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Can You Cure Warts With Vitamin A?

A reader used water-soluble vitamin A to cure warts on the sole of the foot. Scientific research is inconclusive about this and other wart remedies.
Can You Cure Warts With Vitamin A?
Wart under foot can treatment by salicylic acid, Wart verrucas plantar. Fasciitis Wart on foot. Decease on foot skin.

Warts are an overgrowth of skin cells triggered by an infection with human papillomavirus, or HPV. Why certain people are especially susceptible to these bumpy outcroppings is mostly unknown. Doctors have several approaches to treating them, and ordinary folks have come up with an uncounted number of home remedies. A reader recently raised the possibility that you might be able to cure warts with a simple vitamin.

Could Vitamin A Cure Warts?

Q. I have an unusual offer for you: a way to cure warts. Sixty years ago, I was cured of plantar warts on the ball of my foot.
I had been living in a very large city where I saw several podiatrists. They tried every procedure you can think of, including freezing, surgery and acid. I cannot even remember them all, but nothing worked.

The warts were with me for a long time, but of course, it was so long ago I forget the duration. Then I moved to a very small town in northern Michigan. Soon the large wart was having a baby. They weren’t contiguous but actually separate warts.

I didn’t want my whole foot covered with warts, so I saw the podiatrist in this small town. He gave me a prescription for water-soluble vitamin A. Within two weeks, the warts were gone never to return. I was astonished.

How Do You Use Vitamin A Against Warts?

A. What a fascinating story! You didn’t say whether you were taking the vitamin A by mouth or smearing it on the sole of your foot.

Podiatrists and dermatologists do not appear to have done many studies on vitamin A as a therapy for plantar warts. We found one case report of a young woman with recalcitrant warts on her hand who cured them with topical vitamin A (Virology Journal, online Jan. 17, 2012). A review of the uses of a vitamin A compound called tretinoin noted that it could be used topically to treat flat warts (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Oct. 1986). 

Plantar warts don’t always respond to the same treatments as common warts, however. Decades ago, German scientists reported that topical vitamin A (retinoic acid) was “unsuitable” for treating plantar warts (Zeitschrift fur Hautkrankheiten, July 15, 1975). We are not quite sure why.

Home Remedies for Warts:

Some readers have reported that taking desiccated liver tablets helped them get rid of persistent plantar warts by stimulating their immune systems. Liver is a rich source of vitamin A, so this may be another way to utilize vitamin A to cure warts.

Others have had success with home remedies such as hot water foot soaks, vinegar foot baths, topical castor oil, fresh turmeric root applied to the wart (warning—turmeric stains) or banana peel taped to the wart. Many readers have reported that applying duct tape to a plantar wart can speed its departure. 

What About Cimetidine to Cure Warts?

There is a lively controversy regarding the effectiveness of taking the heartburn medicine cimetidine (Tagamet) orally to cure warts. Some researchers suggest that this OTC drug also enhances the immune response and may help the body ward off the virus that causes warts (International Immunopharmacology, May, 2019). A small case series in children with heart transplants suggests that cimetidine can be helpful in clearing warts (Medical Sciences, April 8, 2018). On the other hand, a systematic review found no clear support for using cimetidine  (Journal of Dermatological Treatment, Feb. 2012).

Learn More:

If you would like to know more about home remedies you might use to cure warts, you may wish to read our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.  Ask your local library if it has a copy. You can also purchase it here.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Gaston A & Garry RF, "Topical vitamin A treatment of recalcitrant common warts." Virology Journal, online Jan. 17, 2012. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-9-21
  • Stüttgen G, "Historical perspectives of tretinoin." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Oct. 1986. DOI: 10.1016/s0190-9622(86)70228-4
  • Günther S, "[Therapeutic effect of vitamin A acid (retinoic cid) in various forms of palmar/plantar hyperkeratoses: Experimental studies on 68 patients]." Zeitschrift fur Hautkrankheiten, July 15, 1975.
  • Jafarzadeh A et al, "Immunomodulatory properties of cimetidine: Its therapeutic potentials for treatment of immune-related diseases." International Immunopharmacology, May, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.intimp.2019.02.026
  • Das BB et al, "Cimetidine: A safe treatment option for cutaneous warts in pediatric heart transplant recipients." Medical Sciences, April 8, 2018. DOI: 10.3390/medsci6020030
  • Simonart T & de Maertelaer V, "Systemic treatments for cutaneous warts: A systematic review." ournal of Dermatological Treatment, Feb. 2012. DOI: 10.3109/09546634.2010.500324
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