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Toenail fungus infection or onychomycosis is surprisingly common. Anything from walking barefoot around public swimming pools to taking a shower in the gym and getting a pedicure in an unhygienic environment can make you susceptible to it. 

While toenail fungus infection can sometimes be painful, it is usually accompanied by discolouration of the nails. If unchecked, the infected nails can also become thick, textured and may even fall off. 

People living with diabetes, circulatory diseases and immunocompromised patients are more susceptible to it. As are men over 40 years, compared with women and younger males.

Thankfully, there has been a lot of research into this malady and its cure.

  1. Home remedies for toenail fungus
  2. Alternative remedies for toenail fungus
  3. Takeaway
Doctors for Home remedies for toenail fungus

Nature holds the cure for everything. Herbs, spices, natural oil blends are some of the common home remedies which have inherent antifungal properties. Another good thing about home remedies is that they are easy on the pocket and have fewer side effects than store-bought pharmaceutical products. 

Baking soda for toenail fungus

Whether it is to make pancakes, pakoras or cakes, you use baking soda to make them fluffy and tasty. As you know, the uses of baking soda are not limited to the kitchen. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate has several medicinal properties, too. Its antifungal action can help you regain your nail health.

A study to evaluate the antifungal properties of sodium bicarbonate claimed complete eradication of fungus in 79% of the cases and a significant reduction in fungus colonies in the rest of the cases. However, the mechanism of the antifungal action of sodium bicarbonate is little understood, and still the subject of research. 

What you will need:

  • Baking soda 1 tablespoon
  • Water
  • A bowl

Procedure:

  • Put the baking soda and a few drops of water in a clean bowl
  • Mix well until there are no lumps
  • Apply on the fungus-infected toenail
  • Leave it on for at least 10 minutes
  • Wash with cold water
  • Repeat at least twice a day to eradicate fungal growth from the toenail
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Vaporub for toenail fungus

This might sound strange, but studies show that mentholated vaporubs such as Vicks are an effective home remedy for toenail fungus. A study on the efficacy of Vaporub to relieve onychomycosis showed positive results in 835 cases. When applied topically, the active and inactive ingredients in Vaporub like camphor, menthol, thymol and eucalyptus oil act on the fungus. 

This remedy is light on your pocket and there is no documented side effect of vaporub used for onychomycosis. One caveat, though, you need to be patient if you choose vaporub as a remedy for toenail fungal infection as it takes time to take effect.

What you'll need:

  • Vicks / vaporub

Procedure:

  • Take a small amount of vaporub on your finger and apply it on the infected toenail gently
  • Apply at least twice a day to get the best result

Tea tree oil for toenail fungus

Tea tree oil is derived from the tea tree plant. It is an essential oil obtained by the process of steam distillation. Just one drop of tea tree oil is loaded with enormous benefits for skin and body. It has antimicrobial and antifungal properties which hold the ability to clear out the microbial colony completely. 

Generally, tea tree oil is absolutely safe when applied topically but some people with sensitive skin can develop contact dermatitis or an allergic skin rash on the skin after its application.

Caution: Tea tree oil should never be ingested or taken orally, as it may cause confusion and ataxia (loss of muscle coordination).

What you'll need:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Cotton ball

Procedure:

  • Take a clean cotton ball
  • Put a few drops of tea tree oil on the cotton ball
  • Apply it on the infected area, and leave it to be absorbed completely
  • Apply it twice a day for the best results

Vinegar for toenail fungus

Another traditionally used home remedy for getting rid of fungal infections is vinegar. Obtained by a process of fermentation, vinegar is mildly acidic in nature. Though it is widely used as a remedy for onychomycosis, it does not really have a wide-range antifungal activity. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental  Research and Public Health suggests that vinegar is only effective against certain kinds of toenail infections and has negligible to no effect on others.

Most of us have vinegar at home. Try these simple steps to use vinegar, as a supplement to your course of oral medication:

What you'll need?

  • Vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Small tub

Procedure:

  • Fill the tub with two parts warm water and one part vinegar
  • Soak the infected toenails in the solution for up to 20 minutes
  • Repeat this procedure twice daily, until the infection goes away

Garlic for toenail fungus

Another home remedy which is extremely beneficial when it comes to toenail fungus infection is your very own spice, garlic. This pungent smelling spice not only brings flavour to the food but helps in keeping you healthy from the inside. In Fact, the pharmacological properties of garlic are effective in fighting both skin infection and toenail infection. The bioactive constituents of garlic have been proven to have antifungal - specially anti-dermatophytic - properties against toenail fungus, especially Candida parapsilosis. 

However, sometimes its high potency turns out to be harmful to your skin. Putting too much garlic on your nails or for too long can burn and damage the skin. If you want to get the best outcome by using garlic as a remedy, use it in the following way:

What you'll need:

  • A few cloves of garlic 
  • Or garlic oil
  • Cotton ball

Procedure:

  • Take a few cloves of garlic and make a fine paste
  • Apply on the affected area, leave it on for 10 minutes
  • Repeat this procedure daily 
  • You can also use garlic oil to make the process easy
  • Just add a few drops of garlic oil on a cotton ball
  • Apply it on the affected area
  • Let it get absorbed naturally

Apart from conventional home remedies, there few other things which can be used to get rid of toenail fungus once and for all, however, they are not commonly used in general practice as the ingredients might not be easily available to everyone's reach.

Ozonated oil for toenail fungus

Various oils like sunflower oil and olive oil are commercially converted into ozonated oils by exposing them to ozone gas. Normally, ozone is an unstable gas. But when it is passed through the oil in an ozone-resistant container, the unstable gas molecule reacts with the oil and stabilizes. With a longer exposure, the ozone gas changes the oil from liquid state to an off-white paste.

A study carried out on 400 patients with toenail fungus infection found that ozonated oil is more effective than ketoconazole (an anti-fungal drug) when both are applied twice daily to infected toenails. 

What you'll need:

  • Ozonized sunflower oil 
  • Cotton ball

Procedure:

  • Put a few drops of ozonated sunflower oil on the cotton ball
  • Apply it on the infected toenail two times a day, daily
  • Keep applying ozonized sunflower oil until you achieve a healthy, fungus-free toenail

Propolis extract for toenail fungus

Propolis is a resinous compound made by honeybees by mixing their own wax and saliva with plant exudates. Bees produce propolis for their own safety and security. They use this resinous compound to seal their hives so that they can protect themselves from several pathogens. 

This sealing substance contains several pharmacologic properties and is beneficial for human health in many ways. A study performed on 16 patients with written consent to get treated exclusively with topical application of 10% propolis showed positive results after six months of treatment. While 56.25% of patients showed complete resolution of the fungal infection, 31.25% showed partial resolution.  

As per the study, the main bioactive compound in propolis which is responsible for suppressing fungal growth is cinnamic acids, terpenoids and phenolic substances. Another advantage of using propolis in order to resolve toenail fungus is that propolis has very good penetration property through the human skin as well as nails - it can penetrate to about one-third of the nail within 24 hours, a thickness that not even the best antifungal drugs can pass through easily. 

In a nutshell, propolis can be a good alternative home remedy if you are suffering from severe onychomycosis.

What you'll need:

  • 10% propolis extract
  • Cotton ball

Procedure:

  • Take a clean cotton ball and put a small amount of propolis extract on it
  • Apply it on the infection at least two times a day until the healthy nail grows back
  • Toenail fungus infection is extremely common. It affects older males more than women and children
  • It can be painful enough to impact quality of life
  • The resulting discolouration and thickening of the nails can also look unsightly
  • Long exposure to fungi in hot and humid places like common pool areas, gym showers and spas increases your chances of infection
  • More than 80% of toenail infections are caused by dermatophyte fungus and can be treated with antifungal drugs, creams and lacquers
  • Home remedies for toenail fungus include the application of baking soda paste, tea tree oil, Vicks Vaporub, garlic paste, ozonated sunflower oil and propolis extract
Dr Rahul Gam

Dr Rahul Gam

Infectious Disease
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Arun R

Dr. Arun R

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

Infectious Disease
16 Years of Experience

Dr. Anupama Kumar

Dr. Anupama Kumar

Infectious Disease

References

  1. Ravinder Kaur, Bineeta Kashyap, Preena Bhalla. A five-year survey of onychomycosis in New Delhi, India: Epidemiological and laboratory aspects. Indian Journal of Dermatology; Year : 2007, Volume : 52, Issue : 1, Page : 39-42
  2. Letscher-Bru V et al. Antifungal activity of sodium bicarbonate against fungal agents causing superficial infections. Mycopathologia. 2013 Feb;175(1-2):153-8. PMID: 22991095
  3. Snell, Mariea et al. A Novel Treatment for Onychomycosis in People Living With HIV Infection: Vicks VapoRub™ is Effective and Safe. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care: January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1, p 109–113
  4. Richard Derby, Patrick Rohal, Constance Jackson, Anthony Beutler, Cara Olsen. Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis using Over-the-Counter Mentholated Ointment: A Clinical Case Series. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine January 2011, 24 (1) 69-74
  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health [Internet] Bethesda, Maryland; Tea Tree Oil
  6. Carol S. Johnston, Cindy A. Gaas. Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect. MedGenMed. 2006; 8(2): 61. PMID: 16926800
  7. Senthaamarai Rogawansamy et al. An Evaluation of Antifungal Agents for the Treatment of Fungal Contamination in Indoor Air Environments . Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun; 12(6): 6319–6332. PMID: 26042369
  8. Simon Woods-Panzaru et al. An examination of antibacterial and antifungal properties of constituents described in traditional Ulster cures and remedies . Ulster Med J. 2009 Jan; 78(1): 13–15. PMID: 19252724
  9. El Gendy, Sherein G, Seddek , Nermien H, Mohammed, Shereen M. Activity of Some Natural Oils on Dermatophytes Isolated from Assuit University Hospitals. The Egyptian Journal of Medical Microbiology 2016 Vol.25 Issue 2, pp.85-91
  10. Bulent Uysal et al. Ozonated olive oils and the troubles . J Intercult Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Apr-Jun; 3(2): 49–50. PMID: 26401346
  11. S. Mene´ndez et al. Therapeutic efficacy of topical OLEOZON in patients suffering from onychomycosis. Mycoses; 54, e272–e277
  12. Flavia F. Veiga. Propolis Extract for Onychomycosis Topical Treatment: From Bench to Clinic . Front Microbiol. 2018; 9: 779. PMID: 29922236
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