They are the single most common skin complaint – and sooner or later, one in every ten people develops at least one. Many warts disappear on their own, but a variety of natural treatments can hasten healing for the millions of people who suffer from these unsightly blemishes.

What is it?

Although warts may sometimes look serious, in most cases these small skin growths are harmless. There are many different kinds, including common warts, usually found on the fingers or hands, and plantar warts, which appear on the feet. Genital warts are considered the most serious because, unlike other types of warts, they are highly contagious, and some types may increase the risk of skin, cervial or penile cancers.

What causes it?

Warts result when a human papilloma virus (there are many different types) invades the top layer of the skin, usually through a small cut or abrasion. Once an infection occurs, it may take from one to eight months – or sometimes many years – for a wart to appear. Low immunity may play a role in activating the wart virus and causing the growths to emerge.

What are the symptoms?

Warts may grow singly or in clusters; some may also itch or bleed, though most are painless.

  • Common wart: A flat or raised growth, usually just a bit darker than the skin, generally on the hands or fingers.
  • Plantar wart: a flat or slightly raised bump on the bottom of the foot that can resemble a callous.
  • Genital wart: Usually a reddish pink growth, with a small, flower-like head, that appears in the genital or anal area.

Are there any natural therapies?

Because the development of warts if often linked to the health and potency of he immune system, supplements that strengthen immunity – including vitamin A and vitamin C – may also help eliminate the growths and, when taken long term, prevent them from recurring.

In addition, try one of the following topical treatments: vitamin E, garlic oil and tea tree oil; goldenseal and pau d'arco tinctures; or aloe vera gel. A powdered form of vitamin C, mixed with water, can also be used topically. All need to be applied to a skin compress, such as a piece of soft cotton or cotton gauze. Each is believed to contain virus-fighting ingredients that may promote healing. If one doesn't seem to work, experiment with another. If skin irritation develops, dilute the preparation with a little water or vegetable oil, and rub a dab of petroleum jelly on the surrounding skin. Always dilute the preparations if you're apply them to the genital area, which may be especially sensitive. Change the compress daily. Benefits should be noticed within three to four days. Continue topical treatment until the wart heals.

Other supplements that can be applied as skin compresses are castor oil (mixed with a little baking soda) and clove oil. You can try these remedies on most warts, even genital ones. But consult your doctor first, especially in the case of genital warts, which require close medical attention.

What else can I do?

  • Wear protective footwear when showering at the gym or walking around the pool. Some plantar wart viruses are spread via changing room floors.
  • Persistent warts may require prescription wart removers or freezing, burning or laser treatments by a dermatologist.

Did you know?

If warts are on the face, legs or other areas where you shave, don't use straight razors, which can make warts spread; try an electric razor or a depilatory instead. Cutting or scratching a wart can also result in bleeding, infection and scarring.