Treating HPV symptoms with natural remedies, includes Q and A with leading natural health experts.
Learn about managing HPV symptoms with natural remedies.
Illustration by the Mother Earth Living staff
When treating HPV symptoms use a soothing sitz bath with natural remedies, including calendula, witch hazel and oak bark.
Read more about how to treat type 2 diabetes naturally: Managing Type 2 Diabetes with Natural Remedies.
I was recently diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, which I
attained through the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus
(HPV). I will be having surgery next month to remove the growth
from my cervix. However, my doctor has advised me that there is no
cure for HPV, and that I will more than likely have recurrences
where I’ll need to repeat the surgery. I was wondering if there are
any herbs or supplements to help ensure that the virus becomes
Brooklyn, New York
Stansbury responds: There are more than 60 types of HPV; some infect the skin, causing common warts, and around one-third of the HPV types may be spread sexually and cause venereal warts. Some types of HPV may infect the cervix and be associated with an increased risk of reproductive cancer. Because of this, HPV is best treated aggressively and followed with frequent Pap smears to check for possible recurrences.
The propensity to develop cervical dysplasia from such viruses may be more likely in women who smoke or whose diets are low in B vitamins or antioxidant nutrients, which easily are added to the diet. A further risk appears to occur in those with multiple sexual partners. I advise checking vaginal pH, taking probiotics (such as acidophilus and lactobacillus) and treating any other obvious pathogens, such as yeast.
Do you frequently have other viruses, such as sore throats, frequent colds or flus? If so, supporting your immune system with astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), American ginseng or garlic also may be helpful. Is the HPV associated with any vaginal discharge, frequent itching, bladder problems or history of abnormal Pap smears? If so, a problem with the health of the genitourinary membranes may be involved, and using sitz baths with calendula (Calendula officinalis), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and oak bark (Quercus spp.), plus reducing sugar intake and improving the diet, can help.
If constipation, hemorrhoids, uterine fibroids or menstrual problems accompany, the pelvic tissues and blood vessels may be “stagnant” or congested and supportive to viruses in the local mucous membranes. If so, exercise to support your circulation, and consider blood-moving herbs, such as dong quai (Angelica sinensis), or liver herbs, such as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Oregon grape.
In addition to the B and antioxidant vitamins mentioned above, vitamin C, zinc and lysine are among the common nutrients noted to have antiviral activity and deter the recurrence of chronic viruses. Optimizing your diet and supplementing with these nutrients may help prevent a recurrence.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) preparations also have been shown to possess antiviral activity. Licorice is widely used in herbal medicine—its actions are numerous and diverse, including anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing and hormonal balancing. Make licorice tea by boiling 1 teaspoon of the shredded root per cup of water for 5 to 10 minutes; strain and drink.
Willard responds: A lot of people are coming to the clinic with this issue lately. The first, and one of the most important things to note about HPV, is that you are not alone. HPV is very common and many people have contracted this virus. There are more cases of genital HPV infection than any other sexually transmitted disease in the United States. At least 20 million people in this country are already infected. This is not to make light of HPV. Finding and treating tissue infected with this virus can prevent cervical cancer.
HPV causes two kinds of abnormal tissue: condyloma (warts) and dysplasia (precancer). In your case it’s dysplasia—abnormal cells on the surface of the skin. Dysplasia is not cancer, but may turn into cancer over a period of years if it’s not treated. Treatment gets rid of dysplasia so that the tissue cannot turn into cancer. Most HPV infections do not progress to cervical cancer. Abnormal cervical cells can be detected by a Pap test and regular pelvic exams; therefore, it’s very important to get regular examinations.
One of the most important lifestyle choices with dysplasia is to abstain from smoking, as smoking has been linked to an increased risk of dysplasia turning cancerous.
Once HPV has been diagnosed, one of the first steps is to remove or reduce the warts and dysplasia. It looks like you already have a plan for this. But as stated by your doctor, this is not a cure. Most authorities agree you cannot rid the body of the virus and thus the recurrence of the associated warts may occur in the future. If they do return, there are several alternatives to surgery. Medically, freezing (cryosurgery), burning (electrocautery) and laser treatment have all been used to remove smaller warts.
Medical and naturopathic doctors often apply a 20 percent podophyllin solution or podofilox (0.5 percent solution) to the affected areas. If you are pregnant, you should not use podophyllin or podofilox.
Orally, you can try homeopathic thuja (30 x strength) to reduce the warts. Add to this immune-building herbs—such as echinacea, astragalus, and shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms—and vitamin C (1 to 3 grams), beta-carotene (25,000 to 100,000 I.U.), folic acid (1 to 10 grams) and zinc (30 to 50 mg).
The lifestyle changes that should be employed to help prevent warts/dysplasia from recurring are similar to any healthy immune program. Eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates, excessive red meats and processed foods from the diet.
Most dietary studies have found that women consuming high amounts of nutrients from fruits and vegetables have less risk of cervical dysplasia. Protective effects may be especially strong from diets high in dark yellow/orange vegetables (carrots, winter squash, etc.) and tomatoes. High blood levels of folate (the food form of folic acid) have been linked to protection against the development of cervical dysplasia.
Jill Stansbury has been a naturopathic physician for more than 12 years, with a private practice in Battleground, Washington. She is the chair of the Botanical Medicine Department at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and the author of many books, including Herbs for Health and Healing (Publication International, 1997).
Terry Willard is a clinical herbalist, president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners and founder of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of eight books and a CD-ROM, Interactive Herbal.
Please send your questions to Herbs for Health “Q & A,” 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; fax (785) 274-4305; or e-mail us at letters@herbs forhealth.com. Provide your name and full address for verification, although both will be kept confidential.
The information offered in “Q & A” is not intended to be a substitute for advice from your health-care provider.
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