Zinc is an essential mineral needed for the growth and repair of healthy skin. It plays a key role in immune function, is required for a whole host of enzymatic processes, and has even been found to help reduce diaper rash and acne. What’s more, getting enough zinc can help prevent warts!
In one review of clinical trials, people with cutaneous warts who supplemented with zinc had an almost 17-fold improvement in symptom resolution compared to controls who didn’t take zinc (Simonart & de Maertelaer, 2012). Zinc has even been seen to fare better than cimetidine (Tagamet) for relieving warts in children and adults when taken at a dose of 10 mg/kg/day for a three month period (Stefani et al., 2009).
Such high doses of zinc are not normally advisable and could lead to copper deficiency if taken long term. Anyone considering the use of zinc supplementation to prevent warts should talk to their health care practitioner for advice, especially as the development of warts may indicate a wider issue with immune system dysfunction.
According to the Food and Nutrition Board’s nutritional guidelines (2002), adequate intake of zinc for infants aged 0-6 months is mg/day, and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc is as follows:
- Infants and children:
- 7 months to 3 years – 3 mg/day
- 4 to 8 years – 5 mg/day
- 9 to 13 years – 8 mg/day
- girls 14 to 18 years – 9 mg/day
- Boys and men age 14 and older – 11 mg/day
- Women 19 and older – 8 mg/day
- Pregnant women 14 to 18 – 13 mg/day
- Pregnant women 19 and older – 11 mg/day
- Lactating women 14 to 18 – 14 mg/day
- Lactating women 19 and older – 12 mg/day.
Zinc is needed for the body to produce collagen and keratin, the two major proteins that make up the skin, hair and nails. By improving the synthesis of these tissues, zinc helps the body to maintain an effective barrier to invading organisms, including the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that causes common warts.
HPV and Warts
When HPV gets into the skin, typically through a small scratch or scrape, it adversely affects the growth of the outer layer of skin cells, leading to the build up of cells that create warts. Unfortunately, the virus that causes warts can be easily transferred to other areas of skin, as well as to other people, via touch and through exposure to bathmats, towels, and other items. Anyone who has a wart or warts can reduce the risk of spreading the virus by making sure to wash their hands regularly, especially after touching a wart. And, to prevent warts spreading, take care when shaving, as the virus can be transferred to the razor and then back to other areas of skin.
How to Get Rid of Warts
In order to prevent warts developing from a ‘mother wart’, it is important to address a wart as soon as it appears. This may mean talking to your health care practitioner, such as a dermatologist, to have the wart frozen or otherwise removed. At-home treatments for warts can also help, including salicylic acid plasters and solutions, followed by the use of a dedicated pumice stone or other exfoliator to remove the layers of dead skin after treating a wart. Topical application of tea tree oil, a natural antimicrobial agent, may also help get rid of a wart.
How to Prevent Warts
It is also a good idea to take a look at diet and lifestyle factors that may be affecting immunity, and to do what you can to support immune function further. This may mean eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and other plant foods that are low on the Glycaemic Index (and therefore less likely to trigger inflammation and compromised immunity). Taking supplemental probiotics may also help, as can supplements that ensure an adequate daily intake of nutrients essential for skin health, including vitamin C, zinc, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin A and/or beta-carotene, and vitamin E.
Staying hydrated is also important for skin health, and this can help reduce skin dryness and cracking which leave the skin vulnerable to infection. Vitamin E and omega 3 are other important nutrients in this regard, alongside zinc. Topical creams that include vitamins E, A, and also vitamin D may be helpful in modulating immune function, maintaining an effective skin barrier, and enhancing skin moisture to minimise the risk of infection and help control cell growth to reduce the appearance of warts.
Millar BC, Moore JE. (2008). Successful topical treatment of hand warts in a paediatric patient with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). Complement Ther Clin Pract, Nov;14(4):225-7. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18940708
Simonart T, & de Maertelaer V. (2012). Systemic treatments for cutaneous warts: a systematic review. J Dermatolog Treat, Feb;23(1):72-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21054194
Stefani M, Bottino G, Fontenelle E, Azulay DR. (2009). Efficacy comparison between cimetidine and zinc sulphate in the treatment of multiple and recalcitrant warts. An Bras Dermatol, Jan-Feb;84(1):23-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19377755