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Black Salve: Real? or Rip Off?

Black Salve has a colorful history.

The phrase does not mean the same thing to all people. For me it conjures up a childhood image of a tiny brass pill box, filled with black crème that my mother dabbed onto any cut she thought might be infected.

Several on line sources teach us that Black Salve is made of a combination of potentially caustic herbs and should be avoided or only used with extreme caution. Traditional herbalists praise its existence, but some fear chastisement so much that they no longer call it by that name.

My first veterinary experience with Black Salve was a personal success story with my own horse. I was fortunate to rescue a 22 year old Arabian who was being “put out to pasture”. That sweet old mare, Zabba, helped my daughter win her first 4-H trophy and then went on to live 14 more years! During her last year of life at 36, she suddenly developed a large, bleeding, smelly mass on her left lower lip. Zabba was not a surgical candidate due to her age, her heart condition, and her arthritic stifle. As a budding holistic veterinarian I had attended a national convention where I had learned about a salve that might eat away this tumor, leaving my mare’s healthy skin intact. I purchased and applied this salve to the mas

s. I coated the surrounding healthy skin with a protective barrier of petroleum jelly. I put a basket muzzle on Zabba to prevent her from rubbing the area and left this all on for several hours. I repeated this treatment multiple times and low and behold, the mass crusted, separated and peeled right off, leaving a rim of healthy tissue, and it never recurred.

The mass was a squamous cell carcinoma. This result gave Zabba, my old, gray mare, extended time on earth and much improved her quality of life!

As time passed in my small animal practice, I have utilized this product for many canines. I am also aware of one pet guardian and holistic MD, who was so pleased with the results on her dog, she has been using the same product on her human patients who request it.

Despite these successful experiences and that of many other holistic veterinarians, there is an abundance of negative press about “black salves” and the harm they can cause. Grotesque photos can be viewed at of a woman who was allegedly disfigured due to a reaction to a “black salve”. This site warns against the use of escharotics. An escharotic herbal product is caustic. Critics claim this will cause severe scarring and delay care for proper tumor removal. One elderly herbalist was forced out of his Black Salve business by the FDA. He has faced criminal prosecution because he disobeyed orders to discontinue Black Salve use.

Dr. Terry Fox, founder of Buck Mountain Botanicals, asserts that his black crème product, called Neoplasene is NOT an escharotic, is NOT blood root and is NOT Black Salve. He explains that an escharotic is caustic with a basic pH greater than 7 and chemically burns flesh. Neoplasene has a pH of 2 and he claims his black topical product triggers apoptosis (bursting of cancer cells) and does not incite caustic necrosis.

Neoplasene is a very dark burgundy-brown crème made of alkaloid salts, hydroxide adjuvant, protic acid and inert filler. According to the label, it is manufactured in Montana and is sold for veterinary use only. This topical salve is intended to be a debulking agent. Dr. Fox recommends that it be used with veterinary guidance and in conjunction with oral and/or injectable Neoplasene, as neoplasia is a systemic problem. Surgical removal or Neoplasene topical removal does not address the systemic component of the body’s imbalance.

My experience with this product has taught me that it is ideal in situations where despite surgical intervention there has been recurrence, or when the patient is not a good surgical candidate.


Goody is a 17 ½ year old neutered male Italian Greyhound.

Like most, he is missing all his teeth and is quite thin. He developed a large, raised circular mass approximately 6 cm. in diameter.

He was not a good surgical candidate. Neoplasene was applied to the surface of the mass and the same company’s Wound Balm was applied circumferentially on the unaffected, furred skin. Several treatments were performed. With each treatment, the salve was applied in the clinic, covered and an e-collar was used. It was important to prevent licking and rubbing. At the end of each treatment day, the treated area was washed thoroughly with a very mild soap and warm water. The area was covered with a moist salve such as Wound Balm or Zi Cao Paste. If bloody, Yunnan Bai Yao powder was recommended. Goody wore a t-shirt during the treatments to protect furniture from decaying tissue.

The mass separated and cored out from the healthy tissue, leaving his thin thoracic wall intact. The Chinese herbal Yunnan Bai Yao was used to stimulate healthy granulation tissue to fill in the hole. When the granulation reached the top of the wound edges, the topical care was switched to Zi Cao Paste. This prevents infection and keeps the tissue moist.

Goody’s fur has grown back and he is doing well! Goody’s family was very relieved to see the ugly tumor and the odor disappear. The scar is imperceptible.

Katie is an 8 year old spayed female yellow Labrador retriever.

Despite surgical removal of a mass on the underside of her paw, the locally aggressive fibrosarcoma recurred. Several Neoplasene treatments removed the obvious lump and seemed to “follow the tentacles” deeper than surgery was able, as it has now been several years with no recurrence.

Freedom was a darling 12 year old spayed female Chihuahua.

With a mast cell tumor four times bigger than the circumference of her own leg. The Neoplasene did a beautiful job of removal of this mass. Unfortunately, mast cell is a very systemic, malignant cancer, so local debulking and other immune supportive modalities were not enough to stop the progression of this disease for Freedom. The mass removal which was not surgically resectable, without amputation, did buy some valuable good time for Freedom to be with her family.

Annie is a now a 3 year old Thoroughbred mare.

She was rescued and initially presented with a large leg laceration which had developed exuberant granulation tissue. This case demonstrates another great use for Neoplasene in the management of this difficult condition.

The before and after pictures show the rapid response and amazing, scar-free healing!

In each case, treatment protocols and wound management were similar. The number of treatments and time to complete removal and tissue regeneration correlate to initial tumor or woun d size.


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