You may be able to treat toenail fungus at home with certain essential oils and other products with antimicrobial and antifungal properties, like Vicks VapoRub.
Toenail fungus, also called onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection of the toenail. The most noticeable symptom is a white, brown, or yellow discoloration of one or more of the toenails. It may spread and cause the nails to thicken or crack.
Sandal season or not, toenail fungus typically isn’t what you want to see when you look at your feet. There are many treatments you can try, and some of them can be natural.
Prescription oral antifungals, such as terbinafine (Lamisil) or fluconazole (Diflucan), are traditionally used to treat toenail fungus. These treatments are often effective but may cause serious side effects such as upset stomach, dizziness, severe skin problems, and jaundice.
This may be why many people try home remedies instead. Here are 10 of these at-home treatments.
1. Vicks VapoRub
Vicks VapoRub is a topical ointment. Although designed for cough suppression, its active ingredients (camphor and eucalyptus oil) may help treat toenail fungus.
To use, apply a small amount of Vicks VapoRub to the affected area at least once a day.
2. Snakeroot extract
Snakeroot (Ageratina pichinchensis) extract is an antifungal made from plants in the sunflower family.
An older 2008 study showed that the remedy is effective against toenail fungus as the antifungal medication ciclopirox.
For the study, snakeroot extract was applied to the affected area every third day for the first month, twice a week for the second month, and once a week for the third month.
3. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil, also called melaleuca, is an essential oil with antifungal and antiseptic abilities.
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Paint the tea tree oil directly onto the affected nail twice daily with a cotton swab.
4. Oregano oil
Oregano oil contains thymol. According to a 2016 review, thymol has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
To treat toenail fungus, apply oregano oil to the affected nail twice daily with a cotton swab. Some people use oregano oil and tea tree oil together.
Both products are potent and may cause irritation or allergic reactions. Combining them may increase this risk.
5. Ozonized oils
Ozonized oils are oils like olive oil and sunflower oil that are “injected” with ozone gas.
6. Listerine mouthwash
Listerine mouthwash can help treat toenail fungus because it contains menthol, thymol, and eucalyptus, which have antibacterial and antifungal properties. This may be why it’s a popular folk remedy for toenail fungus.
Supporters of the treatment recommend soaking the affected foot in a basin of amber-colored Listerine for 30 minutes daily.
You may treat toenail fungus with garlic by placing chopped or crushed garlic cloves on the affected area for 30 minutes daily.
It may be better, and less smelly, to treat it from the inside out with garlic capsules. Take as directed by the manufacturer.
8. Apple cider vinegar
Only anecdotal evidence exists supporting vinegar as a treatment for toenail fungus. There is one 2017 study on apple cider vinegar suggesting it has antimicrobial properties. That said, more research is needed on its actual effect on toenail fungus.
If you want to give vinegar a try, soak the affected foot in one part vinegar to two parts warm water for up to 20 minutes daily.
10. Other natural options
The are a few other plant-based remedies that may be effective in treating toenail fungus, according to research. These include:
In most cases, toenail fungus is considered a cosmetic problem. Still, it may cause serious complications for some people.
You shouldn’t use home remedies for toenail fungus if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system. Contact your doctor for the appropriate course of action.
What kills toenail fungus the fastest?
If you want to get rid of a toenail fungus quickly, the best thing to do is to see a doctor for prescription medication such as fluconazole (Diflucan).
Natural remedies may be able to relieve your symptoms, but there isn’t certainty that they will work, and even if they do, it will likely take longer.
Home remedies may be more effective than prescription medications in treating mild-to-moderate toenail fungus. Although home remedies typically have fewer side effects, there’s less scientific evidence that they work.
Many factors come into play when treating toenail fungus, such as nail penetrability, infection severity, and overall health.
Home remedies may take longer to wipe out toenail fungus than topical prescription medications or oral systemic antifungals. You may not see results for several months. Reinfection is common.
Once the infection is gone, keep your toenails dry, clean, and well-trimmed.
Severe cases of toenail fungus may cause pain and irreversible toenail damage. If you try home remedies to treat the infection that doesn’t work or causes side effects, consult your doctor.