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I was cleaning out some cupboards and came across an old copy of Mrs Lavendars Herbal Book which was probably published about 1920! It's a delicious dip back into time to see what folk were thinking in the time before antibiotics, and when modern medicine was in its infancy.
Regarding warts she writes, " Warts, however, come and go in quite mysterious fashion, really I do not believe that anyone knows the exact causes excepting that often they come from the splash of egg water on the skin"! Well, times have moved on and the electron microscope has shown us that warts are caused by on of the Human Papillomaviruses ( there are over a 100 of them including the ones implicated with cancer of the Cervix), but she was absolutely right when she wrote that they come and go in quite a mysterious fashion.
Papillomaviruses are quite contagious, and yet some people catch them and others don't. For those who do get them, eventually they will disappear of their own accord and will not need any treatment: mind you this can take a couple of years! I use the analogy of a Stealth Bomber: the virus flies under the radar of the body's immune system and causes a thickening of the base layer of the skin to cause the skin eruption we recognize as a wart - this can take from 2 to 6 months -. Then, for some unknown reason, the virus loses its invisibility and is noticed by the body's immune cells which do their job and destroy it. Hence the reason why people often will say that their wart disappeared over night.
If a wart is thought to be unsightly, then there are various options to removal: although, be warned, they will often return in a nearby location after removal!
First there is the slow, painless errosive method using creams containing corrosive chemicals such as salicilic acid. The key is to persist until a hole has been made in the skin: too many people stop too early and the wart happily returns to its former glory.
Destructive therapy: this can be by electro-cautery, which literally burns them out (under local anaesthetic of course): cryotherapy is another popular alternative when the liquid nitrogen causes a freeze burn to destroy the wart; and laser therapy which vaporizes them.
Topical Immunotherapy is also becoming more popular, but is more expensive and does require prescription medication.
What did Mrs Lavender recommend? She was a great believer in "the juice from the ordinary Dandelion". You had to use it until the wart turned black, and then it was said to drop off. Ah, those were the good old days eh?