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Where Do Warts Come From?

Let’s be very clear about this interesting question. No one really knows for sure how people “catch” warts, but it’s NOT from frogs! What doctors do know is that they are caused by a virus called HPV (human papilloma virus). Actually there are over 100 different HPVs. HPV 2 and 7 cause so-called common warts (verruca vulgaris), while HPV 1, 2, 4 and 63 cause plantar warts that grow on the bottom of the foot and can grow inward. This can make walking or running quite painful.

But we digress. How does someone end up with a wart on his elbow or finger or on the sole of the feet? Why are children more susceptible than senior citizens? As many as one-third of school-age kids develop warts. Fortunately, two-thirds of the warts disappear by themselves in about two years for reasons that no one understands.

Some experts have suggested that you get your warts by touching someone else’s wart. Really? How many kids go around asking their friends if they can touch a wart? Not very likely, in our opinion. Let’s face it, warts are pretty gross and no one really wants to rub one if at all possible.

Conventional wisdom has also maintained that children and teenagers somehow pick up warts in public places such as at pools or in locker rooms, where the floors are damp and presumably allow for spread of HPV. Dutch researchers have just put that myth to rest. They published their findings in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Over 1000 children between the ages of 4 and 12 were tracked for a year. They were examined for warts before the study began and again at the end of the trial. Over the course of the year 29 percent of the children developed a wart. Swimming pool use and other public exposure did not seem to lead to warts. If a family member had a wart, though, there was an increased likelihood of a child developing one. This does suggest that the virus is transmissible. The authors recommend that warts should probably be covered with a bandage to try to prevent spread, though there are no data to support this recommendation.

So… what should you do to get rid of warts? Doctors have all sorts of treatments from burning (acid, electrocautery, blistering) to freezing (cryotherapy). They also use lasers to zap warts or immunotherapy that causes an inflammatory reaction. That presumably triggers the immune system to attack the human papilloma virus. Sometimes one of these approaches works, but not infrequently the warts return.

What About Home Remedies for Warts?

Many doctors are not fond of home remedies. That’s because they are rarely tested in a scientific manner. Spunk water, dead cats, new pennies and buried potatoes have clearly not been assessed in double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Nevertheless, most dermatologists will admit that magic sometimes does seem to make a wart disappear surprisingly quickly.

One of the greatest science writers of all times was Dr. Lewis Thomas. He was a biologist and a professor of pathology and medicine at Cornell. He was also a president of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Thomas was fascinated by warts. In his book, The Medusa and the Snail, he wrote:

“How can a mental event like suggestion produce a specific biological response that targets an isolated structure on the skin? When scientists can answer that question, they will be able to answer many other questions about mind/body interactions.”

We could not agree more. Remember, a wart is caused by a virus and yet the mind can make it disappear almost overnight. If we could figure out how, we might be able to cure an amazing number of other conditions.

For your entertainment and possible practical use, we share a number of wart remedies from our readers and visitors below.

“My six-year-old son had warts on both hands. One Sunday after church an elderly Italian lady told us to use milkweed to get rid of the warts. He applied the milky sap several times a day and before long the warts disappeared. It didn’t cost a penny.”

“I just had to write to you after reading the letter from the mother whose daughter has warts on her hands. My husband had several warts on his left hand. Some were surgically removed and others were treated by the doctor. But most of them came back.

“A friend suggested castor oil, and my husband thought it was worth a try. He put it on a couple times a day and at night under an adhesive strip. In two months they were gone and they have NOT returned!”

“Not long ago I read a letter in your column from a person who had warts on a thumb and could not get rid of them. When our son was in college, he developed two or three warts on one finger, which made it difficult for him to hold a pen and take notes.

“He planned to have them removed at the infirmary, but called home first. His dad recommended he paint them with iodine daily until they disappeared. They were gone in ten days or so and never returned.”

“Furtively taking a raw white potato from the camp kitchen, I waited until after lights out to slice off a thin piece of the spud with my Girl Scout knife. I then rubbed the juice over the surface of the wart. I kept this up for nearly three weeks until the wart shriveled and fell off. Outcome, no wart, no scar, minimum cost (guilty conscience for purloined potato).”

Do you enjoy reading home remedies? Do you think our grandmothers (and grandfathers) had wisdom when it came to healing common ailments? If so, you will love our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. Not only do we have lots more wart remedies, but you will find commonsense approaches for almost everything that ails you. Here is a short list of conditions for which we offer affordable treatments:

  • Acne & Rosacea
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis & Joint Pain
  • Body Odor
  • Burns
  • Bursitis
  • Canker Sores
  • Cholesterol
  • Cold Sores
  • Constipation
  • Coughs
  • Dandruff
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry Skin
  • Eczema
  • Gas
  • Gout
  • Heartburn
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Hot Flashes
  • IBS Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Nail Fungus
  • Psoriasis
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin Tags
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Vertigo & Dizziness
  • and many more!

Here is a link if you would like Quick & Handy Home Remedies or any of our other publications.
Share your own wart remedies below in the comment section. Let us know what worked and what didn’t for you and your family.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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