top of page

Tom Sawyer and the cure for warts

Warts are frustrating.  It is a common problem that modern medicine has yet to find the ideal solution for.  When this situation exists, alternative medicine can thrive in the gaps. Everyone knows a wives tale to get rid of a pesky wart.  Mark Twain, in his classic Tom Sawyer, highlights some of the most obscure and hilarious.

When Tom first introduces us to Huckleberry Finn, Huck is proudly showing off his latest treasure, a dead cat.  Tom immediately starts a bartering war once Huck declares it’s magical ability to cure warts.  Tom proceeds to enlighten the reader with other remedies for the common wart, including his favorite, spunk-water from a rotten stump.  Of course, for it to perform it’s magical properties, it must be harvested at midnight after reciting the incantationBarley-corn, barley-corn, injun-meal shorts, spunk-water, spunk-waterswaller these warts.  He then goes on to boast of his ability to play frogs without consequence.  Further arguing ensues as alternative treatments are espoused.    A bloody wart should be rubbed with a split bean and buried in the backyard at midnight.  A dead cat should be heaved at a midnight devil in the graveyard.  The optimal treatment is never settled upon.

For those of you unwilling to procure spunk-water, your dermatologist has a number of options to treat warts.  Liquid nitrogen, to freeze off a wart, is one of the most common methods.  While OTC treatment for freezing warts are now available, they only reach temperatures of -100F compared to a temperature of -320F for liquid nitrogen.  Cantharadin, a liquid extracted from beetles, known affectionately as “Beetle Juice” in the office, is a painless option for wart treatment.  The medication is applied in the office and a few hours later a blister forms.  As the blister sloughs off over the next few days, the wart comes off with it.  Particularly frustrating warts can be treated with  injections of bleomycin.  Bleomycin is a chemotherapy agent that kills cells that are growing.  Like cancer cells, the wart virus causes the infected skin cells to grow faster than their neighbors, making them susceptible to being destroyed by the medication.  Topical creams such as imiquimod can recruit the body’s immune system to attack the wart virus.  Immunotherapy involves exposing the skin to a known allergen and tricking the body to attack the wart.

With persistent treatment even the most stubborn wart can be tamed.  Feel free to share with us your favorite wacky wart removal method.



bottom of page