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What are warts?

Warts are harmless skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). More than 100 types of HPV exist. The virus causes warts to appear on the face, genitals, and hands, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

A variety of wart treatments are available. They vary in effectiveness based on the wart type and location.

Most natural treatments for warts don’t have a lot of research behind them. They have, however, helped people in the past. Because these treatments usually aren’t expensive or harmful, they can be worth a try.

An important exception:

  1. Don’t treat genitals warts at home using topical treatments. Genital skin is delicate and can be subject to injury through topical treatments. Talk to your doctor about options for treating genital warts, including taking antiviral medications.
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Also known as “watchful waiting,” this method suggests you wait and let the wart go away with time. Most warts will go away on their own. However, if the wart is bothersome or unsightly to you, you may wish to treat it using natural methods.

Tea tree oil or Melaleuca alternifolia has antimicrobial and exfoliating properties. A small study found topical wart treatments with tea tree oil helped to reduce warts in a young patient within 12 days. However, there are no large-scale studies to backup these findings.

Read about seven other essential oils used for wart treatment.

Apple cider vinegar is a popular wart treatment that circulates on internet sites. This approach involves soaking a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and applying it to the skin each night before going to bed. Placing a bandage over the wart can help to protect the wart and keep the vinegar in place.

While apple cider vinegar is a natural treatment, it’s still acidic and can cause some pain and discomfort when applied to the skin. Undiluted apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be used on the face because it may be too strong.

Some herbalist and natural health experts have promoted certain herbs in the treatment of warts. Examples of herbs that may be effective in treating warts include:

  • Echinacea. Also known as the purple cone flower, Echinacea can be taken as an oral supplement to help reduce the incidence of warts. Echinacea is also available as a tea.
  • E. walachii. The juice from this herb can be consumed to help treat warts as well as skin infections.
  • Ficus carica. Latex from this type of fig tree helped to reduce the incidence of warts in study participants, according to an article in the journal Pharmacology Review.
  • Garlic ointments. When applied topically, garlic ointments have been rumored to reduce the incidence of warts. However, there isn’t enough evidence to prove they work.

Researchers haven’t conducted large-scale studies on how these treatments can effectively reduce warts. Carefully review all supplements with a doctor or a pharmacist before taking them.

While this may seem like an unusual approach to wart treatment, some people maintain that applying duct tape regularly to a wart can help to treat it. Doctors don’t know exactly why duct tape works, but it may protect against friction and provide some exfoliation when the tape itself is removed.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that duct tape can treat warts. Still, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends it as a wart removal treatment.

One small study comparing duct tape to cryotherapy treatment found wart removal occurred after about two months for participants using duct tape. Participants who used duct tape also reported fewer negative side effects than those who treated their warts with cryotherapy.

Applying clear nail polish to a wart is rumored to deprive the skin of oxygen, causing the skin cells to “die” and the wart to go away. While doctors haven’t proven this approach, it may create a protective barrier between the wart and the environment.

Salicylic acid is a treatment sold in many drugstores that can help to remove warts. This beta hydroxy acid encourages exfoliation of the layers of skin over the wart. The product is sold in gels, lotions, and patches that can be applied to the skin. Salicylic acid is also a common component in aspirin, dandruff shampoos, and pimple treatments.

To work most effectively, salicylic acid must be applied daily, usually after soaking the skin in water for five minutes or taking a bath. A person can use other treatments, such as putting duct tape over the wart after applying the salicylic acid, to help to get rid of the wart.

While some people use salicylic acid on their face to treat pimples, salicylic acid for warts is in much stronger percentages and shouldn’t be used on the face. This treatment can usually take up to three months to get rid of the wart.

Shop online for salicylic acid wart removers.

Because warts are a virus, a compromised immune system may lead to greater outbreaks of warts. Taking steps to boost your immune system may help to reduce the incidence of warts.

Here are some ways you can keep your immune system strong:

  • Eat a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain excellent heart health. Walking, taking an aerobics class, or riding a bike are all good physical activity options.
  • Get enough rest at night to promote immune function and recovery.

Taking care of yourself is not only good for your overall health, chances are it may help to reduce the likelihood of a warts breakout.

Doctors know that some people are more likely to get warts. These include:

  • people who walk around barefoot frequently
  • meat handlers and butchers
  • people who bite their nails
  • those who are immunosuppressed, sometimes due to cancer or HIV treatments

While you can’t prevent all these factors, there are some (such as refraining from nail biting) that you can.

Additional ways to prevent warts include:

  • Always wear shoes in public bathroom areas, such as the gym.
  • Frequently wash your hands to prevent the spread of HPV.
  • Refrain from sharing personal items, such as towels, razors, or even pumice stones, with other people.

If you do have a wart, cover it with a bandage and avoid picking at it. This can keep HPV from spreading to others accidentally.

While many warts will go away on their own if left untreated, you can try at-home and natural remedies to help treat them. However, these treatments do not cure the virus that causes warts. As a result, you can get the warts again.