Warts are small growths on the skin caused by a viral infection in the skin's top layer. They are usually harmless and painless. Warts can be disfiguring and embarrassing, however, and occasionally they will hurt or itch. The different types of warts include the following:
Common warts: usually on the hands, but can appear anywhere
Flat warts: generally found on the face and back of the hands (they are smaller and smoother than other warts)
Genital warts: 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.

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 clusters
Flat warts: small flesh-colored or pink growths with flat tops
Genital warts: tiny eruptions that grow to resemble common warts
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 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 6 months to 2 years. Whether treated or not, warts that disappear often reappear.

Warts are caused by various strains of a common virus in humans, the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are more likely to occur if the skin has been broken or damaged in some way. 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 system.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office:

Most warts can 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. Rarely will your health care provider have to order laboratory tests. If you have genital warts, your provider will want to check inside your anus and (in women) vagina.

Treatment Options:

Medical treatments include drug therapy (usually the first-line treatment), cryosurgery ("freezing" the wart to destroy tissue), electrosurgery (burning), lasers, and cutting out the wart. Other potential treatments include bleomycin (an anti-cancer drug that is injected into the wart), interferon (a treatment to boost the body's immune reaction to the wart), and other forms of immunotherapy. Unless your wart is causing significant problems, you should avoid treatments that have risks or could result in scarring.

Drug Therapies:

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 apply.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Nutritional and herbal support may enhance immune function and minimize recurrence of HPV, the virus that causes warts.

Nutrition and Supplements:

These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
Try to eliminate suspected food allergens, such as dairy (milk, cheese, and ice cream), wheat (gluten), soy, corn, preservatives and chemical food additives. Your health care provider may want to test you for food allergies.
Eat foods high in B-vitamins and calcium, such as almonds, beans, whole grains (if no allergy is present), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables.
Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as squash and bell pepper).
Avoid refined foods such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy is present) or beans for protein.
Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, refined foods, and sugar.
Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.
Exercise, if possible, 5 days a week.

You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, 1 - 2 capsules or 1 tbs. of oil one to two times daily, to help with immunity. Cold-water fish, such as salmon or halibut, are good sources.
Coenzyme Q10, 100 - 200 mg at bedtime, for antioxidant and immune support.
N-acetyl cysteine, 200 mg daily, for antioxidant effects.
Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 - 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Refrigerate probiotic supplements for best results.
Grapefruit seed extract (Citrus paradisi), 100 mg capsule or 5 - 10 drops (in favorite beverage) three times daily, for antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity, and for immunity.


Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg daily, for antioxidant effects. Use caffeine-free products. You may also prepare teas from the leaf of this herb.
Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) standardized extract, 20 mg three times a day, for antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity, and for immune support.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), 150 - 300 mg two to three times daily, for antiviral and immunity activity. You may also take a tincture of this mushroom extract, 30 - 60 drops two to three times a day.
Olive leaf (Olea europaea) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg one to three times daily, for antiviral and immune activity. You may also prepare teas from the leaf of this herb.

Topical applications may also be 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 place.

To maximize benefit, place two to four drops of tincture of thuja or tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) on the wart before covering with peel or garlic. This application may need to be repeated nightly for up to 3 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 - 4 drops each of thuja, echinacea, and lomatium for best results.


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 -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
Antimonium crudum -- for either rough and hardened or smooth warts as well as plantar warts in otherwise healthy people
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 are 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 bleeding.

Acupuncture may help stimulate your immune system.

Special Considerations:
Do not use podophyllin if you are pregnant.

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