Conventional ways of dealing with warts–burning, freezing and cutting–aren’t likely to send you racing to your doctor’s office when one of these small, fleshy bumps first erupts on your skin. And why should you, when there are natural alternatives that are far less painful? Purveyors of old folk cures and complementary and alternative practitioners suggest slapping a variety of disparate and sometimes surprising ingredients on warts, from school board chalk to raw meat to a castor oil-baking soda paste. Start simple, using ingredients you can reach for on your kitchen counter.
Warts are growths on the skin caused by the human papillomavirus virus (HPV), which causes your skin to grow faster than it normally would. When you see a small, rough flesh-colored bump on your skin–most notably on the hands, feet and face–you likely suffer from common warts. Flat warts are smaller and smoother than common warts and tend to occur in great numbers, especially in children. Plantar warts are hard, flat warts on the soles of your feet that make you feel as though a stone is lodged in your shoe. Common, flat and plantar warts are benign (noncancerous).
The Need to Treat
The good news is that your body eventually builds up a resistance to HPV and gives warts the bum’s rush. The bad news is that it can take months–even years–for warts to go away on their own. In the meantime, warts can spread and multiply when HPV is transferred to neighboring areas of skin. Natural cures aren’t the first course of action recommended by medical professionals, who advise using over-the-counter salicylic acid liquid or pads for home care. In “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies,” Dr. Thomas Goodman of the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences, cautions, “Don’t injure yourself with wart treatments. Start with simple measures and persist for several weeks before proceeding to stronger ones.”
What Experts Say
Natural wart remedies don’t always send you down the easy path; one sworn-by folk remedy culled from “The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies” has you hunting down and combining a concoction of oil of clove, aloe vera, vitamin E oil, milkweed juice and the freshly extracted juice of the sow’s thistle plant and green figs. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests simpler strategies to treat warts naturally. These may take up to three weeks to work and must be done every night. One method uses a small piece of banana peel, which is secured over the wart with tape every night before you go to bed. Alternately, you can apply a bit of castor oil or olive oil to the wart and cover it with a slender slice of fresh, raw garlic. The medical center says you may get better benefit from putting a few drops of thuja or tea tree oil on the wart before applying your natural remedy of choice.
Herbs with antimicrobial or antiviral properties are usually a safe way to strengthen your immune system, according to the medical center. Caffeine-free green tea and olive tea can be made at home using a teaspoon of the dried herb for every cup of hot water and steeped for 10 minutes. Other wart-fighting herbals include cat’s claw and reishi mushroom, which can be taken in the form of a standard extract, tincture or extract.
Warts and Children
Treating common warts in children can be a challenge, as kids tend to be more susceptible to HPV. Unless warts spread rapidly, the most natural approach may be to simply let warts go away on their own. However, there’s a way to hasten their exit. Try treating warts on the fingers and toes with a small piece of duct tape. The tape must remain on the wart for 6 1/2 days a week, with a half day of off time to give the skin a chance to breathe. Use a new piece of tape every day. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, the duct tape works because it increases temperature and decreases oxygen, which creates an inhospitable environment for HPV to thrive.
Because warts go away on their own, it’s hard to gauge if a folk cure or natural remedy worked or if the virus simply wore out its welcome in your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology tells us that natural cures typically aren’t harmful, but there are times when it’s important to seek medical treatment. One of these times is when warts occur in abundance and you simply cannot contain spreading. Never try to tackle facial or warts around the genitals yourself–these growths must be treated by a doctor. Before embarking on a DIY mission to get rid of warts, the academy urges you to make sure that what you’re attempting to treat really is a wart, as they can be confused with other skin growths that require a different type of care.
- Banana peel image by Stepanov from Fotolia.com