I get a lot of questions about warts so I’ve created a resource of all the information I’ve collected over my many years in practice around this very common ailment.
This article does not cover genital warts as these should always be referred to your GP for assessment and managed by a registered and experienced homeopath. Homeopathy can help overcome this problem by bringing the system into balance with an individualised remedy.
Warts are skin growths that are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are around 100 strains of HPV, some of which tend to cause warts on the skin and some of which may progress to cancer. And no you can’t get warts from handling toads!
HPV stimulates quick growth of cells on the skin’s outer layer. In most cases common warts appear on the hands and feet.
I am also going to discuss molluscum contagiosum here which, although produced by the poxvirus, presents in a very similar way to warts.
From a homeopathic perspective you need to have susceptibility to become infected with one of the wart strains. This means that out of 10 people who go to the swimming pool where the virus which causes plantar warts may be active, perhaps only 5 people will actually get warts. Some people will never have a wart in their life just because they don’t have susceptibility.
Warts usually appear when the immune system is low so perhaps due to poor health, poor nutrition, stress (mental, emotional, environmental, etc) or after vaccination. It is an indicator that there is a problem at a deeper level and this is often why over-the-counter medications and treatments at your GP don’t work.
This is nature’s way of telling us there is something that needs to be dealt with. It may relate to an individual’s life, health and/or immune system but it also relates to the inherited susceptibility. If treatments haven’t been working this is the time to consult your homeopath for an individualised remedy.
The Symbology of Warts
Before we get into the medical side of things, it’s sometimes useful to look at the symbology of a particular condition.
Very simplistically, having warts may indicate that we are seeing life as being ugly, threatening or hostile. That there is a focus on negativity and on what we hate and dislike, rather than on what we like or love. There may be feelings of inadequacy, unattractiveness and being unworthy of the good things in life.
This is worth thinking about as this can often be the way we see the world today and sometimes how we present it, unwittingly, to our children. Social media is very engaged in only presenting our greatest achievements and our best photographs and this in itself can leave ‘Friends’ feeling inadequate or lacking.
Types of Warts
There are quite a range of warts but without breaking them down into minute detail, these are the main types you are likely to come across.
Plantar warts: This type of wart usually appears as flesh-coloured or light brown lumps that are flecked with small clotted blood vessels that appear as tiny black dots. Plantar warts appear on the soles of the feet. These are often picked up in the swimming pool, shower or other places where you might walk around with bare feet.
Flat warts: This type of wart is more common in teens and children than in adults and may arise on the face, legs and other parts of the body, often in large numbers. Flat warts are smoother, flatter and smaller than other warts.
Periungual warts: These warts appear around or under the nail.
Filiform warts: These have a single long stalk and often appear on the face.
Molluscum contagiosum: This name is familiar to many families these days and while actually part of the poxvirus family, MC is also known as ‘water warts’, presumably because it looks like warts, presents as pearly, watery-looking eruptions initially and can spread in water. I rarely saw a case in practice up until about 10 years ago, however, it is very common these days and can be easily spread via contact with an infected individual or something they have been in contact with, such as a towel.
The MC virus is more of a problem in people who have eczema and may cause the eczema to flare up. This can prove a Catch 22 as it appears that the cortisone cream used to treat the eczema at the same time suppresses the immune system and allows MC to spread and this would apply to HPV as well.
While there are distinctions between MC and HPV, the treatments are mostly the same – if treatment is considered necessary. Many sources say these viruses can take from a few months to several years to resolve. I generally see cases when it has become a problem!
I have seen some particularly nasty cases of MC in my time and also some quite aggressive and unpleasant treatments. The spots may look nasty and unsightly but they are rarely painful and rarely become infected unless the immune system is quite low. So looking at the bigger picture of immune function and general wellness and leaving the spots alone is often best.
Homeopathic treatment of warts
Treatment for warts is very commonly sought and the most frequently used remedies are Antimonium crudum (Ant crud), Thuja occidentalis (Thuja) and Nitric acid (Nit ac).
Thuja: These warts may present as large, seeded (presumably with lots of little warts) eruptions that bleed easily and may ooze moisture. They may appear on the hands, face, neck or the soles of the feet. It is also indicated for cauliflower and pedundulated (on a stalk) warts. Thuja patients often worry about what people think of them so warts are not a good look! This is the most well-known homeopathic wart remedy and it is successful in many cases, usually those which are a simple case of contagion in a relatively health individual or where the remedy picture fits well.
I have seen Thuja 30c literally clear up warts overnight. However, I also get calls from people who have been taking Thuja continuously for months without any effect. My experience is that if a week of Thuja followed by a week break and repeat doesn’t make any change then it probably isn’t going to.
Nit ac: This remedy is indicated for large, jagged or fissured warts that itch, sting or bleed and for plantar warts. These warts may be very painful. I often suggest Nit ac after an unsuccessful couple of weeks on Thuja; one week on, one week off and repeat. If the warts don’t shift in that time then generally they are not going to. However, sometimes you can be surprised and wake up one day a few weeks later and the warts have vanished.
Ant crud: These warts may appear in groups of hard, smooth warts and can be mistaken for corns. They may be sensitive to cold water and worse at night. This is also a good remedy for MC where the spots have erupted and crusted over.
Calcarea carbonica (Calc carb): This can be a useful remedy for warts that are round, hard and solitary particularly on the neck. May also be useful for warts that have a horny wall surrounding a central depression. This remedy is indicated in overweight people with clammy hands and feet.
Caustium (Caust): This remedy is indicated for fleshy warts anywhere on the body, but particularly on fingertips, nose, lips, eyelids and brows. The warts may present as hard, inflamed and painful on a base of whitish-yellow, dirty-looking skin and may go on to ulcerate. People who benefit from this remedy are usually intensely sympathetic about the hardship of others. They can tend to fear that something awful will happen.
Dulcamara (Dulc): Indicated for large, smooth, and flat warts on the face, fingers, palms or back of the hand and those soft brownish to black seborrheic warts found on the back. It is frequently indicated in people with rheumatic complaints that are worse in cold, damp weather or humidity.
Graphites (Graph): This is particularly indicated for periungual warts or corn-like warts on the palms or soles of feet that may be tinged with yellow.
Natrum muriaticum (Nat mur): This is an important remedy for warts on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. Those needing this remedy are usually closed, reserved and sensitive, and causation could be a grief of some sort.
Ruta: May be useful for plantar warts, particularly if they are smooth and sore.
Feet & Nails Cream/Drops: Several years ago I was asked by a podiatrist if there was anything I could offer for her clients with fungal nails, tinea and plantar warts. A big ask you might think! Having worked with these complaints many times over the years, and with other podiatrists, I put together a combination of the most common and effective remedies for these. Obviously this is not going to fix all cases as many people do need constitutional treatment to get to the root of the problem, but in a significant number of cases people have reported that the whole wart just pops out.
How often and how long should you take homeopathics for warts?
I usually recommend a 30c potency of the chosen remedy once a day for one week, then wait one week and repeat. After that there is really no point in continuing the remedy if nothing at all has happened. It is certainly not advisable to keep taking, for example, Thuja for weeks or months in the hope that the warts are going to go.
My experience is that warts either disappear completely almost overnight or they just gradually reduce with time. If nothing is happening after a month consult your homeopath for a more individualised prescription.
What are the conventional treatments?
It is worth considering that in many people half of all warts and MC spontaneously disappear in about 18 months. Generally, as the immune system becomes stronger, the symptoms resolve. Quite often warts reappear after conventional treatment – especially cut, freeze and burn – and sometimes they come back worse than before. More than one type of treatment may be necessary. Most methods require multiple treatments.
Caution: Some types of melanoma may look like warts. It’s always best to check in with your GP for a definitive diagnosis.
Conventional treatments may include:
Freezing: In this treatment, a doctor will use liquid nitrogen to freeze a wart. A blister forms around the wart and the dead tissue falls off within about a week.
Salicylic-acid preparations: These are available as drops, gels, pads and plasters. They are designed for application to many types of warts, from tiny ones to great big lumpy ones. Salicylic acid dissolves the protein (keratin) which makes up most of both the wart and the thick layer of dead skin that often surmounts it.
Cantharidin: This substance comes from the blister beetle and is applied to the skin, forming a blister around the wart. After cantharidin is applied, the area is covered with a bandage. The blister lifts the wart off the skin so the doctor can remove the dead portion of the wart.
Other medications: There are drugs which are injected into a wart to kill the virus and immunotherapy drugs that come in the form of a prescription cream.
Minor surgery: When warts cannot be removed by other therapies, surgery may be used to cut away the wart. The base of the wart will be destroyed using an electric needle or by cryosurgery (deep freezing).
Laser surgery: This procedure utilizes an intense beam of light (laser) to burn and destroy wart tissue.
Boost your immune system
Warts and MC are both caused by a virus, so one of the best ways to get rid of them is to boost your immune system. Many people produce warts or MC when tired, sick or stressed or after vaccination. Potent immune boosters like astragalus, olive leaf, vitamin C and zinc are all helpful. Or try our Immune Boost combination which is easy for children to take.
- Try to eliminate suspected food intolerances, such as dairy, wheat (gluten), soy, preservatives, and chemical food additives.
- Eat a diet rich in vitamin A (from the orange foods such as pumpkin, carrots, papaya, mangos and apricots) and add garlic to boost your immune system.
- Eat foods high in B-vitamins and calcium, such as almonds, beans, whole grains (if no intolerance), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and sea vegetables.
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as capsicum).
- Avoid refined foods such as white bread, pasta and sugar.
- Eat less red meat and more lean meat, cold-water fish, tofu (soy if no intolerance) or beans for protein.
- Use healthy cooking oils such as olive oil or coconut oil.
- Reduce or eliminate trans-fats, found in commercially-baked goods like biscuits, crackers, cakes, chips, processed foods and margarine.
- Eliminate or limit caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
Supplements which may assist:
- 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, to boost immunity. Ensure you buy mercury tested. Omega-3s can have a blood-thinning effect, so speak to your GP if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin.
- Look after your gut function with a probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus) and fermented foods.
- Grapefruit seed extract (Citrus paradise) for antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity and for immunity. Grapefruit products may interact with some drugs. Consult your GP.
Other natural treatments
With many of the treatments below you will note that while there are different substances to apply to a wart, the common element is to cover the wart. There is some question as to whether eliminating light/UV is what eventually kills the wart – or is it the glue on the bandaids and duct tape? More research definitely required!
Tape stripping: This can be used for both warts and MC. Cover the spots with an occlusive (watertight/waterproof) tape such as duct tape or Elastoplast (the sticky bit). Leave the tape on for two days, and then pull it off. I have also seen recommendations for six days on and one day off. This irritates the spots. This may need to be done several times to try to remove the central core of the spot. Make sure the adhesive part of the tape directly touches the wart/MC. It is said that just covering the spot with a bandaid will not work.
Surprisingly, the duct tape remedy is one of the few non-drug treatments to have been medically researched however the outcomes were not considered significant. You can read the research for yourself and I’ve linked below.
Lemon essential oil, banana skin or orange peel rubbed on the wart have all been cited as effective in some cases in my clinic!
Apple Cider Vinegar: The most popular – and anecdotally successful – home remedy is apple cider vinegar, which apparently rebalances the skin’s pH, eliminating the wart. Soak a cotton wool ball in apple cider vinegar and apply directly to the wart. Fix the cotton ball to the wart with a bandaid. Remove after three to four hours. Repeat every day for three days.
Pastes: Mix fresh garlic with water to a paste and apply to the wart. This can also be done by mixing baking powder and castor oil, or a vitamin C tablet in water, or breaking a vitamin E capsule and applying. Put a bandaid on top. Re-apply every few hours and continue until the wart is gone.
Potato: Cut a potato in half and rub the wart firmly with the cut half, making sure that the skin becomes saturated with the juice. Repeat morning and night for two weeks.
Tea tree oil: This oil has potent germ-fighting capabilities and has an affinity for skin conditions such as fungal infections and warts. Apply directly to the wart, then cover. Repeat until the wart is gone. You could also mix with clove and/or Frankincense oils for extra potency.
Bee propolis: Some people have had success with applying propolis directly to the wart several times a day. Or try applying at night and covering until morning.
Aloe vera: Fresh from the plant is recommended. Break off a leaf and rub the gel onto the wart. Aloe contains malic acid, which can help burn away the affected tissue. If you don’t have a plant, buy the purest form of aloe you can find. Cover with a bandaid after each application.
Homeopathic Research into Warts
Homeopathic treatment of plantar warts; Labrecque M et al; CAN MED ASSOC J 1992; 146 (1 0); http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1488713/pdf/cmaj00299-0075.pdf
Homoeopathy in the Treatment of Warts; Gupta R, Bhardwaj O, Manchanda RK; British Homoeopathic Journal, April, 1991, 80,2:108-11
The Secret Language of your body; Inna Segal 2010
Duct tape for the treatment of common warts in adults: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17372095