer, including skin cancer. It is also known as red salve, Cansema, or Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis with the active caustic ingredient sanguinarine)

Information for patients and consumers

The TGA strongly advises consumers and patients against purchasing or using black or red salves.

Both black and red salves are corrosive and essentially burn off layers of the skin and surrounding normal tissue. They can destroy large parts of the skin and underlying tissue, and leave significant scarring.

In addition to the TGA warning about the purchase and use of black and red salves, the TGA is also investigating the supply in Australia of products containing black and red salves.

Further, a complaint about the advertising of 'Black Salve' on certain Australian Internet sites is currently under consideration by the Complaints Resolution Panel.1

Always consult a health professional first

Purchasing and using unproven products for the treatment of serious conditions and diseases, including cancer, may pose significant health risks.

If you intend starting a new treatment for a serious condition or disease such as cancer, consider consulting your general practitioner or pharmacist first.

Reporting an adverse event

Consumers and health professionals are strongly encouraged to report any adverse reactions associated with the use of black or red salve to the TGA.


The TGA cannot give personal advice about an individual's medical condition. You are strongly encouraged to talk with a health professional if you are concerned about a possible adverse reaction to a medicine.


  1. The Complaints Resolution Panel is a statutory committee established under the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990 that receives and considers complaints about therapeutic goods advertisements directed to consumers.