HPV and Herbal Treatment
By Joshua Muscat

HPV stands for 'human papillomavirus', and is the virus responsible for causing genital warts. It is said that 15% of the adult population in the United States is infected with HPV (some believe that 40% is a more accurate figure). Also it is estimated that there are one million new cases of HPV in the United States every year. HPV is most usually detected in women, but it has been shown that up to 85% of the male partners of women diagnosed with HPV test positive for the virus. In either gender a person can carry the virus for years without ever knowing they are infected because there is no sensation of discomfort (usually, unless there are warts around the anus), and visually the infected tissue does not look very different unless examined carefully. Up to 80% of all cervical cancer in women has been shown to occur in association with HPV (specifically HPV 16. HPV 18, and HPV 31, there are over 60 strains of the virus). There has been no definitive answer to the question of whether or not HPV can be a causative factor in cervical cancer, but the strong association gives reason for concern.

The virus is generally spread from person to person with tissue to tissue contact (most usually sexual contact) necessary for transfer. Women usually have the warts appear on the vulva, vagina, and cervix. Men most commonly have warts near the entrance to the urethra, on the shaft of the penis, and under the foreskin. Both genders can have warts on the tissue surrounding the anus. Risk factors include multiple sexual partners, HIV infected people, and lack of the use of condoms or a diaphragm with sexual activity. It is important to note that use of barrier contraceptives (condoms and diaphragm) is not an absolute protection from contracting HPV as the virus may be infecting tissues that are not protected.

Diagnosis is most common in women due to the fact that warning signs can be found in a pap smear, which many women receive regularly. If a pap smear shows unusual cellular activity, then further testing is done. A colposcopy is often performed and is a procedure on which cervical tissue is painted using a vinegar solution in order to sharpen the contrast between normal and abnormal cellular activity and then viewed using a 10-20% magnification. A stain is then applied to the tissue, and a portion of tissue that does not take the stain (due to the nature of the abnormal tissue) is removed (biopsy) in order to view the tissue under a microscope for further assessment. Men usually receive diagnosis because they seek out testing based on the fact that their sexual partner (if their partner is a female) had been tested positive for HPV. In other cases either sex may become diagnosed after seeking help due to rectal itching, but this is less likely because the itching is not severe and may be put of as being insignificant.

Medical treatment of genital warts is usually painful, invasive, and generally traumatic. The most common methods are cauterization (burning off) and cryosurgery (freezing off). The hope is that by causing local tissue inflammation that the body will be stimulated to mount an antibody response and thereby prevent recurrence. Alternately there is the CO2 laser method of removal. This is a more exact method that causes less tissue damage, but a large visible wart is necessary for it to be employed. Other times if the infected tissue is large enough it may simply be cut off. There are also topical medications (podophyllin, bichloroacetic acid, and trichloroacetic acid) which are applied weekly until the warts go away. Usually a burning sensation is felt. In any case it has been shown that treatment or not the recurrence level is the same. Following treatment of any type pap smears should be done every three months for two years at which point if normal they you may resume a yearly examination schedule.

I have seen many cases of genital warts that have been successful addressed using herbal applications. The basis of treatment has been the use of one of the two species of western red cedar (Thuja plicata or Thuja occidentalis). No conclusive research has been conducted to show exactly how it is that Thuja is working, but I theorize based on the research that there is that it is stimulating CD4 T-cells. CD4 T-cells are heavily invested in scavenging viri-infected cells. I think that most likely Thuja accomplishes what the cauterization and cryosurgery attempt to achieve (stimulus to the antibody recognition of the HPV infection) without any of the tissue damage, discomfort, and general distress. Using Thuja for this purpose however does requrie a bit of work on the user end. If indeed Thuja is working via immune stimulus, then it is possible that it may make recurrence less likely due to immune memory and thus the bodies ability to fend off the virus through future recognition and early response.

There are two important factors when using Thuja as a medicine for genital warts. The first is consistency. A person who wants to use Thuja to get rid of genital warts needs to be consistent. They may need to apply the herbs three times a day for several months (usually I have seen marked improvement within a month or two). The second important factor is getting the correct form of the medicine, and furthermore a quality preparation (this is especially important with essential oil which I will address later).

Two preparations of Thuja are needed for women. The first is a fresh plant tincture of Thuja leaves. This is a preparation where freshly picked Leaves are soaked in a bath of 200 proof alcohol at a ratio of one part herb by weight to two parts alcohol by volume. When shopping for such a preparation just tell the person at the herb store or health food store that you need fresh Thuja tincture 1:2. They will know what you are talking about. The tea is not an acceptable alternative. 30 drops of the tincture should be combined in a cup with just enough water to be soaked up by a tampon (experiment with the water in order to get the right amount). Get a tampon with a plastic applicator and place it in the cup until it sucks up all the water. At this point insert the tampon. You may wish to change the tampon two or three times a day depending on what you feel comfortable with.

Also you will want to get some Thuja essential oil. It is important to note that if used improperly, Thuja essential oil can be a harmful substance (damaging the nervous system and kidneys). If used as directed however, it is perfectly safe. One other problem with essential oils in general is that most of what is on the market is very poor quality. Many manufactures cut their essential oils with other ingredients to stretch their profits. This is fine if you are making scented candles, but it becomes a problem if you want to use an essential oil as medicine. The only company that I know has quality products is Original Swiss Aromatics (I am sure there are others, but I do not know what they are). In any case inquire about the source of the oil before you buy it, and as a rule of thumb essential oils that are real are also expensive (I would expect $10-$15 for 15ml). Once the oil has been procured then fill a one-ounce bottle with olive oil and add 20-30 drops of essential oil. Apply this mixture onto the outer effected areas three times a day. Continue treatment for two to three weeks after all signs of the warts are gone and pap smears have returned to normal.

For men only the olive oil and essential oil mix is necessary. Apply the mix three times a day onto the entire penis (and scrotum if necessary). Continue for two to three weeks after all signs of infection have cleared up. Some people choose to continue treatment for a couple weeks at a time periodically to ward off possible recurrence. I am not sure if this helps or not.

In either men or women I always recommend that they have their sexual partner/partners treated also whether or not they show signs of infection. In any case I have never seen a case of genital warts that was not helped by this approach.

I generally recommend that a constitutional herbal formula be used in conjunction with the Thuja. It is not absolutely necessary to do this in order for the therapy to work, but it makes good sense to me to strengthen a person in any way I can when trying to help them overcome an infection. Such formulas are highly individualized and the process that goes into the selection of herbs is too immense a subject for the scope of this dissertation. If you wish to use a constitutional herbal formula then I recommend seeking the guidance of an herbalist in your area.

If you have further questions about the info presented hers please feel free to contact me.