Cancer salves, a type of alternative therapy that uses topical ointments, frequently contain bloodroot and chaparral, writes the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center. There are no clinical studies investigating the effectiveness of different brands of salves, and research indicates that the individual herbs found in these therapies are often more harmful than helpful.
Two cancer salves available for purchase are Matrix Bloodroot skin salve, by Matrix of Holistic Health, and Creosote/chaparral Skin Salve, manufactured by Simply Nature, according to Amazon.com. Scientists have investigated the claims of anti-cancer activity for the ingredients in both of these salves.
Bloodroot is used either alone or in combination with zinc chloride, which creates a mixture commonly known as "black salve," to treat cancer, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center. In laboratory trials with animals, bloodroot demonstrated anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there is no evidence that bloodroot can treat cancer in humans, and it may cause serious side effects that include vomiting, dizziness and burning, and lesions of oral and esophageal tissues.
Black salves may also contain a mixture of chaparral with other herbs, writes the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center. Chaparral is a native American herb, and molecular studies suggest that one of its components, NDGA, may have anti-carcinogenic effects. However, a phase II clinical study failed to show that chaparral protects humans from cancer. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has lobbied for the withdrawal of chaparral products due to numerous reports of both reversible and irreversible liver damage.