Have you ever had a wart somewhere on your body or do you have one right now? In healthy individuals, about 20 percent of warts clear up within three months, and 60 percent resolve within two years. This means that treatment is not always needed, but it’s often desired since warts can be painful, irritating and embarrassing. (1) The good news is that there are many treatment options available these days, both conventional and alternative, so if you’re wondering how to get rid of warts, wonder no more.
One of the best ways to prevent and treat warts is by focusing on immune system boosters like vitamin C and zinc-rich foods and beverages loaded with probiotics, like kefir. Whether you have warts on your hands, warts on your feet or warts somewhere else on your body, there are ways to rid them naturally. Let’s look at how to get rid of warts and keep them away.
What Are Warts?
A wart is a small, hard, benign growth on the skin, caused by a virus, and in order to target the exact course of action for how to get rid of warts, it helps to determine exactly what type of warts you have.
Types of Warts
- Common warts (Verruca vulgaris) are most often seen on the hands and present as skin-colored papules with a rough surface. They represent 70 percent of non-genital cutaneous warts. (2)
- Flat warts (Verruca plana) are most often seen on the backs of the hands and on the legs. They appear as smooth, flat-topped, yellow-brown papules.
- Intermediate warts are a combination of common and flat warts.
- Subungual and periungual warts appear under and around the fingernails or toenails.
- Plantar warts (Verruca plantaris) occur on the soles of the feet and look like very thick callouses.
- Mosaic warts are a plaque of closely grouped plantar warts.
- Genital warts are soft growths that appear on the genitals. They’re a sexually transmitted infection caused by specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
What causes warts? The root cause of any and every wart is HPV, of which there are more than 100 types. Warts are caused by direct contact with HPV, which is contagious and makes skin grow faster than usual. HPV can infect the skin via areas of minimal trauma like cuts or abrasions. (3)
Wart risk factors include use of communal showers, occupational handling of meat, and having a suppressed immune system due to either immunosuppressant drugs or illness like HIV/AIDS. In people with good immune systems, warts are generally harmless and resolve on their own within months or one to two years as a result of natural immunity.
The options for how to get rid of warts with conventional treatment are all similar unless you’re dealing with genital warts, which have several treatment options that are unique to that specific wart type.
1. Salicylic Acid/Topical Treatment
Topical, prescription-strength wart medications containing salicylic acid work by removing layers of the wart a little bit at a time. The salicylic medication is applied regularly. Studies show that salicylic acid is more effective when combined with freezing treatment (cryotherapy) so your doctor might recommend cryotherapy as well.
This treatment can be painful and can take weeks. It destroys the wart by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. Cryotherapy causes a blister to form around the wart. When the blister peels off, all or part of the wart peels off. Cryotherapy may require repeat treatments every few weeks until the wart disappears in order to be effective. This treatment is said to work better if you follow it with a salicylic acid treatment after the area heals.
Other acids: Your doctor might opt to shave the surface of the wart and apply bichloracetic acid or trichloroacetic. You’ll need to go back for repeat treatments every week or so. Common side effects include burning and stinging. Between visits, you may be instructed to use a salicylic acid topically as well.
3. Immune Therapy
Medications or solutions are used to stimulate your own immune system to fight viral warts. Your doctor might inject your warts with a foreign substance (antigen) or topically apply the antigen.
4. Minor Surgery
The wart or warts are cut away using an electric needle. Since this procedure can be painful, the skin is numbed first. Surgery can causes scarring and isn’t typically used to treat plantar warts.
5. Laser Treatment
Laser surgery uses an intense beam of light, or laser, to burn and destroy the wart tissue. The evidence for the effectiveness of laser treatment is limited. It can also cause pain and scarring.
Common Treatment of Genital Warts (4)
1. Topical Medications
There are few topical options that can be applied directly to genital warts, including imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara), podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox). Podophyllin is a plant-based resin that destroys genital wart tissue. Your doctor must apply this solution. Podofilox contains the same active compound but can be safely applied by you at home. Trichloroacetic acid is chemical treatment that burns off genital warts that must always be applied by a doctor.
Over-the-counter wart removers are not recommended for use on the moist tissues of the genital area. Using these removers for genital warts can cause even more irritation and pain.
2. Surgical Removal
If you opt for surgical removal of genital warts, there are several ways the warts may be removed. If you’re pregnant and your baby may be exposed during delivery, then surgical removal might be a must. Two common options are cryotherapy, which is freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen, or surgical excision, where a doctor actually cuts off the warts. Other surgical methods include electrocautery, an electrical current burns off warts, or laser treatments, where an intense beam of light is employed to remove the wart.
Some Inherent Problems with Conventional Treatment Methods:
- With freezing or cryotherapy, you likely need repeated treatments. The main side effects include pain and swelling.
- If you opt for electrocautery, you may experience pain and swelling afterward.
- For surgical excision, you receive some type of anesthesia so the procedure isn’t intolerable, but you may have pain after surgery.
- Laser treatments are pricey and typically only used for very pervasive and treatment-resistant warts. Side effects can include permanent scarring as well as pain.
- Some of the topical options for genital warts can also cause skin irritation, blisters, body aches or pain, cough, rashes, and fatigue.
How to Get Rid of Warts Naturally
I’m happy to say that you have a lot of options when it comes to how to get rid of warts naturally. Here are some of the best ways to to stop warts in their tracks without a trip to the doctor.
Natural Wart Removal Methods
Smoke the wart away
I know it sounds really weird, but an old, indigenous Chinese remedy treats plantar warts in a “smoke box” filled with smoke from burnt leaves of the Populus euphratica tree, which is a type of poplar tree. It’s actually been shown to be as effective as conventional medical therapy. It’s most commonly used for plantar warts but can also be a good option for warts on hands.
How to create a smoke box for wart treatment:
- Find or purchase Populus euphratica leaves and dry them out.
- Light them on fire in a controlled environment outdoors and let them burn for a few minutes.
- Cover them so the lack of oxygen snuffs out the flames.
- Carefully place your hands feet about six inches over the smoldering leaves and let the smoke infuse the bottom of your foot where the wart is for at least 15 minutes.
- Be very careful not to burn or blister the soles of your feet by making sure the flames are extinguished and you don’t get too close to the embers.
The reason this is a wart remover option is because the burning leaves create smoke filled with antiviral compounds know as salicylates. A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology had 60 wart patients randomly treated with either leaves of Populous euphratica tree or conventional cryotherapy. They followed up for 22 weeks and found that “the smoke of burnt leaves of the Populus euphratica tree can be equally effective for treatment of hand and foot warts as cryotherapy.” Furthermore, the recurrence rate for the tree leaf- treated group was 4.2 percent, while it was 32.2 percent for patients treated with cryotherapy. (5)
Duct tape has actually been shown in research to be more effective than freezing or cryotherapy. In one study, 85 percent of the duct tape patients were wart-free, compared with 60 percent of the cryotherapy group. The majority of warts treated with duct tape were gone within 28 days. Meanwhile, the majority of cryotherapy-treated warts needed two treatments, spaced at least two weeks apart. Researchers say the duct-tape therapy might work by stimulating the patient’s immune system.
Additionally, children find the duct tape method less frightening. One doctor has said, “The use of duct tape appears promising as a safe and nonthreatening treatment for children.” (6)
To use duct tape, cover the wart with silver duct tape for six days, soaking the wart in water, gently removing dead tissue, and then leaving the wart exposed for about 12 hours. You repeat the process until the wart is gone. (7)
Banana peels and garlic
Banana peels and garlic aren’t just for natural pimple and bug bite treatment — they can also work on warts. Specifically, these two food items have been shown to be successful at treating plantar, flat and common warts.
Before covering the wart with either a banana peel or garlic patch, you can maximize results by first placing two to four drops of thuja tincture or tea tree oil on the wart. Then either cut a piece of banana peel, place it over the wart and tape it in place OR cover the wart and surrounding skin with a thin layer of olive oil and apply a thin slice of fresh garlic and tape in place. Whichever one you choose, do it right before you go to bed. (8)
This banana or garlic patch may need to be repeated nightly for up to three weeks. As the wart begins to die, they will turn black.
In one study of 40 people, hypnosis resolved more warts than either topical salicylic acid or a placebo. Completely non-invasive, hypnotherapy can be especially helpful for children who have warts. (9) If you want to give it a try, you can learn how to perform self hypnosis, which may provide an unconventional method for how to get rid of warts.
Topical and Essential Oil Remedies
Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar can be applied as a natural wart remover. Simply soak a cotton ball with some ACV and apply it directly to the wart. Cover with a bandage overnight. You may have to repeat this process a few times, but eventually you should see results.
Silver nitrate is available as a solution or ointment you apply to the wart. Silver nitrate sticks are also an option. One study showed that when 35 patients were treated with a silver nitrate stick, 24 of the patients were either completely healed (15) or partially healed. (10)
Zinc is also available as an ointment you apply to the wart. A typical zinc ointment appropriate for warts typically contains 20 percent zinc oxide and is applied to the skin twice daily for three months. Another topical option is distilled water containing 5 percent to 10 percent zinc sulfate applied three times daily for four weeks. (11)
The above topical options are for non-genital warts. For external genital warts, you can paint the warts with liquid vitamin A or beta-carotene once or twice daily. For best results, also add three to four drops each of thuja, echinacea and lomatium tinctures. Don’t use for internal genital warts, and absolutely do not use genital treatments of any kind without first consulting your doctor if you’re pregnant.
Essentials oils can also be used to naturally treat warts. Some of the most popular oils for treating warts include tea tree, oregano, lemon, thyme and eucalyptus. (12) These oils all have antiseptic properties. Oregano oil and thyme oil both contain carvacrol, an antibacterial compound. In addition, they are each an antiviral oil.
For plantar warts, make a blend of one drop each oregano oil and frankincense oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba oil. Apply this mix topically two to three times per day directly on the wart and surrounding area for two to four weeks or until the wart is gone. Continue application after the wart is gone for one week to avoid recurrence.
For genital warts, use frankincense oil with tea tree (melaleuca) oil and apply in the same manner. Continue to use the oil treatment even after warts are gone to make sure they don’t come back. Use a clean Q-tip to apply oils each time to prevent spreading. (13)
Supplements and Other Internal Options
Zinc can really help with warts since many wart sufferers actually have zinc deficiency. The oral form may be particularly effective in wart sufferers who have a zinc deficiency. For viral warts, the recommended dosage is 10 milligrams of zinc sulfate per kilogram by mouth daily (up to 600 milligrams total daily) for two to six months.
Homeopathic treatment is an alternative medicinal practice that uses the smallest possible amount of an active ingredient in order to help treat a disease, even if this same ingredient can contribute to an illness in the first place. There are about 25 possible medicines for warts in homeopathy. The choice of medicine depends on your symptoms as well as the location of the wart(s). Some common homeopathic medicines for warts include: silica, thuja occidentalis, causticum, calcarea carbonica, nitric acid, lycopodium clavatum, and antimonium crud.
Antiviral herbs like elderberry, astragalus root and echinacea can help your body to fight off the virus that’s at the root of your wart dilemma. Antiviral herbs can actually inhibit the development of viruses. They also boost the immune system, which allows the body to attack viral pathogens. This can be even better than attacking specific pathogens, which antiviral drugs are designed to do, because pathogens mutate over time and become less susceptible to treatment.
Some top supplement options for fighting warts:
- Olive leaf extract (500 milligrams twice daily) is a natural antiviral and antimicrobial.
- Garlic (one drop twice daily) has antiviral properties.
- Echinacea (300 milligrams twice daily) can help boost immune function and fight viruses.
- Selenium (200 micrograms daily) — a deficiency in selenium can cause viruses to replicate.
Immune-Boosting Food and Drinks
Anything that improves the immune system helps your body get rid of warts since they’re viral infections. There are also nutritional deficiencies, like low zinc levels, that can increase wart risk. (14)
Here are some of the best foods to consume if you’re wondering how to get rid of warts of all kinds through diet:
- Vitamin C foods – Add foods rich in vitamin C, including plenty of citrus fruits, bell peppers and strawberries, to your diet to help boost the immune system.
- High-zin foods – Zinc is also critical for immune function. Eat foods high in zinc like grass-fed beef, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds.
- Probiotic foods – Fermented vegetables like kimchi and live-cultured yogurt or greek yogurt made from the milk of cows, goats or sheep are loaded with the good bacteria that your body needs to fight off infections.
- Green leafy vegetables – These potent vegetables provide vitamin A and minerals to help with immune function.
- High-selenium foods – Selenium is a vital antioxidant for the immune system. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
- Raw cheese — Goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and A2 cow’s soft cheeses are particularly high in probiotics, including thermophillus, bifudus, bulgaricus and acidophilus. Always buy raw and unpasteurized cheeses if you want to receive any probiotics.
When it comes to beverages, opt for these probiotic-rich selections:
- Goat’s milk kefir or coconut kefir — Both are loaded with probiotics, but the goat’s milk option is even higher than the dairy-free coconut kefir. Made by fermenting goat’s milk or the juice of young coconuts with kefir grains, either option provides a great probiotic boost to your gut.
- Kvass — Kvass is a common fermented beverage in Eastern Europe since ancient times. It uses lactobacilli probiotics and is known for its blood- and liver-cleansing properties.
- Kombucha — Kombucha is an effervescent fermentation of tea that is rich in probiotics and B vitamins.
How to Get Rid of Warts: Lifestyle Modifications
There are thankfully things you can do to decrease your risk of getting warts of any kind. Warts are caused by HPV, which thrives in warm and humid areas. Frequently used water-centric areas like pools and showers are hotbeds for the spread of warts. This is why you should always wear some type of footwear when you use a public locker room, public showers or public pool areas.
If someone else has a wart, avoid any contact with it. If you have a wart, don’t scratch or pick at it because this can cause infection and spreading. You can cover a wart with a bandage if needed, but don’t leave it on to the point that you create a moist environment.
Always make sure to keep your hands as dry as possible since warts are harder to control in wet environments. You should never brush, comb or shave areas where warts are present because this can easily cause them to spread. You should wash your hands thoroughly after touching any warts.
For the sake of those around you, keep items like clothing and towels that may come into contact with warts away from others in the house. Avoid re-wearing clothing or socks from the previous day as well.
To prevent genital warts, some of the most important precautions you can take include:
- Not having sex
- Avoiding sex with anyone who has visible signs of genital warts
- Using condoms during sexual activity
- Having sex only with a partner who is monogamous
These lifestyle modifications are some great ideas for how to get rid of warts and/or prevent getting them in the first place.
What Not to Do When You Have Warts
- Never try to physically remove a wart on your own. No matter what type of wart you have, don’t try to surgically cut it off yourself. You might think because you only have one wart, there is no risk of spreading, but warts can spread extremely easy if you’re not careful. You can actually give yourself more warts, not to mention a possible infection or scarring, if you try to play doctor. Self-surgery is not how to get rid of warts.
- Don’t scratch or pick at warts. This can cause bleeding, infection and spreading.
- When using the smoke box technique, always make sure you practice general fire safety and keep your feet or hands at a safe distance away from the smoke.
- Discontinue use of any topical treatment, like essential oils, if you witness any negative skin reactions on healthy skin areas.
- With any treatment plan, whether conventional or natural, always speak with your doctor first if you’re pregnant or nursing, or if you’re treating a child.
When it comes to how to get rid of warts, the most simple and natural treatment is to be patient and wait it out. This might sound ridiculous, but 20 percent of warts clear up within three months, and 60 percent are gone within two years.
If that sounds like way too long to wait or if you have a wart that’s really interfering with your life, then natural remedies are the best way in the quest for how to get rid of warts.
Whatever you choose, remember that your immune system is by far No. 1 when it comes to prevention and treatment of the virus that is at the root of any and every wart that may temporarily invade your skin. With a healthy lifestyle, consistent natural treatment and some patience, you can get rid of warts and greatly decrease the likelihood of their unwanted return.
There are a variety of options for wart removal, including apple cider vinegar, applying banana peels and garlic, silver nitrate, zinc ointment and many others.