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The Folklore of Warts

The Folklore of Warts

What do warts have to do with your mind?
What alternative therapies are used today to treat warts?
What are some old superstitions for getting rid of warts?

Got an ugly wart? No problem! All you need is a raw potato . . . or a copper penny . . . or a banana peel . . . or maybe your grandmother's best dishrag.

The fact is that all of these items—and many more—have been used over the years as folk remedies to cure warts. And the funny thing is . . . they've all been known to work. How is that possible? Nobody knows. Your grandmother may have called it "the power of positive thinking." Today it's more often referred to as the mind–body connection. back to top

What do warts have to do with your mind?
There's no easy answer to that. One thing that is known is that your skin has a lot of nerve endings, which act as channels to your brain. It's also clear that many skin disorders—including acne and rashes—are affected by changes in your mental state, such as mood swings or stress. For some reason, warts seem to be the skin disorder most likely to respond to remedies involving your mind. Wacky or not, superstitious practices have long been known to make warts vanish, as long as the person using them truly believes they will work. Another factor to remember, of course, is that most warts will eventually go away on their own. back to top

What alternative therapies are used today to treat warts?
Studies have shown that one effective way to treat warts may be hypnotherapy. A typical hypnotherapy treatment would start with your getting very relaxed and entering what's called a "trance," a state in which your mind is very open to suggestion. Then your hypnotherapist may have you imagine traveling inside your body to the roots of your offending growths. You'll be told to cut these roots off from nourishment by your body—by painting them with gooey blue glue, covering them with a plastic cap, or whatever your imagination dictates. Once that suggestion is planted in your mind, you'll be told to forget about it. Many people have gotten rid of warts this way, believe it or not. back to top

What are some old superstitions for getting rid of warts?
There are countless folk remedies for warts (and somebody to stand behind each and every one of them). Here are just a few:
  • The bacon cure. Two days after the full moon, take a piece of bacon, rub it on your wart, and then bury the bacon. This same technique is said to work with half a raw potato or nine grains of corn.
  • The dishrag cure. Take your grandmother's favorite dishrag, rub it on your wart, and hide the dishrag somewhere your grandmother will never find it. You may get rid of your wart this way, but your grandmother won't be too happy.
  • The penny cure. Rub 20 copper pennies on your wart and then give the coins away to someone who needs them. Obviously, this is a very old remedy!
  • The pebbles cure. Rub your wart with pebbles, put the pebbles in a bag, and toss the bag over your left shoulder. Make sure nobody is standing behind you.
  • The written-wish cure. Write a wish on a piece of paper, carry it to the intersection of two streets, then tear up the paper and scatter it to the four winds. Let's hope you don't get arrested for littering.
Now here are some variations on wart removal that require giving the warts away to somebody else. Not nice!
  • The beans-in-a-bag cure. Put as many beans in a paper bag as you have warts, and place the bag at the intersection of two streets. The next person to pick up the bag will get your warts.
  • Have somebody count your warts. Your warts may go away, but, unfortunately, the person who counted the growths will get them.
  • And finally, for the wickedest wart-removal strategy of all, here's a technique that Huckleberry Finn swore by in Mark Twain's book Tom Sawyer: Take a dead cat to a graveyard where someone wicked has been buried, wait until midnight for the devil to come, then heave your cat at the devil while saying, "Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow, cat, I'm done with ye!"
Hmmm. On the other hand, maybe you'd rather live with your warts for a while. Just don't go touching any more frogs! back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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