Also indexed as: Common Warts, Condyloma Acuminata, Flat Warts,
Genital Warts, Plantar Warts, Venereal Warts, Verruca Vulgaris
Flat. Plantar. Common. While most people carry the virus that
causes these and other types of warts, you can treat your warts and stop the spread. According
to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:
- Turn up the heat
- Apply a heating pad set to 122°F (50°C) for 30 seconds
at a time, one to four times, to regress common warts and prevent regrowth
- Control contact
- If you have warts of any kind, avoid scratching them; if you have
genital warts, limit sexual contact with others and see a healthcare professional
- Use salicylic acid
- Treat common warts with a daily topical over-the-counter
preparation containing salicylic acid
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full warts article for more
in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and
lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
Warts are common abnormal skin growths caused by one of many types of human papilloma
virus, which infects the outer layer of skin.
Common warts (verruca vulgaris) can appear on any part of the body but are more common on
the fingers, hands, and arms. They are most common in people 30 years old or younger, but can
occur at any age and are almost universal in the population. Other types of warts also exist,
including flat warts, genital warts, laryngeal papillomas, and others.
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What are the symptoms?
Appearance and size of warts depend on the location and the amount of irritation and
trauma. Common warts are sharply demarcated, rough-surfaced, round or irregular in shape,
firm, and either light gray, yellow, brown, or gray-black in color. They are small nodules
ranging in size from 2–10 mm in diameter. Plantar warts (on the bottoms of the feet) are
flattened and may be exquisitely tender. Flat warts, more common in children and young adults,
are smooth, flat-topped yellow-brown elevations, most often seen on the face and along scratch
marks. Genital warts (also called condyloma acuminata or venereal warts) are soft, moist,
small pink or gray polyps that enlarge and are usually found in clusters on the anus and the
warmer, moister areas of the female and male genitalia. Genital warts caused by HPV are
considered a major cause of cervical dysplasia
and cervical cancer. All warts are contagious.
Over-the-counter drugs used to treat common and plantar warts contain salicylic acid
(Compound W®, Dr Scholl’s®, Mosco®, Duofilm®) and are applied
topically on a daily basis.
Prescription medications are available to treat genital warts. They include podofilox
(Condylox®) and podophyllum resin (Podocon-25®). The latter drug is only to be
applied by a physician.
A protective pad may be worn to relieve the pain of plantar warts. In some cases, doctors
may recommend removal of the wart using various procedures such as freezing with liquid
nitrogen (cryotherapy), conventional surgery, laser surgery, or applying an electrical current
to dry the wart (electrodesiccation with curettage).
Dietary changes that may be helpful
A preliminary study reported that the weekly consumption of two to four alcoholic drinks
nearly doubled the risk of developing genital warts.1 Those who consumed more than
five alcoholic drinks had a more than doubled risk of developing genital warts. A case report
of a 19-year-old with a urinary-tract wart found that abstinence from a high intake of pork
led to a regression of the wart.2
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful
Warts can be spread by contact, and the transmission can occur between two people as well
as between different parts of the body of the same person. To prevent the spread of the virus,
warts should not be scratched. Genital warts are spread by sexual contact.
A study of HIV-infected and HIV-negative
women found that current smokers were over five times more likely to develop genital warts
Vitamins that may be helpful
In a double-blind study, supplementation with oral zinc, in the form of zinc sulfate, for two months
resulted in complete disappearance of warts in 87% of people treated, whereas none of those
receiving a placebo improved.4 The amount of zinc used was based on body weight,
with a maximum of 135 mg per day. These large amounts of zinc should be used under the
supervision of a doctor. Side effects included nausea, vomiting, and mild abdominal pain.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
Herbs that may be helpful
In a preliminary trial, topical application of
garlic cloves was used successfully to treat warts in a group of children. A clove was cut
in half each night and the flat edge of the clove was rubbed onto each of the warts, carefully
cleaning the surrounding areas, so as not to spread any garlic juice. The areas were covered
overnight with Band-Aids or waterproof tape and were washed in the morning. In all cases, the
warts cleared completely after an average of nine weeks.5 In another study, 23
people with warts applied an oil-soluble garlic extract twice a day to the warts. Complete
recovery was seen in every case after one to two weeks. A water-soluble garlic extract was
less effective.6 Side effects after application of the oil-soluble extract included
blistering, redness, burning, and increased pigmentation of the skin around the application
area, which usually disappeared completely in one to two weeks. Zinc oxide ointment was applied to the surrounding
normal skin in all cases in an attempt to prevent these side effects.
Herbalists have sometimes recommended the use of greater celandine (Chelidonium majus)
for the topical treatment of warts.7 The milky juice from the fresh plant is
typically applied to the wart once daily and allowed to dry.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.
Holistic approaches that may be helpful
Distant healing is a conscious, dedicated act of mental activity that attempts to benefit
another person’s physical or emotional well-being at a distance. A controlled study
found that distant healing by an experienced healer for six weeks had no effect on the number
or size of warts.8
A controlled study found that the application of 122ºF heat from a heat pad for 30
seconds led to regression in 25 warts.9 After 15 weeks, none of the regressed warts
Hypnosis is a widely recognized treatment
for warts. One controlled trial found that twice-weekly hypnosis sessions resulted in greater
wart disappearance than did medication, placebo, or no treatment after six weeks of
1. Bairati I, Sherman KJ, McKnight B, et al. Diet and genital warts: a
case-control study. Sex Transm Dis 1994;21:149–54.
2. Schneider A, Morabia A, Papendick U, Kirchmayr R. Pork intake and
human papillomavirus-related disease. Nutr Cancer 1990;13:209–11.
3. Feldman JG, Chirgwin K, Dehovitz JA, Minkoff H. The association of
smoking and risk of condyloma acuminatum in women. Ostet Gynecol
4. Al-Gurairi FT, Al-Waiz M, Sharquie KE. Oral zinc sulphate in the
treatment of recalcitrant viral warts: randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Br J
5. Silverberg N. Garlic cloves for verruca vulgaris. Pediatr
Dermatol 2002;19:183. [Letter]
6. Dehghani F, Merat A, Panjehshahin MR, Handjani F. Healing effect of
garlic extract on warts and corns. Int J Dermatol 2005;44:612–5.
7. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum,
8. Harkness EF, Abbot NC, Ernst E. A randomized trial of distant healing
for skin warts. Am J Med 2000;108:448–52.
9. Stern P, Levine N. Controlled localized heat therapy in cutaneous
warts. Archives of Dermatology 1992;128:945–8.
10. Spanes NP, Williams V, Gwynn MI. Effects of hypnotic, placebo, and
salicylic acid treatments on wart progression. Psychosom Med