Then, one day, you realize the dermatologist’s waiting room is looking awfully familiar these days and more than likely, you’re there because the wart is back on your kid’s finger. These fleshy little growths (the wart, not the kid) are caused by the papillomavirus, of which there are thirty different types. Interestingly, all the different warts you’ve read about (common wart, plantar wart, genital wart, and so forth) are essentially the same, but their appearance changes according to their location on the body. Because the virus invasion is confined to the topmost layer of skin, it manages to elude the radar screen of the immune system. When a wart does disappear spontaneously, it probably just got ‘noticed’ and appropriately zapped.
Neither conventional nor alternative medicine wins any prizes when it comes to wart control. We’ll talk about a few of the hundreds of folk remedies, as well as the current conventional ones. Then I’ll reveal what finally worked on my own warty kids.
- Common wart: a flat or slightly raised firm and sharply defined growth with a rough surface, usually a little darker than the skin. These usually appear on areas subject to injury: hands, fingers, feet, knees, elbows. They may appear in clusters and are especially common in children
- Flat wart: flat topped, flesh colored, mainly on the wrists and the backs of hands
- Plantar wart: found on the sole of the foot, flattened simply because of the pressure put on it. Otherwise, the same as a common wart, even though it may look like a callus.
- Genital wart: usually more reddish or pink, with a small cauliflower-like head, found in the genital or anal region
- Although common, flat and plantar warts are fairly easy to self diagnose and begin your own treatment, any unusual skin growth, especially after age 45, needs to be looked at by your doctor
- Genital warts, although certainly not emergencies, all need medical attention. These can spread to sexual partners and, in women, are associated with cervical cancer.
Since the papillomavirus lives in the skin for several months before an actual wart appears, using local treatment to get rid of one wart offers you absolutely no guarantee that others won’t follow soon. Unless it’s in an unsightly spot, you may just want to leave it alone, using the nutritional supplements to build up your immune system. Most conventional treatments are variations on the theme of separating it from you. This can be done in a variety of ways: burning it with a laser or acid; freezing it with liquid nitrogen; or just cutting it off with a scalpel. The alternative treatments offer two approaches. First, nutritional supplements directed to build up your immunity so that your ‘factory installed’ disease fighting mechanisms kill the virus. Second, direct applications of liquid vitamins and herbs considered to be antiviral by themselves.
The number of substances that can start killing off the wart virus seems endless. Any of the following can be applied directly to a wart. If you’re using a liquid, you may want to soak a little piece of cotton with it and tape the cotton to the wart with a piece of adhesive tape
- Liquids: vitamin A liquid, vitamin E (open capsule), tea tree oil, thuja tincture, marigold tincture, goldenseal tincture, pau d’arco tincture, lomatium isolate, aloe vera gel, dandelion sap, lemon juice, castor oil, garlic oil, colloidal silver, Swedish bitters, celandine juice, cedar oil, elderberry juice
- Powder: salt, vitamin C (mix with a little water)
- Herb: slice of garlic clove, piece of fresh birch bark, inner white part of banana peel, mashed milkwort, fresh pineapple
- Conventional: salicyclic acid plaster (many brands)
Long term treatment and prevention
Vitamin A 50,000 I.U. daily for a month, then reduce to 10,000 I.U./day (NOTE: this dose is too high for children or pregnant women. Use other methods)
Vitamin C 1,000 mg twice a day
Zinc 30 mg./Copper 2 mg./day
Echinacea 200 mg three times a day
Reishi/Miatake mushrooms 500 mg. reishi/200 mg. maitake BID
How to Take Supplements
All the supplements listed above are used routinely by nutritionally oriented physicians to jump-start the immune system and initiate the body’s own defense system against warts. The program can also be used during the cold and flu season to build your resistance against viral invasion in general. One month of this program should suffice, although maintenance on Vitamins C and E is never a bad idea.
Strengthen your immune system by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially onions, garlic. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli all supply sulfur.
Avoid sweets, processed foods, junk foods
Herbal teas (to stimulate immunity): echinacea/goldenseal, pau d’arco
Homeopathy: Thuja, Causticum, Calcarea, Nitric acid (all 6C, two pellets TID for ten days)
Chemical (salicylic acid), electric or laser burning, freezing (liquid nitrogen)
Imiquod (Aldara™) is FDA approved for genital warts but is being increasingly prescribed by dermatologists for common warts. It’s mechanism of action is not known but may somehow increase local levels of the bodies own antiviral substance interferon
Cimetidine (Tagamet™) is, of course, mainly used for treatment of duodenal ulcers. It’s effect on warts was discovered by accident and seems to be effective. Since Tagamet is available without a prescription, the recommended dose is 400 mg twice a day
Constitutional homeopathic prescribing
A Personal Note
My son Benjamin began getting warts (along with several of his classmates) around age 10. Naturally, his nutritionally oriented physician-father suggested he eat more fruits and vegetables, a therapy rejected with lightening speed by the patient himself. For topical application, I began with garlic oil (it smells just like you’d think it smells), applied twice a day. It began shrinking the wart, but made him a social outcast (I really should have thought of that!). In approximate order, we tried vitamin E oil, lomatium isolate, vitamin C powder, and pau d’arco tincture as well as reduced doses the listed supplements.
Everything worked…temporarily. But as soon as one crop of warts would begin to shrink, more appeared. Finally, Ben insisted on a “real doctor,” (obviously not his father), a dermatologist, and returned one day proudly showing me where they’d all been burned off with a laser. In two months, all the warts were all back again. Since the laser had hurt, he wasn’t enthused about salicyclic acid, but being a good patient dutifully applied the little medicated patches to each and every wart. One wart would shrink, and a neighbor would appear.
Finally, the dermatologist suggested that we apply the new prescription drug Aldara and at the same time start taking the ulcer medicine Tagamet. Neither of these is FDA approved for common warts. This is called “off-label prescribing,” and finally each and every wart permanently disappeared.
When his kid brother, Nicholas showed up with warts on his hands and feet, he did not take well to my suggestion of amputation. This time, I’m keeping it simple: diet, vitamins C and E, echinacea, and Aldara, adding the Tagamet only if things fail to improve.
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David Edelberg, MD