Wart and Peace — circa 2009

The bump on my finger was a wart. It was a little bump for a long time, then bloomed into full-blown warthood, even showing those little black spots of necrotic blood vessels we called "wart seeds" when we were kids.

It's weird to have a foreign object growing on your body like a barnacle. At least the offending protuberance wasn't on my nose. And it's not like you have to worry anymore about the Inquisition. That used to be a concern since everybody knew you got warts from handling toads, and everybody knew that toads were familiars kept by witches.

When I was a kid, the big kids said you could get rid of warts by rubbing them with a dishcloth and burying it under a full moon. Wart victims (sufferers? patients? survivors?) have always had to listen to a lot of advice.

There used to be a product called Dr. Scholl's Zino-Pads. They were little bandages with a medicated patch designed for corns, I think, but they'd eat warts off fast. Scholl was a real guy, a podiatrist who invented the "Foot Eazer" before he graduated from what's now Loyola University.

He invented the Zino-Pad in 1918. You can buy an unopened pack, vintage 1939, on eBay for $4.99, which is less than the cost of over-the-counter wart medicine today, suggesting they're not that hot as collectables. But they were killer when I was a kid, although that could be a false memory planted by the same witches whose toads conspired to cause my wart.

Anyway, I bought a pack of Scholl's current salisylic acid pads and they didn't do much. No wonder, a friend said. They're a watered-down, politically correct version. Back in the day, Zino-Pads contained the real magilla — rip-roaring, bull-goose, top-secret, anti-wart goo that kicked wartiferous butt in all its unregulated glory, like Coca-Cola when it contained real cocaine, or those alcohol and opium-laced tonics and "blood cleaners" Victorian housewives used to guzzle.

It's paranoid to think the FDA and DEA are out to make sure we don't have really good wart remover, but can you prove they're not? And how do I know you're not part of the conspiracy?

It's been a long road for the wart-challenged. Galen said warts were "unnatural substances, pushed with violence toward the skin by dint of the internal faculties." In Shakespeare's day the wart-afflicted were told to lie on their backs on a path and rub the wart with whatever came to hand after the 20th of the month.

Sir Kenelm Digby (1603—65) wrote that "moon beames" were an infallible cure. The London Pharmacopoeia in 1696 opined that given the "hot and dry" qualities of ants, a "liquor" could be made from ant juice that would do the job. Spider webs were a popular cure. There's a "wart-charming stone" in the museum of the Royal College of General Practitioners in England.

It was held that warts could be transferred by rubbing them against the father of an illegitimate child, or "bought" by reciting the rhyme "Ashen tree, ashen tree/Pray you buy these warts of me" and sticking a pin in the tree and then into your warts. The list of possible causes once included handling hens' eggs and my personal favorite, "immorality."

In the Appalachians you carved a notch in a stick for every wart, then buried the stick. In the Deep South you got rid of a wart by crossing pins over it and hiding the pins where nobody could find them.

More recent tests have found a piece of duct tape will work. Seriously. You can Google this. But rather than pull a piece of duct tape from the sofa, or my car upholstery, or my wife's purse, I got some of those drops you apply with a little squeezey thing, and in a few days the wart peeled off.

Then I read that if you just leave them alone they will disappear. Of course! That explains why all those old nostrums "worked."

The time frame leaves something to be desired, though. The typical time required to become naturally wartless is "six months to three years." Oh well. Maybe next time.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.

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