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Warts? Self-hypnosis works to will them away

Got a weird wart? If home remedies like acid or duct tape aren't working to annihilate it, try self-hypnosis. It's not as crazy as you think.

Though hypnosis has suffered mightily in popular culture (really, no guy with a pocket watch can make you dance like a chicken, unless you really want to) some doctors have found the mind-body technique helpful for treating problems like insomnia, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and, yes, warts. Though these ugly skin growths caused by the human papilloma virus generally respond to conventional approaches (and some may go away with no intervention, but it can take months, even years), recurrence is common.

Kids are wart magnets and some of the treatments can be traumatic for them, says Karen Olness, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. In a multi-institutional study of wart regression using hypnosis, published more than a decade ago in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Olness and colleagues found that kids who were treated with a standard topical remedy and kids who were treated using self-hypnosis techniques experienced equal amounts of wart regression. But after one year, kids in the hypnosis group who continued to use self-hypnosis techniques experienced fewer recurrences.

"We don't know why it works but we think it may have something to do with an ability to control blood flow. If the wart isn't getting nutrients, it's going to go away," says Olness, who begins teaching self-hypnosis by asking kids to name some things they enjoy. Once they're relaxed, she asks them to think of ways to "stop feeding" the wart.

Though most of us experience a trance-like state akin to self hypnosis when we're engrossed in a TV show or reading a good book, the deeply focused state of hypnosis can only be achieved if a person practices.

"People need a coach to help teach techniques, but then it's really up to them to take it the rest of the way," says Olness, who has had success in helping adults with warts, including a skeptical colleague who suffered with recurrent plantar warts. "At the end of the day, all hypnosis is self hypnosis."

Would willing away your warts actually work? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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