Warts are one of the great mysteries of medicine. They appear almost magically for no apparent reason. They often disappear just as mysteriously.
When these ugly growths appear on fingers or hands dermatologists refer to them by the Latin words Verruca vulgaris or “common” warts. When they show up on the soles of the feet they are called plantar warts.
Warts are growths caused by a virus (human papillomavirus) that burrows into the skin and frequently resists standard medical treatment. People often report that after applying salicylic acid from the pharmacy the warts go away but then come back within a few weeks or months.
Even medical treatment is sometimes ineffective. Burning, freezing and cutting may work temporarily, but the warts frequently recur.
That’s why home remedies are so popular, especially with children. No one understands why the power of suggestion seems so effective in eradicating a growth caused by a virus, but most physicians know that it can be surprisingly successful.
One reader reports this experience from decades ago:
“When I was about nine years old I had warts on the thumbs and fingers of both hands. A little girl who lived down the street told me one day her mom was a witch who could get rid of my warts.
“She ran home and soon came back with a potato peeling. Her mom told her to rub the peeling on my warts while she recited, ‘As this peeling rots away so your warts shall go away.’ Then she told me to bury the peeling in my front yard and not to bother it. After several weeks I found to my surprise the warts were all gone and they never did come back.
“Susie had also told me to make sure the peeling has no eye on it, or it wouldn’t work, as the peeling would then grow and not rot away.”
Many readers have reported success with variants of the potato peel treatment. Some readers swear by more unusual treatments, such as this one: “I had a dozen warts on my hands when I was 14. I heard that the black garden slug (without a shell) worked against warts. So I sat behind the house with the slugs and kept making them slide across my warts. After a short time the warts all disappeared. I think it’s something in the slug’s silver trail that has the wart-killing effect.
“Now my son is four and has a couple of warts. There are no slugs where we live now, north of Ibiza, Spain. So we’ll try something else. Maybe garlic taped on the wart will work.”
Another person has quite a different suggestion: “I have had plantar warts several times. The easiest and most effective solution to get rid of them is securing a slice of eggplant on the wart with a bandage overnight every night until the wart peels off. It works without pain.”
Several people have tried the heartburn medicine Tagamet (cimetidine):
“I had over 30 warts on the bottom of one foot. I was too embarrassed to see the doctor until my mom noticed them and took me. There were too many for him to remove by burning or cutting so he told me to take Tagamet. He said it was a long shot and probably wouldn’t work. On the contrary! Within a month, ALL 30-plus warts were gone.”
Patience and persistence are important for most of these remedies. With so many different possibilities, however, it seems that if one approach fails, another might do the trick.