Toenail Fungus Home Remedies
Fungal infection of the toenail is also known as Onychomycosis. Between 5 and 10% of adults will experience toenail fungus at some point in their lives.
My goal in writing this article is familiarize people with simple home remedies that can be used to treat this common condition. Between school, work, and caring for family members, many of us don't have the time to visit the doctor in our regular schedules. Fortunately, it's very easy to treat toenail fungus using items from your own kitchen or bathroom.
This article is based on my own experiences with toenail fungus as well as the experiences of family and friends. I have personally tried five out of the six remedies on this list and found them to be effective.
Signs and Symptoms
According to leading health websites such as WebMD and MayoClinic, a toenail with fungus is much thicker and often yellowish in colour. It can also be brown, black, or green. As the infection weakens the nail, it typically begins to crack or chips off in large pieces.
The skin around the toenail is not always infected, but the entire toe can become swollen or inflamed in extreme cases of fungus.
Men are more susceptible to toenail fungus than women, and doctors suspect that nail weakness may be partially hereditary. To positively diagnose toenail fungus, doctors will microscopically examine a sample of nail clippings to determine whether an infection is present.
WebMD suggests that prescription creams and gels may be helpful in treating toenail fungus. There are also simple things you can do to prevent the problem in the first place. If you frequently suffer from toenail fungus, try your best to avoid:
- wearing warm footwear
- wearing shoes that don't fit properly
- walking barefoot in public areas, where germs are present
- WebMD, "Fungal Nail Infections-Topic Overview," http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/fungal-nail-infections-topic-overview#1
- MayoClinic, "Nail Fungus-Basics," http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nail-fungus/basics/definition/con-20019319
I have tried most of these home treatments and found them to be effective. Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure you prepare your toenail properly before applying any product.
Before You Begin
1) Push back the skin from around the infected toenail so that the product can be fully absorbed.
2) Use a nail file or a small pair of scissors to gently scrape away any dead skin and push the cuticles back.
3) Cut back any excess nail so that the infected nail bed is as exposed as possible.
4) Use a foot bath to clean the toe, then dry your foot well. This will help keep the infection from spreading.
Note: While your toe is healing, I've found it's best to wear loose socks or walk around barefoot whenever possible. This ensures the infected toe is getting enough air, which will speed up the healing process.
Home Remedy #1: Apple Cider Vinegar
I have found apple cider vinegar to be a very effective remedy for toenail fungus. The vinegar is made from fermented organic apples and has a variety of medicinal applications.
During a bout of fungus, I applied the vinegar liberally to the affected area every night for two weeks. The vinegar stung a bit as it was applied but otherwise I found the procedure painless. By the end of the first week, I noticed a significant reduction in the surface area of the fungus. I also drank about a teaspoon of vinegar mixed in warm water every morning before breakfast, which helped speed up the healing process.
Important: If you try this remedy, make sure you use vinegar that contains the "mother," a murky brown substance that sits at the bottom of the vinegar bottle. The mother is the most nutrient-rich part of the vinegar and contains living enzymes. Regular apple cider vinegar is clear with a reddish tint and is ineffective on toenail fungus.
Home Remedy #2: Salt
In my personal experience, salt is another effective remedy for toenail fungus. Epsom salt in particular is great because it naturally removes toxins from your body. This product is available at most grocery stores (usually in a white jug or carton) and is also sold in bulk form at many dry goods stores.
When I was suffering from toenail fungus, I regularly took baths in Epsom salt. All I needed to do was add two handfuls to my bath and soak for 15 to 20 minutes. This softened the skin around the fungus and within a few weeks, the fungus itself began to disappear.
Important: Use a towel to gently pat your toe dry after a bath. Rubbing too vigorously with a towel could cause the infection to get worse.
Home Remedy #3: Honey
It's common knowledge that honey cures sore throats. But did you know it's also a natural antibiotic?
I've used honey to treat skin wounds and infections before, including toenail fungus. Honey is effective because it contains hydrogen peroxide, which helps kill bacteria and can even heal burns. As an antifungal, honey treats toenail fungus by drawing toxins out of the foot.
The best way to use honey is to apply a small spoonful to your toenail and then wrap the affected area with gauze. This method can get messy, but it really works. After only a week of using honey on my toenail, I began to see noticeable results.
Home Remedy #4: Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a very popular essential oil that is pressed from the tree Melaleuca alternifolia.
The oil has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It is commonly used as a medicinal remedy for burns, cuts, viruses, infections, and even acne.
Tea tree oil also happens to be a powerful antifungal agent. I've used tea tree oil to cure skin infections, including toenail fungus, by adding a few drops to a cotton swab and gently dabbing it on the affected area. It's best to do this in the evening so that the oil has time to work on the skin as you sleep.
Home Remedy #5: Mouthwash
Believe it or not, but you may have the key to curing toenail fungus for good right in your bathroom.
Most conventional mouthwashes, like Listerine, have antiseptic or antibacterial properties that help fight bad breath, kill bacteria, and stop the buildup of plaque.
This is another remedy I've tried with great success. All I did was add a few tablespoons of mouthwash to a basin full of water and soaked my feet for about 20 minutes. You can repeat this process two or three times a week for as long as it takes the fungus to resolve.
Home Remedy #6: Vicks VapoRub
Vicks VapoRub is a conventional cold medication that is sold in most drugstores. I have not personally tried it as a remedy for toenail fungus but know family members who found it very effective.
The best way to use VapoRub is to apply it to the toenail before bed. You can repeat this process each night for 1-2 weeks. Most of my family members who tried this remedy saw an improvement in the color and texture of the toenail within a few days.