Review of Common Alternative Herbal “Remedies” for Skin Cancer

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Alternative herbal remedies for skin cancer are commonly found on the Internet. Many websites contain inaccurate or false information regarding side effects and efficacy.


To review the evidence behind several commonly advertised herbal remedies that claim to cure skin cancer: black salve, eggplant, frankincense, cannabis, black raspberry, milk thistle, St. John's wort, and turmeric.


A PubMed search was performed using the common and scientific names of frequently advertised herbal remedies along with the terms “nonmelanoma skin cancer,” or “basal cell carcinoma” or “squamous cell carcinoma,” or “melanoma.”


Some preclinical studies have shown positive evidence that these substances can induce apoptosis in skin cancer, but clinical studies proving efficacy are either insufficient, nonexistent, or show negative evidence. Botanicals that were excluded are those that do not have published studies of their efficacy as skin cancer treatments.


Online advertising may tempt patients to use botanical agents while citing efficacy found in preclinical studies. However, many agents lack strong clinical evidence of efficacy. Dermatologists must be aware of common herbal alternatives for skin cancer treatment to maintain effective patient communication and education.

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