Genital warts are fleshy skin growths or skin changes that occur in and around the genital area in both men and women. These warts are linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are over 100 different strains of HPV and around 30 of them can affect the skin around the genital area. Of these, types 6 and 11 cause 90% of all cases of genital warts.1
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease (STD). After being infected by the HPV virus, it may be days or even weeks before you exhibit any symptoms. This is important to know because your HPV infection may have nothing to do with your current sexual partner. To a certain extent, condoms are effective against HPV, but not completely. The virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact, and contact cannot be completely avoided with a condom.2 While genital warts are generally painless, they can become itchy and inflamed in some people. Because it is an STD, and due to the stigma often associated with it, they can also cause the sufferer a great deal of psychological distress.
Conventional Treatment For Genital Warts
If you suspect you have genital warts, the first step is to see a healthcare professional. Depending on the intensity of the problem, you will likely be prescribed creams and lotions, or advised to destroy the tissue of the warts by freezing (cryotherapy), heating, or removing them completely (physical ablation). Remember, over-the-counter wart creams are not meant to be used in the genital area.
Along with treatment, you may be asked to abstain from sex until the infection clears up. This will not only help in faster recovery but also prevent the spread of infection. You may also be advised to stop smoking. It’s been found that most treatment methods work best on non-smokers.3
Natural Remedies To Treat Genital Warts
Before you start with any home remedy, you must make sure that what you’re dealing with is genital warts and not something else. Be sure to get the right diagnosis from a doctor. It’s also important to remember that some of these remedies are only complementary to existing therapy – at no point should you replace one with another. You will need to consult your doctor before starting any natural treatment.
Most natural products that work on genital warts do so because of their antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties.
1. Green Tea
Green tea has been found to be effective in treating genital warts. Polyphenon E is a registered extract of green tea. When they used it in a 10%–15% concentration, over half of all patients with genital warts reported fewer warts.4 Ointments made from green tea extracts are also available.5
When applied in gel form, extracts from the root of the mayapple plant have helped treat genital warts. Topical application of mayapple products is quite safe, but do not consume – it can be poisonous.6
3. Vitamin A
You can also apply vitamin A or beta-carotene extracts on the warts a few times daily. Results improve by adding 3–4 drops of herbal extracts of echinacea, lomatium, and thuja to the mix. It’s best to use commercial products that are prepared specifically for such use. Vaginal treatments must be avoided if you are pregnant, except under expert advice.7
4. Olive Leaf
Olive leaf has such potent antiviral properties that some researchers are even studying its effects on the HIV virus. Drinking a tea made of dried olive leaves in warm water has been found to help combat viral illnesses at a systemic level and stimulate the immune system.8 About 250 to 500 mg of standardized olive leaf extract can be consumed up to three times daily.
A tea may also be prepared by steeping 1 teaspoon of leaves per cup of hot water. Steep for 5–10 minutes for best results. You can drink 2–4 cups of olive leaf tea per day for best results.9
5. Witch Hazel
Scientific reports of treating genital warts with witch hazel are scarce. However, it appears to be a popular homemade cure. You can apply distilled witch hazel on the warts and leave it on for about 15 minutes before washing off. The witch hazel helps dry out the warts. The process can be repeated twice a day until the warts clear up. Please remember that witch hazel is for external use only. Internal consumption could cause damage to the liver and digestive tract.10
6. Homeopathic Remedies
A professional homeopath assesses several factors before prescribing medication and determining the appropriate dosage for a patient. The individual’s physical, intellectual, and emotional makeup is studied and analyzed in detail. This makes it very important for an individual to consult an experienced homeopath before beginning any treatment.11
St. John’s Wort, also known as Hypericum in homeopathy, is a potent antiviral that can be used against genital warts. Dabbing the oil extract on the warts can help relieve symptoms.12
Other homeopathic preparations that are effective on soft, painful, and bleeding genital warts are nitricum acidum and thuja.13 A trained homeopath will take stock of your condition (and your individual constitution) before prescribing the right combination of medicines.
Some Other Popular Remedies: Should You Try These?
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has been found to be effective against warts caused by certain HPV virus. Though scientifically documented reports of its use on genital warts are scarce, there are individual cases that report successful treatment with tea tree oil. Bring this option up with your doctor before using.14
2. Castor Oil
Most studies and traditional treatment methods recommend castor oil for non-genital warts.15 However, there are a few recommendations and reported success with castor oil for genital warts too. A medicated oil for genital warts can be prepared with 1/2 a teaspoon of castor oil, 1/4 teaspoon each of tea tree oil and thuja essential oil, and 800 IU vitamin E oil.16 The oil mix can be applied 2–3 times a day. Individuals have reported success in treating genital warts with this mix of oils.
Like castor oil, garlic is also usually recommended for non-genital warts. However, since garlic has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, garlic may work on genital warts. Crushed or chopped cloves of garlic can be applied on the warts and covered with a gauze or bandage. Garlic and castor oil can be applied together too.17 Fresh garlic may sting the skin a little but there is no adverse effect on the skin cells. Garlic oil or garlic pills can also be consumed to treat warts.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
There is a lot of debate around apple cider vinegar as a treatment for genital warts. While some sources and forums suggest dipping cotton pads in apple cider vinegar and applying it to the warts for extended periods of time, others have reported chemical burns and worsening symptoms with prolonged usage. Given the lack of clear scientific evidence – and that you’re dealing with a sensitive area – we wouldn’t recommend this.
5. Lifestyle Changes
Most genital warts disappear by themselves with adequate care and hygiene. If any alternative remedy is doing more harm than good, it is best to leave the warts alone and give them time to heal. Following basic hygiene practices such as keeping the genital area dry can go a long way in preventing secondary infections around the warts.
Truth be told, it’s very difficult to eliminate the virus completely from our bodies since there is no cure for HPV. One of the best ways to recover and prevent an attack of HPV or any other virus is to find ways to stimulate the immune system. A healthy diet and lifestyle is key to building immunity, so if an HPV infection is just one among a number of conditions bothering you, it may be time to review your diet and exercise plan.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑3||Genital warts. NHS Choices.|
|↑4, ↑6||Reuter, Juliane, Ute Wölfle, Steffi Weckesser, and Christoph Schempp. “Which plant for which skin disease? Part 1: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, condyloma and herpes simplex.” JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft 8, no. 10 (2010): 788-796.|
|↑5, ↑7, ↑9, ↑11, ↑13, ↑17||Warts. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑8||Micol, Vicente, Nuria Caturla, Laura Pérez-Fons, Vicente Más, Luis Pérez, and Amparo Estepa. “The olive leaf extract exhibits antiviral activity against viral haemorrhagic septicaemia rhabdovirus (VHSV).” Antiviral Research 66, no. 2 (2005): 129-136.|
|↑10||Graf, J. “Herbal anti-inflammatory agents for skin disease.” Skin Therapy Lett 5, no. 4 (2000): 3-5.|
|↑12||P. Raven, J. Freeman, Herbal Therapeutics, Feb 2007.|
|↑14||Millar, B. Cherie, and John E. Moore. “Successful topical treatment of hand warts in a paediatric patient with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia).” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 14, no. 4 (2008): 225-227.|
|↑15||Warts. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑16||LaBoda, Lesley. “Castor Oil: A Miracle Cure?” James Direct, Inc., 2004.|