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Corns are darkened areas of the skin, which are usually found on the soles of the feet. They mostly occur where pressure or friction from shoes is at a maximum, such as on the heels, underneath the toes and at the sides of the little toes. (Occasionally’ corns appear on the hands, usually the knuckles or other areas that have been subjected to pressure).

Corns are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the same virus that can cause verrucas or warts in the genital area, face, eyelids and armpits. On the feet HPV triggers the growth of skin cells, which start as a central stalk and grow like a cauliflower through the epidermis (the virus is, in fact, a benign tumour).

The stalk of the corn lies deep in the live dermis of the skin, and is in contact with blood vessels and nerve ending. So external pressure on the corn, usually due to walking in tight shoes, can cause excruciating pain.
Traditional chiropodists in India used to go from village to village calling out to customers to get their corns removed and fungal toenails treated. Using sharp, tapered goat horns with a hole in the tip, they sucked out the heads of the corns bit by bit. These bits were collected and counted, then you paid per corn head. This ancient skill is sadly now dying out.

Today corns are treated with a variety of preparations. Some are caustic agents that are applied topically and eat into the skin layer. These “keracolytic” products are only able to destroy the actual growth, so if the roots are intact the corn will mushroom again. (They do, however, also tend to destroy surrounding skin, so are now used infrequently.)

Similarly, surgical or laser treatment destroys what can be seen, but the HPV may continue to thrive and create more trouble, especially if the pressure on the affected area continues. Other preparations do have antiviral properties and can suppress further growth by keeping the viral activity under control.

The reason your pain is continuing is almost certainly because the stalk was not completely removed and has grown again. Treating corns is not, as you know from your painful experience, straightforward.

In your case, I suggest that you consider: Marigold Therapy

  • Originally created by Dr M Taufic Khan. This involves using a species of marigold containing chemicals with antiviral properties. A paste made from the marigold is bandaged around the corn and left for several days. The paste eats into the stalk of the corn, and destroy the virus. Fresh dressings are applied until the corn vanishes. Marigold oil is then applied to the healed area for a period of time to ensure that no further viral activity takes place. You will also receive advice on shoe and learn foot massage and exercise that help ease the pressure on the affected area.
  • Marigold therapy is available at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital (tel 020 7391 8833; for NHS treatment you will need a referral from your GP). The marigold clinic provides an integrated approach to foot care, cornbining topical plant-based marigold therapy with podiatry and homoeopathic medicine. Unfortunately, you may have to go on waiting list, as the therapy, is so successful that the clinic gets very booked up. (Dr Tariq Khan, deputy director of the marigold clinic at the RLHH, is also a consultant at the Integrated Medical Centre.)
  • There is a private marigold clinic in Dagenham, East London (tel: +44 (0)20 8201 1188), where you can also get a contact list for private marigold therapy practitioners nationwide.
    In the meantime, you could start with homoeopath. A good homoeopath will give you constitutional treatments to help in general, as well as specific treatments for the condition.
    I have also hard good reports of Spieza Organics Calendula Ointment. Dr Mariano Spiezia, a medical homoeopath who has formulated the range, says that applying this cream on a Poultice overnight for up to a week should help,(to order visit

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