Genital Warts, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
by Susun Weed
“I am the Grandmother of all growth, all growing things, all life. I am the grandmother of bacteria and viruses as well as plants and animals, fish and insects. When you throb with life these other lives live with you. When your life force ebbs, they live on you, growing grotesque without the check of your immunity."
“Do you feel proud of your sexuality my child? Your immune system thrives on true pride; and fails when subjected to blame and shame, guilt and mortification. Walk tall; smile often; be flexible, let life fill you, and you will have little to fear from most viruses you meet.”
“… for women who exhibit the earliest signs of HPV infection, the best prescription may be no treatment at all,” according to Karyn Herndon at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. “Three out of four women in the observation-only group lost their flat warts - a finding that suggests that the body’s immune system can drive the virus into a dormant state.” Women treated with laser removal of cervical warts were twice as likely as untreated women to have precancerous and cancerous changes occur in the following years.
Having an HPV infection is “like having the sniffles,” says Anna-Barbara Moscicki, MD. “It’s an infection your body can usually handle … and get rid of.” In a study of 600 sexually active women aged 13 to 21, half became infected with HPV over a 10 year period; 70% of those women did not develop lesions or warts at all, and only 10% of those who did have lesions were diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Many of the papilloma viruses are non-contagious, but some - especially those that give rise to plantar warts and genital warts (HPV) - are not only contagious, but widespread and stealthy. They are resilient enough to live outside the body. Shed skin cells containing the viruses can remain infectious for several days in warm, moist places. And symptomless people can pass HPV to others. Some of the viruses that cause genital warts are benign; others can give rise to deadly cancers.
Of the 20 types of HPV which colonize the genital area, four are known to initiate cervical cancer, a usually slow-growing cancer which is currently responsible for the deaths of more women in Africa, Asia, and India (where Pap smears are not routine) than any other cancer. Several HPV are implicated in penile and rectal cancer as well. HPV is the most common STD in the USA and Europe, with more than six million new cases a year in the USA. At least 50%, and probably closer to 100% of all non-vaccinated sexually-active people will be infected over their lifetime. During a three-year study, 40% of a group of female college students acquired HPV infections. Fortunately, only a small percentage of HPV infections generate cancer, and we can do much to insure we aren’t in that small percent.
Once infected with human papilloma virus, you are infected for life. There is no known cure and no medically-approved treatment. The best strategy is to nourish the immune system.
Homeopathic Thuja is a “ground remedy” for the genitals, and is especially indicated when there are genital warts. Higher dilutions, such as 30C, are best.
While there is no food that prevents or cures HPV infections, the likelihood of warts or cancer is determined by the immune system - which can be nourished and strengthened with whole grains, well-cooked greens, roots, cabbage family plants, olive oil, organic dairy products and meats, onions, garlic, seaweed, mushrooms, and nourishing herbal infusions of astragalus, burdock, and nettle.
St. Joan’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a natural antiviral. One of its alkaloids, pseudo-hypericin, kills HIV. But ingesting it in concentrated form causes hypersensitivity to sunlight, making it useless as a drug. Fortunately, the tincture of the fresh plant - even in large, frequent doses - counters viruses without triggering sensitivity. Avoid capsules or teas; they can cause sensitivity. When I feel the need to prevent a viral infection, I use one dropperful of Hypericum tincture in a little water three or four times a day for a few days. When I want to treat viral infections, I use one or two dropperfuls in water every hour or two until symptoms abate, and continue at a lower dose until I no longer need it.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) are mint family plants with antiviral constituents which are especially effective as salves.
Celandine (Celadonium majus) juice is the most effective way I know to remove external genital warts. It is safe, painless, and easy to use if you live where evergreen celandine grows - in Europe, in North America, from Nova Scotia to Georgia and west to Missouri, throughout Europe, and in waste places in temperate-zone cities. The fresh sap from leaf stalks or the root works fastest, and best, but topical applications of tincture are somewhat effective, too.
American mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum) is the acknowledged queen of external genital wart destruction. This poisonous plant is used in a concentrated form - Podophyllin - as a topical treatment. Although plant-based, Podophyllin can cause severe side-effects, including burns that scar, fatal reactions, and birth defects or fetal death if used during pregnancy. To prevent damage to healthy tissues, all skin except for the warts must be thoroughly covered with petroleum jelly before it is applied, and the Podophyllin must be wiped off before it penetrates too deeply, usually within one to four hours. Weekly treatments over six or more weeks are the norm. A less concentrated, and thus safer form - Podofilox - is available by prescription for use at home. (But trichloroacetic acid is safer, and celandine is more fun.)
Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is the “tree of life.” Thuja is primarily a homeopathic remedy, but thuja tincture or essential oil applied twice a day to genital warts can “burn” them off.
Trichloroacetic acid is as effective as Podophyllin in removing warts, but less likely to leave scars or provoke severe systemic reactions, and is considered safe to use during pregnancy. It is applied in the doctor’s office, usually weekly for six weeks.
Colposcopy is a close examination of the cervix with magnifying binoculars after it has been bathed with acetic acid (vinegar), which turns HPV-infected tissues bright white. You do not have to agree to a biopsy if you agree to a colposcopy; testing for HPV-DNA is better in many ways. If you do agree, biopsy forceps will be used to “chomp” out pieces of cervical tissue for microscopic examination by a pathologist.
Testing cervical cells for the presence of DNA from cancer-causing HPV is “just as effective as a biopsy of cervical tissue, with less expense,” according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. Screening every woman over 20 every two years with an HPV-DNA test would reduce the number of cervical biopsies by 60%, they conclude. A woman who tests negative for HPV, as 45% of women will, does not need a colposcopy. If the test if positive for HPV, there’s still only a 10-20% chance that she will require treatment.
“It is not known how many women who have had expensive [and painful] laser surgery or … cryosurgery are informed beforehand that the treatment is purely cosmetic and has a high recurrence rate.” 
Before you agree to any procedure, remember that removal of infected tissue does not remove the virus, which remains ready to recur when the immune system is at an ebb. Surgery doesn’t cure HPV, and because it is a major stress to the immune system, it can increase the chances that a given lesion will progress to cancer.
“Regardless of treatment, one in four HPV-infected people will have a recurrence within three months.” 
1. “The cervical dilemma: Some warts may be better left untreated,” Kathy A. Fackelmann, Science News, 139: 362‑3, June 8, 1991
2. “HPV doesn’t have to spell cancer,” Christie Aschwanden, Health, Jan/Feb 2002
4. “Contagion: A sometimes lethal sexual epidemic that condoms can’t stop,” Jerome Groopman, New Yorker, September 13, 1999
5. “Contagion,” Jerome Groopman, New Yorker, 1999
6. “FDA licenses new vaccine …,” FDA news release, June 2006
7. “Contagion,” Jerome Groopman, New Yorker, 1999
8. Natural Healing in Gynecology, Rina Nissim, Pandora, 1984 (p. 43)
9. Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1998
10. “Adding an HPV,” Cornell Uni. Women’s Health Advisor, July 2002
11. “One Way to Avoid Unnecessary Testing After Ambiguous Pap Results,” HealthFacts, May 2001
12. “Screening for Cervical Cancer,” HealthFacts, XV (136), Sept 1990
13. PDR Family Guide to Women’s Health, Medical Economics, 1994
Susun S. Weed is the voice of the Wise Woman tradition, where healing is nourishing. She is known internationally as an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. For more than thirty years she has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations, restoring herbs as women's common medicine, and empowering women to care for themselves.