A category of cancer salves used to treat external cancers. Several different herbs, and several different combinations of herbs and other ingredients have a highly successful history of treating skin cancer.


by Ingrid Naiman
Published by Seventh Ray Press, P.O. Box 31007, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87594 USA; Email:
1999, large softcover, $27.50, 235 pp.

From her 25 years of experience in counseling cancer patients and eight years of scholarly research on the subject, Ingrid Naiman has written an astonishing book on an almost forgotten cancer treatment, escharotic salves. She has an unusually broad holistic view of healing, offering seminars on medical herbalism in her practice, music therapy, and spiritual aspects of healing. She believes that "cancer is a disease of congestion in the experiential realm." Suppression of feelings has been mentioned by a number of researchers into the cause(s) of cancer. Thus, while she supports appropriate physical measures to treat cancer, Naiman also cautions the cancer patient/reader to dig deeper, into the spiritual realm for the real cause.

Part 1 of Cancer Salves provides an historical overview, beginning with Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century, and her violet salve, to New World herbs used by Native Americans, and the doctors who used them in the 1800s, and on to Harry Hoxsey, the most famous of the later proponents of herbal salves for cancer. Types of salves are described, with an overview of how the escharotics work, and a detailed description of what reactions occur from the moment the salve is applied. Drawing salves and healing salves are often used once all signs of malignancy have disappeared.
An important section -- the herbs used in cancer salves -- shows bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis, to be the most commonly used herb in escharotic salves, although many other herbs have also been used with apparent success, such as violets, red onions, goldenseal, poke root, red clover blossoms, blue flag, galangal, lobelia seeds, red sandalwood, cayenne, wood sorrel, and white oak bark. The author's discussion of the detoxifying effects of some internal formulations, used in conjunction with the external salves, including the mechanism of inflammation and fever in combatting cancer, is wideranging, eclectic, and authoritative.

Part 2 of Cancer Salves is a discussion of the pros and cons of using the salves, comparisons with surgery, levels of pain experienced by users of the salves, and diagnostic tests. Some of the most compelling evidence for the use of the escharotic salves is related to the well-noted and discouraging tendency for cancer to recur. Conventional oncologists often take a wide measure of healthy tissue in an attempt to "get it all," whereas the escharotic causes a separation between the necretized cancerous tissue and healthy tissue (enucleation), with a clear demarcation. Using the escharotics to clearly define the extent of the tumor, allowed a modern physician, Frederic Mohs, MD to combine this approach with microsurgery to achieve complete excision of the cancer.

As noted in the Testimonials and Case Histories section, and as might be expected, very little diagnostic information or case histories were kept until Mohs published his Chemosurgery in cancer, gangrene and infections in 1956. This is certainly the most professional presentation of data on salve use, but it deals with a single technique, applied in more or less the same manner. Author Naiman is also a medical anthropologist and therefore recognizes the value of the small "human" nuances that clinical investigators often ignore. This additional insight is badly needed in the current mode of cancer treatment. The well-documented case histories presented, beginning with a dramatic case of Hoxsey's, are invaluable, both to the cancer patient/reader, and to practitioners. Here the clinical details of the step-by-step process are repeated over and over, and, no doubt about it, the results are reproducible, and often the course of treatment is no more than a few weeks.

In Part 3, The Methods are looked at, spanning the work of John Pattison, MD (1866), Dr. Eli Jones (1911), and Dr. John Christopher (detailed in The Layman's Course on Killing Cancer by Sam Biser). These practitioners also emphasized diet, and used internal botanicals along with the external salves. Homeopathics were also used adjunctively. These chapters contain instructions for use of enucleating escharotic products (not recommended for tumors that are fast-growing nor for those that have metastasized). Naiman advises: "Health care professionals will want to study the various methods carefully so as to acquire insights into the nuances of treatment. Patients are advised to read Chapters VII and VIII (The Methods), for generalities and to study chapter IX (Understanding Choices) thoroughly before commencing use of any product similar to those described in this book."

Here, and elsewhere in Cancer Salves, Naiman clarifies her position on self-treatment: " lay hands, the use of a single salve, such as a Compound X formula, is only appropriate for relatively small basal cell carcinomas." For deeper tumors, she advises the cancer patient to seek out a practitioner smiled in the use of escharotics -- there are a few in the US, and several clinics in Mexico use salves similar to Hoxsey's. The author also states "...we know that chemotherapy is not the miracle humanity had hoped, that surgery is maiming, and radiation may cause secondary cancers. Patients are entitled to alternatives...the salves are reasonable alternatives to the procedures and protocols offered by modern science. If used properly...they do not have harmful side effects. Moreover, they can often be used in situations that are regarded as hopeless, for example, cases in which the tumors are inoperable."

There is a noteworthy effect (sure to interest all naturopaths) found in the descriptions of the sloughing of the necretized tumor and the consequent drainage. There is speculation that any site on the body where an escharotic salve is used may drain toxins and cancerous material from the entire body. There is a consistent philosophy as well, among the early cancer doctors, of using herbs internally to change the milieu, particularly acidity.

The Appendices are an important part of this book as they describe, in considerable detail, the major anti-cancer herbs, and the exact formulae used by well-known practitioners of natural medicine.

The medicinal effects of herbs are not in question; yet cancer patients are not advised of these alternatives to admittedly ineffective and maiming standard treatments for cancer. A cancer patient once asked the author why AIDS patients demonstrate and cancer patients "go like lambs to the slaughter." Cancer Salves is a book cancer patients desperately need today -- a clinically confirmed, effective, alternative therapy. Since escharotic salves are used primarily for skin cancers (carcinomas and melanomas) and breast tumors, I wondered, as I read the stories of patients who had the fortitude and perseverence to seek out alternatives to chemo and surgery (and are therefore still alive to tell their story), how many breast cancer patients in the US are even aware of this effective cancer treatment? How many cancer patients must die before they have been given a fair chance at surviving cancer?

Cancer Salves is an extraordinary book; one of the most hopeful for the cancer patient, that I have read. I think if I were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, one of the first things I would do is call for a consultation with this cancer counselor.
Article copyright Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.
By Irene Alleger

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