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An infection on your toenails can be bothersome and embarrassing. Unfortunately, conventional treatments, which—various liquids, lacquers, or other topical or oral medicines—often take a long time to work, are not always effective, and may cost a pretty penny. In fact, it seems that even the most effective antifungal medicines have a cure rate of only around 30 to 50 percent.[1,2] But that’s no reason to get discouraged. There are home remedies for toenail fungus that may help you.
What Is Toenail Fungus?
Nail infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungi, including yeasts and molds. It usually begins with something small, like a white or yellow spot under the nail. Gradually, this spreads deeper into the nail, causing discoloration, thickening, and crumbling of the nail. It may become painful as the infection worsens. The medical names for toenail fungus include onychomycosis and tinea unguium.
Now that you understand the problem, let’s get into our six home remedies for toenail fungus.
6 Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
To effectively treat a toenail infection, you will need to use antifungal agents. But these don’t have to be prescription or made out of potentially harmful chemicals; a variety of herbs, oils, and other natural substances have antifungal properties of their own.
1. Baking soda.
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda actually has significant antifungal effects. Laboratory studies show that baking soda is effective against many fungal species that are commonly involved in toenail fungus. In fact, it inhibited the growth of 80 percent of fungal isolates tested in one study. Try making a paste out of water and baking soda and spreading it on your nails. Alternatively, add some baking soda to a bucket of water and do a daily foot soak.
2. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a very useful essential oil. Not only can it can be used to treat conditions ranging from dandruff to athlete’s foot, but it’s among the best home remedies for toenail fungus. This essential oil has significant antifungal effects, along with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Nanocapsules of tea tree oil suppress the growth of rubrum, one of the more common fungi-causing toenail infections. One study found that 100 percent tea tree oil applied twice-daily for six months was as effective as clotrimazole, an antifungal medication. After six months, 60 percent of the people in the tea tree oil group experienced partial or full resolution of symptoms. Rub tea tree essential oil directly on the affected area twice daily until symptoms subside.
3. Ozonized sunflower oil.
By reacting ozone (O3) with sunflower oil, you can produce ozonized sunflower oil, which contains compounds with significant medicinal effects. In one study using a product called Oleozon, participants experienced some remarkable improvements with topical application of the ozonized sunflower oil twice per day; 90.5 percent were cured of their toenail fungus completely. In the control group using ketoconazole (an over the counter medicated cream), only 13.5 percent were cured. A year later, the Oleozon group had only a 2.8 percent relapse rate, while 44.4 percent of the control group had relapsed. Rub a small amount of this oil onto your toes twice daily to treat toenail fungus.
4. Olive leaf extract.
Olive leaves contain many beneficial compounds, including phenolic compounds. Extract from the leaves of olive plants have been shown to have significant antibacterial and antifungal effects, making it a useful tool for fighting toenail fungus.[7,8] Look for the liquid form, and use a small amount to cover your infected toenails multiple times per day.
5. Coconut oil.
Many people use coconut oil to treat toenail fungus. This oil has health-promoting effects ranging from protecting your hearing to preventing memory loss. Additionally, coconut oil is a powerful antifungal agent. To help treat your toenail fungus, melt a small amount of coconut oil on your fingertips (it is solid at room temperature) and apply directly to your toes.
6. Snakeroot extract.
The last of our home remedies for toenail fungus is the plant Ageratina pichinchensis. Commonly known as snakeroot, it’s known to be highly effective at fighting toenail fungus. In a study on 96 people, a snakeroot formulation was effective in 71.1 percent of the cases. Look for snakeroot extract itself, or natural toenail fungus formulations that use Ageratina in the ingredients list.
If you try any of these natural treatments and your nail or nails become more discolored, thickened, or deformed, see your doctor. If you have diabetes, see your doctor before trying to treat this condition on your own.
MORE HOME REMEDIES FOR TOENAIL FUNGUS
How about Vick’s VapoRub as a remedy for toenail fungus? And how about vinegar? Aliza Lifschitz, MD, wrote about those in a post shared by our friends at Vida y Salud. Click here to read.
Experts recommend that if you’re fighting a toenail infection, your should keep your toenails trimmed and thin if possible. This may relieve some pain by reducing pressure, and it will allow the topical products to penetrate into the nail itself when you apply them. Scraping the top of your nail may also help your remedies to work better, as they will be able to get deeper into the layers of your toenails.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
- Ingrown Toenail? When to Treat It at Home and When to See Your Doctor
- Have Nail Conditions Evaluated and Treated by a Dermatologist
- The Dangers of Tooth Infection
This article was originally published in 2018. It is regularly updated.
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