Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, which is sexually transmitted. As a virus, there is no existing cure for genital warts. There are traditional treatments for removing genital warts when you have an outbreak, however. These include freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen and surgical removal. Some anecdotal reports indicate that homemade solutions of vinegar can alleviate warts as well, but there is no scientific data to support these claims and their efficacy is questionable.
Though there is little evidence to back up vinegar as a potential treatment for genital warts, even seemingly credible sources have been known to support the remedy. For example, registered nurse Bonnie McMillen of the University of Pittsburgh states that she successfully treated an outbreak of plantar warts on her feet by soaking them every night in a vinegar solution for five to six weeks. After soaking her feet, McMillen rubbed away the surface of the warts with a clean towel until all of the warts subsided. This treatment, however, is unlikely to work for genital warts and is impractical as well.
The primary active ingredient in all vinegars is acetic acid. Some research studies have shown that acetic acid is an effective remedy for genital warts, and it may be from these trials that word of home remedies with vinegar spread. One such trial appeared in the “Journal Reproductive Medicine” in 2003. Thirty patients participated in the surgical removal and cauterizing of their genital warts with a 99 percent acetic acid solution. Of those subjects, 26 had their genital warts subside after the treatment. Though these results are significant, the efficacy of surgery and highly-dangerous acidic solutions do not necessarily translate into a safe and effective home remedy.
The reason vinegar is likely ineffective for the remedy of genital warts is that it is simply far too weak to be effective. University of Wisconsin chemistry professor Bassam Shakhashiri states that even though table vinegar has a seemingly strong odor and flavor from its acetic acid content, most vinegars only have between 4 percent and 8 percent concentration of acid.
In nations that lack the resources for diagnosing genital warts, vinegar has been shown to be an effective, cost-saving method for this purpose. In Zimbabwe, trained midwives applied vinegar to nearly 11,000 women screened for genital warts. The acetic acid in the vinegar causes the warts to lighten in color, thus aiding detection. Of the patients in the trial, 77 percent with genital warts were effectively diagnosed with the acetic acid.
- University of Mississippi; Men's Health -- Human Papilloma Virus; July 2007
- University of Pittsburgh; Vinegar -- An Ancient Medicine and Popular Home Remedy; Bonnie K. McMillen, R.N., B.S.N.; 1998
- "Journal of Reproductive Medicine"; Treatment of Large Lower Genital Tract Condylomata Acuminata with Local Excision Plus Topical Acetic Acid; A. E. Conzuelo-Quijada, et al.; July 2003
- University of Wisconsin; Chemical of the Week -- Acetic Acid & Acetic Anhydride; Bassam Shakhashiri; January 2008
- "Lancet"; Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid for Cervical-Cancer Screening -- Test Qualities in a Primary-Care Setting; March 1999
- "Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology"; In Vivo Detection of Human Papilloma Virus-Induced Lesions of Anogenital Area after Application of Acetic Acid -- A Novel and Accurate Approach to a Trivial Method; I. M. Stefanaki, et al.; December 2001