Most warts, or verrucae, are caused by viruses and are mildly contagious. Even though they aren't considered a serious condition, getting rid of them by orthodox means is by no means straightforward. Doctors usually attempt to eradicate them by cutting them out, applying chemicals or painfully freezing them with liquid nitrogen but, with all such treatments, they are liable to recur.
Certain allergy related, immune system defects can lead to an increased susceptibility to viral skin diseases such as herpes simplex or warts. Interestingly, these immune system abnormalities go away when your allergies improve, but recur during allergic reactions (Soter N, Baden H. Pathophysiology of Dermatologic Disease, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Inc, 1984).
Electrotherapy applying a high frequency or static 'sparking' of the wart has a long tradition of apparent success in alternative medicine (Dearborn FM, Diseases of the Skin, Including Exanthemata, New York, NY: American Institute of Homoeopathy, 1913: 286).
In homoeopathy, the usual treatment is to paint the wart twice daily with mother tincture or a cerate of Thuja occidentalis, while taking the same remedy in the sixth potency internally morning and night, for about two weeks (Professor W Boericke's Pocket Manual of Homoeopathic Materia Medica, 9th edn, Philadelphia: Boericke & Runyon, 1927: 645).
In African medicine, the extract of the round leafed mistletoe (Viscum rotundifolium) is widely used, usually with success, as a topical wart remedy (von Koenen E, Heil-und Giftpflan-zen in Suedwestafrika, Windhoek:
Akademischer Verlag, 1977: 114). Similar tinctures of mistletoe, using Viscum capense and Viscum pauciflora, also have reported success.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine make a plaster of the dark plum Prunus mume (Wu mei) to treat warts. After softening the plant in hot water, you remove the excess growth, then apply the plaster to the area and bind it with gauze. The dressing must be changed every 24 hours (Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, revised edn, Seattle, WA: Eastland Press Inc, 1993: 379-80).
Another folk medicine popular in Hawaii applies Carica papaya (pawpaw) to skin growths or skin diseases after splitting the young fruit in half (Pacif Sci, 1950; 4: 167).
In Western traditional medicine, practitioners take the fresh yellow milky juice (not the tincture) of Chelidonium majus (the greater celandine) and apply it topically to the wart, allowing it to dry and leaving it for as long as possible. This procedure should be carried out daily for two or three weeks (US Dispensatory, 25: 1623; Br Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 1976; Part I: 51).
Fresh celandine juice has been reported to contain an alkaloid that inhibits and can kill the wart virus, but this is lost in the alcohol based tincture (Weiss RF, Herbal Medicine, translated from German, Gothenburg: Ab Arcanum, 1988: 337).
Very small quantities of the liquid extract of the dried rhizome of Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple root) can be applied topically to remove anal warts. However, this must be done strictly under qualified professional care only (Br Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 1976; Part I: 165). Podophyllum resin is highly toxic to cells and may damage the embryo in a pregnant woman. Qualified professional supervision is essential.
Not long ago, many country districts all over Europe boasted a wart charmer who could magic away warts by rubbing them with potato peel, green fig slices or other food, which was then buried in the garden.
Another favourite was to cut an onion in half, scoop out the middle and fill the hollow with sea salt. You'd then paint your wart daily with the juice that collected there; when the juice eventually disappeared, so would the wart.
These methods all could be classified as perfect examples of guided visualization, which has proven beneficial effects on the immune system.
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath.