Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the primary pathogen that causes common warts to manifest on the hands, feet and sex organs of both men and women. HPV can be transmitted through sexual contact and some varieties have been linked to cervical cancer in women. Although there is no recognized cure for HPV, garlic is a natural remedy that displays antiviral properties and might reduce virulence. Genital warts can have life-threatening consequences, so consultation with a health professional is recommended before starting any new treatments.
HPV is one of more than 50 varieties of virus that can lead to the formation of warts on human skin, but it is considered the most common and potentially the most dangerous, as cited in the "Professional Guide to Diseases." The National Cancer Institute states that HPV genital infection is the most commonly transmitted sexual disease and recognized as a significant cause of cervical cancer, which claims the lives of more than 4,000 American females each year. Warts of the hands, feet and genitals can cause itching and burning sensations, in addition to having an unseemly appearance. Antiviral drugs, vaccinations and surgery are common treatment options for HPV infections, although some people prefer natural remedies such as garlic.
Garlic as an Antiviral
Garlic has been consumed as food and medicine for thousands of years and was recognized by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates as an effective cure-all and blood purifier. In recent times, it was discovered that garlic's strong antimicrobial properties are due to the compound allicin, which can kill a variety of pathogens, including viruses, as cited in "Human Biochemistry and Disease." Allicin can kill a broad spectrum of viruses, including HPV, although unlike many antiviral medication and antibiotics, it doesn't destroy the beneficial bacteria colonies within the intestines. Other compounds in garlic stimulate functions in the liver and large intestine, which promotes a general detoxification in the body, which is beneficial during any infection.
Combating Warts with Garlic
Raw, crushed garlic cloves or fresh garlic oil can be applied directly to warts of the hands, feet or genitals for the best results. Fresh garlic can cause stinging and temporary skin irritation, but it does not harm the epithelial cells. According to "Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices of Herbal Medicine," common recommendations include applying the garlic three times daily for at least a week, or until the wart starts to shrivel and dry out. Although perhaps more time-consuming, garlic cloves can be eaten or garlic capsules can be taken orally, which allows allicin to enter the bloodstream and act as a systemic antiviral. Odorless garlic capsules are commonly available for those who object to the smell of garlic.
Other Natural Remedies
In addition to garlic, other herbal remedies have antiviral properties and are used to fight HPV infection. The most common remedies include echinacea, goldenseal root, chaparral leaf, olive leaf extract, thuja leaf oil, tea tree oil and astragalus, as cited in "The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine."