Warts are small, generally harmless, and usually painless growths on the
skin. Warts can be disfiguring and embarrassing, however, and occasionally they
will hurt or itch. The different types of warts include the
Common warts: usually on the hands, but can appear anywhere
Flat warts: generally found on the face and back of the
Genital warts: normally found on the external genitalia, in the pubic
area, and in the area between the thighs, but can appear inside the vagina and
in the anal canal
Plantar warts: found on the soles of the feet
Warts affect all age groups. Genital warts are quite contagious, while
common, flat, and plantar warts are much less likely to spread from person to
person. All warts can spread from one part of the body to another. Some warts
will disappear without treatment, although it can take as long as six months to
two years. Whether treated or not, warts that disappear often
Signs and Symptoms
Common warts: usually begin as tiny, smooth, flesh-colored eruptions
and grow into rough growths perhaps 1/4 inch across or in
Flat warts: small flesh-colored or pink growths with flat
Genital warts: tiny eruptions that grow to resemble common
Plantar warts: rough, flattened, callus-like growths, often with tiny
black dots in the center; frequently tender; can disrupt your posture, resulting
in leg or back pain
What Causes It?
Warts are caused by a common virus in humans, the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Your risk of getting warts is increased by direct contact with warts or the
fluid in warts (notably genital warts), using communal facilities (such as
locker rooms), skin trauma, and diseases or drugs that weaken your immune
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Warts can generally be diagnosed by location and appearance. Your health care
provider may want to cut into a wart to confirm that it is not a corn, callus,
or other similar-appearing growth, but rarely will your provider have to order
laboratory tests. If you have genital warts, your provider will want to check
inside your anus and (in women) vagina.
Medical treatments include drug therapy (usually the first-line treatment),
cryosurgery ("freezing" the wart to destroy tissue), electrosurgery, lasers, and
cutting out the wart. Unless your wart is causing significant problems, you
should avoid treatments that have risks or could result in scarring.
Common, flat, and plantar warts: nonprescription preparations using salicylic
acid are available over the counter.
Genital warts: in most cases, your health care provider will either apply
podophyllin weekly or prescribe a podofilox for you to
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Nutritional and herbal support may enhance immune function and minimize
recurrence of HPV, the virus that causes warts.
Some changes you can make in your diet include the following.
Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, refined foods, and sugar.
Avoid saturated fats (animal protein and dairy products).
Increase whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and
essential fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish).
Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg two times per day), beta-carotene (100,000
IU per day), vitamin E (400 IU per day), and zinc (15 to 30 mg per day) support
immune function and healing. Vitamin E may also be put directly on a wart to
B complex (50 to 100 mg per day) helps reduce the effects of stress,
which can weaken your immune system.
Folic acid (800 mcg per day) is recommended for genital
Selenium (200 mcg per day) supports immune
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise
indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water. Steep
covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
Combine tinctures of one part goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) with
two parts each of the following herbs: lomatium (Lomatium dissectum),
licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), coneflower (Echinacea
purpurea), osha (Ligusticum porteri), and thuja leaf (Thuja
occidentalis). Take 30 drops twice a day. Do not take licorice if you have
high blood pressure.
Topical applications are most effective for treating warts. Stop any topical
application if irritation should develop in the surrounding skin. For plantar,
flat, and common warts use the following applications.
Banana peel patch. Cut a piece of banana peel and place it over the
wart before going to bed. Tape in place.
Raw garlic patch. Cover the wart and surrounding skin with a thin
layer of castor oil or olive oil. Apply a thin slice of fresh garlic and tape in
To maximize benefit, place two to four drops of tincture of thuja or greater
celandine (Chelidonium majus) on the wart before covering with peel or
garlic. This application may need to be repeated nightly for up to three weeks.
The wart will turn black as it begins to die.
For external genital warts, paint the warts with vitamin A or beta-carotene
once or twice daily. Add 3 to 4 drops each of thuja, echinacea, and lomatium for
Two well-designed trials evaluating the use of homeopathy in the treatment of
common and plantar warts found that the remedies were no more effective than
placebo in reducing the number of warts. Despite the lack of evidence from these
two trials, professional homeopaths might recommend one of the following
treatments for warts based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before
prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account an individual's
constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her
physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses
all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a
Antimonium crudum — for either rough
and hardened or smooth warts as well as plantar warts in otherwise healthy
Causticum — for fleshy warts anywhere
on the body, but particularly those near the fingernails, lips, or on the face
Dulcamara — for large, smooth, and
flat warts on the face, fingers, or back of the hand
Nitricum acidum—for soft warts
on the genitals, anus, or lips; these warts or often irregularly shaped and may
bleed and produce an excessive amount of sharp pain
Ruta—for plantar warts,
particularly if they are sore and have a smooth surface
Thuja— for warts of any
location except plantar; this remedy may be particularly useful for warts that
are on the chin, anus, or genitals, are generally soft and may be painful and
Acupuncture may be helpful in stimulating your immune
Do not use podophyllin if you are pregnant.
Barker LR, et al., eds. Principles of Ambulatory Medicine. 4th ed.
Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1995:1467-1469.
Berkow R, Beers MH. The Merck Manual of Medical Information.
Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 1997:984-985.
Scalzo R. Naturopathic Handbook of Herbal Formulas. 2nd ed. Durango,
Colo: Kivaki Press; 1994:73.
Ullman D. The Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy. New York, NY: Penguin
Putnam; 1995: 253.
Walker LP, Brown EH. The Alternative Pharmacy. Paramus, NJ: Prentice
Hall Press; 1998:353-354.
Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Constance Grauds, RPh, President,
Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists, San Rafael, CA; David Perlmutter,
MD, Perlmutter Health Center, Commons Medical and Surgical Centre, Naples, FL;
Eric Wellons, MD, Department of Surgery, Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, MD;
Terry Yochum, DC, Rocky Mountain Chiropractic Center, Arvada,
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
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regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed