Toenail fungus infections are usually caused by a type of opportunistic fungi called dermatophytes, although molds and yeast can also be responsible for unbecoming thick, brittle, yellowing nails. Your shoes create the perfect environment for fungi to thrive–dark, damp and warm. Decreased circulation to your toes makes it more difficult for your immune system to fight off infection, making toenail fungus a difficult condition to beat, even when conventional medical treatment is used. In a MSN Health & Fitness report, Dr. Robert Shmerling states that treating toenail fungus is “optional,” unless it causes pain or occurs in people with diabetes, who may develop more serious complications. Home remedies for toenail infections take longer to get results, but some might work for you.
Mayo Clinic experts and Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative physician, mention Vicks VapoRub as a home remedy for toenail fungus. Evidence supporting this treatment is strictly anecdotal, says Weil, who suggests that the camphor contained in this product may be the active ingredient that fights fungi. “Some people say it took only a few days to see improvement, others say they used it faithfully twice daily for four to six months before they got results,” he says. He advises those who want to try this home remedy to rub a little bit of Vicks onto the affected toenails twice daily.
There’s no clinical studies to support the effectiveness of vinegar as a specific treatment for toenail fungus, but Mayo Clinic experts note that some studies indicate that vinegar prevents bacteria growth. Make a vinegar foot soak comprised of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts warm water and soak your feet 15 to 20 minutes each day, rinsing and drying your feet well. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you use a more dilute mixture or reduce the frequency of soaks to two to three times a week if your skin becomes irritated.
Tea Tree Oil
Weil gives preference to using tea tree oil to treat toenail fungus. This treatment won’t work quickly, he cautions, as your nail has to grow out for the fungus to be completely eradicated–this can take up to a year. He suggests painting the affected toenails with tea tree oil twice a day for a minimum of two months. You can also use grapefruit seed extract in lieu of tea tree oil. Both of these oils can be purchased at health food markets.
Good Foot Hygiene
To reduce the risk of contracting toenail fungus and prevent recurrent episodes, employ good foot hygiene. Weil advises keeping your feet clean and dry as much as possible. Wear sandals or flip-flops at public pools and other damp public areas, such as showers, saunas and locker rooms. Change your socks, hose or tights every day, and choose synthetic fabrics that draw dampness away from your feet. Finally, when cutting your toenails, clip them straight across so the nail is shorter than your toe tips.
About this Author
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She’s worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.