Yes, there are several different types of warts but in this article we are going to focus on the most common form, the simple cutaneous wart – that grows on the surface of everyone’s (well, most peoples) skin at some point in their life. The weird thing about warts is how much anecdotal evidence there is regarding the spontaneous appearance and subsequent disappearance of these annoying little clusters of skin cells. Mainstream as well as alternative doctors have reported that many of their patients have seen their warts disappear after merely talking about them to their practitioner.
From a mythological perspective, people used to believe that warts were caused by people touching toads – this myth may have developed due to the reason that some poison emitting toads do produce a toxin that can cause a skin lesion that can look freakishly like a wart, but again, toads do not cause warts. Ever.
Warts are caused by one of a hundred different strains of a virus referred to as the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is one of the most ubiquitous viruses that humans come in contact with.
It is possible to contract warts from others; they are contagious and usually enter the body in an area of broken skin. They typically disappear after a few months but can last for years and can recur.
There are many “old house wives” remedies out there, too many to list here actually but here is a funny one – many people used to believe that if you took a raw piece of meat, touched the wart with it and then buried said piece of meat into the ground, that this would make the wart disappear. That's great for the soil but probably won’t do anything to cure the warts. But who knows right?
Warts and Hypnosis
An amazing fact that has been reiterated time and time again2 by mainstream medical practitioners is that people who get warts respond extremely well to hypno-suggestion – not deliberate hypnosis of course – that’s not how allopathic doctors are trained. But there are countless reports of patients presenting themselves to doctors or calling up to make an appointment to have a wart removed and then arriving at the clinic to find the growth had all but disappeared, as if by magic.
None of these claims have been substantiated in a clinical trial setting to date. But nonetheless the correlation between warts and spontaneous healing are staggering. Possibly
Things to do and things not to do
The most effective and possibly also the simplest way to treat warts is to go to a local chemist and get a salicylic acid preparation (it’s the active ingredient in aspirin). This approach is well tolerated and has a very high cure rate – within 6 weeks nearly 75% of all warts will be gone.
Cryotherapy with dry ice (solid form of carbon dioxide) or liquid nitrogen also works, but for this you need to see a health professional to apply to your wart as that stuff is pretty dangerous. A large scale randomised control trial in the US in 2011 found that both treatments – salicylic and cryotherapy were equally effective in treating warts.
Another DIY chemical approach is to soak the wart in acid. Not any old acid, but one that you sometimes ingest in tablet form. Namely vitamin C! Vitamin C is highly acidic (ascorbic acid) and will get rid of the symptoms of the wart as well as combat the HPV virus itself. Liquid Vitamin C or grinding up tablets works best here.
Another more practical approach is to cover the afflicted area with tape for a period of up to one week. After this, use pumice stone to “file” away what’s left. Repeat until the wart has disappeared completely.
NEVER ever pick at the wart or worse cause it to bleed. HPV is highly infectious and travels in blood – just a little cut anywhere else will cause the virus to re-establish itself – which is exactly what we don’t want.
Possible Natural (some folk) remedies
Fresh garlic – chopped finely and applied to the afflicted area can do the trick as well. Make sure you use Vaseline or any other petroleum jelly product to cover the outside of the wart first. Only problem with this technique is that it is smelly – and expensive!
People have sworn by vinegar for generations. Vinegar is acidic and so the same principle as with Vitamin C applies here. A tissue soaked in vinegar and then applied to the wart for up to 3 hours a day appears to be the standard of choice here.
The inside of a banana peel appears to harbour an oil that wards off warts – allegedly. Give it a try (good part here- compared to the garlic approach – is that you get to eat the banana first!) Raw potatoes have also been touted as a miracle cure for warts (potatoes actually contain quite a high concentration of vitamin C so this approach does make sense. Fresh basil is another approach that people have sworn by, as is application of castor oil.
Hope this article has shed some light on warts and possible treatment modalities. I guess the main aim here is to experiment and see what works for you. If the warts are persistent in light of these approaches, and most importantly if they hurt or are uncomfortable, it is important to seek advice from a healthcare practitioner.
by Christopher von Roy BSc, MSc, DCP Immunology
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Do you have warts? Have you tried any alternative remedy to treat them? If so which one worked best, thanks for sharing your experience with us.