Daily Mail | 10 Feb 2016
A woman claims to have cured a melanoma on her chest using black salve ointment, a controversial alternative medicine condemned by doctors.
Brita Hollows, from Taupo in New Zealand, opted for the alternate treatment after noticing a freckle on her chest had started to rise and change colour in the centre within the space of two weeks.
The 63-year-old said she researched the use of black salve and the traditional method of having the melanoma cut out before she started using the ointment made by a herbalist.
Ms Hollows did not seek medical advice from a doctor, nor did she have a biopsy to determine if it was a melanoma.
She documented the changes and effects the black salve had on her body by taking photos over a 12 month period.
The photos have since gone viral on Facebook after Ms Hollows shared them via her healing page Brita Hollows – Conscious Energy. The post was met with a mixed response with some praising her and others condemning her actions due to her lack of medical experience.
Ms Hollows said her self-diagnosed treatment took about six weeks.
“I’d been in the sea for a bit and had a dressing over it. I figured the salt water couldn’t hurt. Every morning in the shower I checked it, took a photo and re-dressed it,” Ms Hollows told Daily Mail Australia.
“In the instructions it says don’t pull it out, just let it fall out to get the roots. I had to wait for that. It was sitting there for three or four days. It came out when I took a dressing off.”
Ms Hollows took the last photo documenting the process a few weeks ago to show show her scarring healed and says she is in the all clear.
“There was a bit of a crater after it fell out – there’s not much flesh in that area. It’s all fine. I have nothing there, I’m healthy. I had a blood test and it was all clear,” she said.
It comes after a Brisbane man created an inch-wide hole in his head after using an alternate treatment thought to be black salve to treat a lesion.
The 55-year-old man presented to Princess Alexandra Emergency Department in Brisbane after applying the unlicensed treatment to his face for four months.
His case appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia where doctors, Natalie Ong, Eric Sham and Brandon Adams, wrote that black salve could lead to scarring and disfigurement because it often contained an alkaloid from bloodroot and zinc chloride.
“In the absence of a biopsy, some patients may commence alternative treatment before attaining a diagnosis of skin cancer, and a very real risk of recurrence and metastasis (cancer spreading) remains,” the doctors wrote.
“As a consequence, there may be delays in diagnosis, and it may be difficult to identify the primary site of malignancy.
“It is imperative for health professionals to recognise that these unlicensed products may lead to adverse outcomes, and for consumers to realise that alternative therapies that have been described as natural are not necessarily safe or, by any standard, risk free.”
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) continues to condemn the ointments.
It is illegal to buy or sell the treatment in Australia because all therapeutic goods supplied must be included in Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
The TGA says it is “unaware of any credible, scientific evidence that black salve, red salve or cansema can cure or treat cancer.”
“In addition there is no evidence that these products can be used to diagnose cancers. In fact, the evidence shows that they will cause skin irritation regardless of whether any malignancy is present,” the TGA said.
“Black and red salves and cansema are corrosive salves. They 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 response to online backlash, Ms Hollows said she was not promoting the use of black salve, rather she was giving an insight into how it worked for her.
She urged people to seek help from a medical professional to determine what action needed to be taken before deciding on alternate treatment.