Bloodroot salve is an herbal preparation made with bloodroot, a plant native to eastern North America. This herb has a history of use by Native Americans in traditional treatments, primarily for skin conditions, and it is sold at health food stores and through herbalists. People should be very careful about how they use bloodroot salve, however, and consulting a doctor before use is strongly recommended as it is contraindicated in some patients, such as pregnant women and people with glaucoma.
This herb is an escharotic, meaning that when applied to the skin, it causes a black scab to form. It contains a number of compounds with cytotoxic or cell-killing effects, which is why it has historically been recommended to treat skin growths. Some traditional treatments for things like warts and moles suggest applying bloodroot salve to the site, allowing it to sit for 24 hours, and then rinsing it off and repeating the application until the scab forms and then drops away, taking the skin growth with it.
People should be aware that bloodroot salve is very strong, and it can cause significant skin damage because its caustic effects are indiscriminate. While the goal may be to remove a discoloration or growth, it can end with significant scarring. Bloodroot salve has also been known to eat through bone and cartilage; applications to the nose, for example, have sometimes ended in damage to the nose so severe that plastic surgery is required.
This product is also marketed for cancer, although usually care is taken in the marketing language to avoid running afoul of regulations by government agencies which protect consumers from medications which have not been thoroughly tested. Using bloodroot salve for cancer treatment is not recommended. While minor surface skin cancers may be removed with bloodroot salve, the scarring left behind is more significant than the scars left by surgery and other techniques which can be used to remove the cancer.
In addition, when using bloodroot salve, it is impossible to know if the margins of the cancer have been cleared. This salve may leave cancer cells behind, and they can spread. Furthermore, although some practitioners claim that the salve acts as a drawing salve to pull cancer cells out of the body and destroy them, this has not been successfully replicated in any laboratories; a melanoma which metastasizes to other areas of the body, for example, cannot be treated with bloodroot salve.