The difficult thing about lesions of the skin is that they can be difficult to identify. The entire field of dermatology is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin. Therefore if you have a skin abnormality in the genital region—or anywhere on the body—that you cannot identify with certainty, you should seek medical advice. For genital warts, it is also best to seek the help and guidance of a professional.
With that is mind, there are a number of natural treatment options for warts and genital warts that you may want to explore. They encompass nutritional supplementation, herbal remedies, homeopathy, and other alternative medical interventions.
Almost every lesion in the skin, including genital warts, involves the immune system. Even before the genital wart forms, the immune system is what protects the body against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The immune system also has the ability to detect and remove the abnormal skin cells that are rapidly reproducing and growing into a wart. In fact, some of the medical treatments for genital warts include drugs to stimulate or mimic the actions of the immune system. Therefore, natural treatments for genital warts primarily include things that help your body resist or fight HPV infection and to change the way the skin reacts to it.
Diet, nutrients and supplements
Numerous clinical studies have shown a positive link between exercise and the immune system. A person that exercises for 30 minutes per day, three to five times a week has a much stronger immune system than someone that leads a sedentary life. The type of exercise is not critically important, but you should get your heart pumping and try to break a sweat each time you exercise. While it is not clearly known how exercise boosts the immune system, it clearly does. Regular exercise can equip your body in the fight against genital warts (and many other diseases).
Another helpful intervention is to remove the things that may be taxing your immune system unnecessarily. Allergies drive the immune system—in fact, they put the immune system into overdrive and serve no known useful purpose. Identifying and eliminating allergens from the environment and from the diet can reduce the burden on the immune system.
Dust, molds, mites, and other microscopic substance can lead to allergic reactions and breathing problems. Using filtration devices (one brand name is a Hepa filter) can remove particles from circulating air. Make sure heating vents are clean, mattresses and bedding do not harbor allergens and that carpets are routinely cleaned (or avoided when possible). Animal dander is difficult since we love our pets, but it is just as easy to love a pet that has less dander or no dander; this should be considered before you get your next furry family member.
People often seem to underestimate the role of food allergens in health and disease. Since food allergens rarely lead to stuffy nose, sneezing, and breathing problems, most people do not seem to think of food as stoking up an allergy. In truth, doctors are recently beginning to appreciate the near-epidemic of food allergies. Food allergies cause upset stomach, headache, and, less frequently, they cause some more serious consequences. One common food allergen is milk, which can be an allergy to a protein in milk or lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not an “allergy” but is caused by the inability to digest a sugar in milk. Another common food allergen is wheat or gluten. There are wheat allergies and the more serious celiac disease, which is a serious reaction to gluten in the gut. Aside from these examples, there are a large number of possible food allergens. It may be reasonable to be tested for the presence of food allergies if you are particularly sensitive.
Despite their robust reaction to foreign invaders, the cells of the immune system are fragile entities. In order to keep these important cells as healthy as possible, it is critical to give them a good home. Where is the immune system’s home? Their home is in blood, lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, mainly. The way to give them a good home is to protect them from destructive molecules, like free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Vitamins C and E are excellent antioxidants. Coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, and N-acetylcysteine are also very powerful at neutralizing reactive oxygen species.
Veregen is a green tea extract that has been developed into a medical treatment for genital warts. Veregen is prescription cream that is placed on genital warts, but green tea extract is available as a supplement without a prescription. The supplement is called Camellia sinensis and can be taken up to 250 to 500 mg per day to fight genital warts.
If you want to take the fight directly to the HPV, grapefruit seed extract (Citrus paradisi) has antiviral properties. Grapefruit seed extract comes in 100 mg capsules or can be added to beverages. Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) has both antiviral properties and can boost the immune system. Cat’s claw can be taken as a 20 mg supplement, three times per day. Olive leaf (Olea europaea) is another antiviral and immune system enhancer. Like the green tea extract, it comes in 250 or 500 mg doses but can be taken up to three times per day. Finally, 150 to 300 mg of Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) can be taken up to three times daily for virus-fighting, immune-improving power.
For those that want a topical ointment for genital warts, you should avoid some of the natural remedies that are used for plain warts since these are ineffective and may not be safe for use near the genitals. These ineffective agents include banana peel patch and garlic patch. A topical treatment that is safe and may be helpful is to coat the genital warts in vitamin A (retinoic acid) or beta-carotene up to two times a day. For an added boost, you can add tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) and/or Echinacea to the treatment.
Homeopathic remedies should only be used under the direct supervision of a trained homeopath. In addition to using the ingredients listed, the dilutions and the process of dilution of homeopathic treatments are very important according to homeopathy theory. Note that homeopathy should not be used instead of treatment by a trained medical doctor (allopath) but may be used to supplement traditional treatment.
A homeopath may recommend the use of Causticum for the treatment of genital warts. This agent may be best suited for fleshy warts. Another option is Nitricum acidum. In fact, Nitricum acidum might be the homeopathic treatment of choice for genital warts. It can be used on warts located on the genitals or anus (external use only). The third homeopathic treatment option is Thuja. Thuja is used for painful or bleeding warts of all kinds, including genital warts that cause pain or bleeding.
Acupuncture is a therapeutic intervention that is derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine. It employs the use of thin metal needles placed in specific points across the body along meridians. Along these 14 to 20 meridians flow the life force known as qi. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, health and disease are determined by the flow of qi along these meridians in the body. If qi is blocked or stagnant, disease follows. Acupuncture seeks to locate and relieve these blockages and improve flow.
Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine may use acupuncture, along with other remedies to treat genital warts and to improve the immune system in general. Acupuncture may take up to ten sessions, each lasting about an hour, to treat genital warts. In addition to needling, moxibustion and cupping may be added to the treatment plan. Moxibustion is the burning of dried herbs (moxa) near the skin. Cupping is the application of heated half-spheres to the skin to create a vacuum.
It is important to mention every skin lesion, including genital warts, to your acupuncture practitioner. Needles should not be applied to or near any skin lesion as this may push HPV deeper into the skin and into the bloodstream.
While massage therapy is not a direct treatment for viral infection, it can create deep relaxation and stress relief. Since stress can interfere with the proper functioning of the immune system, massage therapy can be used to boost the immune system.
There are various forms of massage therapy. Many forms have the potential to be helpful, but for stress relief it is best to choose one that is less stimulating. For example, Thai traditional massage is more invigorating than relaxing. This form of massage is actually a series of forced yoga poses and may not be the best choice for genital wart treatment.
Of the Eastern traditions of massage therapy, Tui Na and Reiki may be the most appropriate. Considering the approach of Western massage techniques, any that primarily employ effleurage would be applicable. Effleurage is the form of Western massage in which the practitioner uses gliding hands. Effleurage may be more appropriate than deep friction approaches or percussion techniques (tapotement).
Please note that for any massage therapy style that requires nudity or near-nudity and the use of oils, it is critical that you mention your genital warts to the practitioner. This is especially true if you have symptomatic or broken skin lesions. You do not want to risk infection or inoculation of the massage therapist with human papillomavirus (HPV). While infection in this way is very unlikely, it should still be mentioned.
Performing yoga serves two important functions in the fight against genital warts. First, it is an extremely good form of exercise. Yoga poses require strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility. Second, yoga can be both relaxing and energizing. Recent research suggests that yoga can improve or undo the damage that stress and harmful emotions can wreak on the immune system. Actively participating in yoga can influence the axis which is the system in the body that responds to stressors by releasing adrenalin and other factors into the blood.1 Yoga also may change neural pathways involved in acute and chronic stress.
There are several ways to incorporate yoga into your life. Videos and television programs now teach yoga poses and exercises. However, many yoga poses are tricky and should be performed properly to avoid injury. It may be best to seek out a class or a professional yoga instructor to demonstrate the proper technique before you go about it on your own.
Many of the stresses that affect us in our daily lives—work, school, finances, family—can slowly eat away at our immune system. This gives genital warts a foothold and then a stronghold. Removing this stress from our lives is often as simple as setting aside some quiet time each day for personal reflection. In more formal terms, this “rebooting” is called meditation.
People tend to shy away from many meditation traditions because of the associated mysticism and religious affiliations. In truth, many forms of mediation are devoid of mystical or religious practices and these can be avoided altogether and still receive many of the benefits of meditation. If you are looking for spiritual mediation techniques, these certainly exist as well, but are beyond the scope of this article.
Meditation can be as simple as being quiet and alone for a period of time. The length of time that people can devote to meditation varies, but you should try to set aside 20 minutes at the very least in order to realize the healing benefits of meditation. This time can be increased, but, as you become better at meditation, you may not need more than 20 minutes per day.
In the simplest form, meditation involves clearing the mind of all distractions and thought. It should be done in a quiet, softly lit or dark room. The goal is not to sleep but to remain conscious and awake during meditation. One easy meditation technique is to pick a neutral, two-syllable word and repeat it in your mind. As thoughts of the day and life try to invade your attention, elevate the “volume” of your mind’s voice to overcome the intrusion. “Say” the word faster in your mind. As the impetuous thoughts start to quiet, you can lower the mental volume and slow down the speed of the syllables. Towards the end of the 20 minutes you should have cleared your mind and, perhaps surprisingly, you will feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
(1) Kulkarni DD, Bera TK. Yogic exercises and health–a psycho-neuro immunological approach. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2009;53:3-15.