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Garlic not recommended as treatment for warts

Could a cure for warts be found in your kitchen pantry? That’s the claim made in a Facebook post which suggests using garlic to treat the common ailment.

“Cut a small piece place on top of wart then cover with a plaster, leave for as long as you can then remove,” the post advises. 

Africa Check spoke to medical experts to see if there was any truth to the claim. 


What are warts? 

Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, family. The virus causes extra cells to grow, which results in small, noncancerous growths on the skin. They can appear anywhere on the body, from the hands and feet to the genital area. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, a US non-profit medical centre, warts are transmitted by touch. “Most common warts go away without treatment, though it may take a year or two and new ones may develop nearby,” says the clinic. 

Do home remedies work? 

Prof Martin Potgieter researches medicinal plants and is the manager at the Science Education Centre at the University of Limpopo in northern South Africa. He advised people to see a doctor if they had concerns about warts. 

“Home remedy treatments do not cure the underlying cause, thus do not prevent future infection. Visiting a doctor will assist in determining any underlying cause.” 

Dr Melusi Dhlamini, a medical doctor and director of clinical services at  Marie Stopes South Africa, told Africa Check that garlic is not recommended as a first-line treatment for warts.

There are a number of ways to treat warts, either with medications or by removing them surgically. There are a number of small scale studies that have been conducted to study garlic as treatment for warts. The studies showed some beneficial effects but they have not been convincing enough to include garlic as an option to treat warts.”

There are also risks associated with using garlic to treat genital warts.

“The risk of the garlic getting into the male or female urinary tract is just too great. And for women it could upset the normal bacterial balance in the vagina,” warned Potgieter. 

Should you remove warts at home? 

Both experts advised against trying to remove warts at home. 

“It is not safe to remove warts at home. Tampering with a wart by cutting it off at home creates micro tears in the skin which may spread the virus to other areas of the body,” said Dhlamini. “Removal of warts should only be done by a trained professional.”

He recommended covering the wart with a plaster to prevent the virus spreading and then seeking medical attention. 

Treatment can take weeks or months. Options include freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen, laser treatment or minor surgery.

“Doctors generally start with the least painful methods, especially when treating young children,” says the Mayo Clinic.

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