Frogs, bacon, and stolen dishrags, oh my! For every common human ailment, there seems to be a hundred rumors floating around about how to fix it. Before modern medicine, “old wives tales” were passed through communities offering solutions for everything from aching bones to stubbed toes.
What are Warts?
When a common wart appears, it’s because a strain of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, has entered your body through a cut or abrasion. Once the HPV gets into the skin, it causes the cells to reproduce very quickly, building up into the benign growth known as a “wart.” They typically occur on the hands, as the virus is easily passed from touching objects.
You can encounter these kinds of viruses anywhere, from a handshake to a doorknob. There are more than 3 million reported US cases per year. Most people will experience a wart in their lifetimes, but some are more prone to them than others, such as children and those with a weakened immune system. They are not able to fight the virus as well as a healthy adult.
Warts were a common subject of these local legends, as they seemed to appear out of nowhere on even the healthiest of people. Because little was known about the nature of pathology and the human body, people had to create their own stories about why warts happened and what had to be done to get rid of them.
One popular theory was that children who played with toads could “catch a bump” from the creature. Another was that they were caused by touching water that had been used to boil eggs.
Today, we know the real story, but you may still hear some of the lore passed around from time to time.
Home Wart Removal Myths
One old wives tale says that you should rub your wart with a piece of bacon, tie the bacon up with string, and then bury it where no one can find it. Unfortunately, all this will do is make you smell like breakfast and leave you open to infection if the bacteria from the meat isn’t washed away.
If you love the outdoors, you’ll love this wart cure. Go fishing until you catch a small fish. Rub the fish on the wart, and then set it free. The fish will catch your wart and pass it on to the next person who catches it.
At the Crossroads
At midnight, head over to your local crossroads, draw a big “X” on the ground, and spit in the middle of the X for good measure. Doing so would cause your wart to disappear.
Revenge: A Dish Best Served with Warts
A lot of wart mythology came from transferring the nasty bump to a friend or neighbor. This one says that you should take seven kernels of corn, then rub each one on your wart. Take the corn over to the neighbor and feed it to his chickens. The next morning, your warts will have transferred to him.
A Sticky Situation
Another large portion of wart cures are based in “suffocating it.” Warts were once thought to have “roots” that sprouted deep into the skin and made it difficult for the growth to go away. Covering the wart in duct tape, potato slices, bananas, or nail polish would stop air from getting to the roots, essentially cutting off the supply of nutrients the wart needed to thrive.
Today, we know that warts don’t have roots and that covering them with things you can find in your cabinets is just going to make a mess.
A Real Cure for Warts
Most warts will go away on their own as your body’s immune system kicks in to fight the virus. If the warts are spreading, interfere with everyday activities, or are simply unsightly, your dermatologist can help you get rid of them.
Methods include blistering the wart with cantharidin, laser treatments, cryotherapy to freeze the wart, or burning and scraping the wart away.
Talking with your dermatologist about your options is the fastest and safest way to get rid of warts. Other home remedies and methods can exacerbate the condition, leading to more warts or infection.