ORLANDO, Fla. – Black salve has been used for generations to get rid of bee stings and warts, but an Orlando couple is using it to fight skin cancer.
"I've had cancer here, here, and here pulled out of me with the black salve," Diane Smith said.
Diane and her husband Frank considers black salve to be their cure, drawing the cancer out of the body like a splinter would be removed.
Frank tried surgery first, but says the skin cancer came back decades later. That's when he and his wife gave black salve a try -- not just on the cancer -- but on dozens of spots on their bodies that looked suspicious.
"I didn't want anyone cutting holes in my face. So the black salve, when you put that on there, maybe anywhere from 3 to 7 days, it comes out, and then there's no more pain," Frank explained.
The Smiths and others are giving this home remedy a shot, despite the potential danger. The American Academy of Dermatology is very concerned about this type treatment. The AAD says while it can destroy the top layer of skin, it may leave dangerous cells behind.
"When you have skin cancer you want to make sure it's removed in an appropriate fashion and that there's a biopsy proving that all the malignant cells are removed," explained dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, a spokesperson with the American Academy of Dermatology.
Dermatologists argue you may end up causing more problems than you started with by trying this homeopathic option, since most black salve products contain zinc chloride and sanguinarine -- both very corrosive ingredients.
New research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows the majority of patients who try black salve do so without consulting a dermatologist first. Without speaking with a doctor, they may not be aware of the harm it may cause.
"The research shows that it's very uncontrolled damage to the tissue, so you can have very deep wounds, you can get skin infections from it. You can end up with damage to your skin, to your nerves, to your blood vessels," warned Jaliman.
The Food and Drug Administration has gone after companies claiming the product cures cancer, going so far as to call it "The Fake Cancer Cure," and has warnings on its website advising consumers to steer clear of salve. It's a warning the AAD agrees with.
"We're telling patients that they should avoid it at all costs, that they should stay away from black salve and shouldn't use it anywhere near their skin," said Jaliman.
But the Smiths say they stand by their salve and will continue to use the controversial product.
"I'll say, it worked for me," added Diane.
She documents her use of black salve on her YouTube channel.
Despite the FDA warnings, you can still find black salve online -- available from various companies -- along with instructions to create your own recipe for self-care.