Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis) can give you discolored, thickened, and misshapen nails. These infections are caused by various kinds of fungi that invade your nail through cracks in the nail or a cut in the skin near it. But if the thought of unsightly feet is embarrassing you, there are various ways of treating this condition.
Your doctor may recommend antifungal tablets, antifungal nail paints which are applied topically to deal with infections, or laser treatment (where light is used to eliminate the fungus). Nail softening kits which remove the infected parts of your nail can also be useful. In some cases, complete removal of the nail may also be advised.1 However, if you’re wary of expensive treatments or of taking strong medication with possible side effects, you may want to try a few home remedies to deal with your infected toenail.
1. Ozonized Sunflower Oil
Dab some ozonized sunflower oil on the affected nail twice a day to get rid of that nasty fungal infection for good.
Ozonized sunflower oil is basically oil through which ozone has been bubbled for a while. According to research, ozonized sunflower oil has exceptional germicidal properties. One large study found that when people with a fungal nail infection were treated with it topically for a period of 3 months, 90.5% were cured, while the remaining showed an improvement in their condition. Even more remarkably, only 2.8% of those treated with ozonized sunflower oil had a relapse after 1 year, while 44.4% of the control group which was treated with an antifungal cream had a relapse during this period.2
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil contains bioactive components like terpinen-4-ol, linalool, alpha-terpineol, alpha-pinene, 1,8-cineole, and beta-pinene which have fungicidal properties.3 This can make it effective in treating fungal nail infections.
Use a cotton swab to apply tea tree oil to the infected toenail twice a day.
One study which compared the effect of tea tree (100%) to the antifungal medicine clotrimazole (1%) found that when either was applied twice a day for 6 months the results were comparable. Around 60% of the participants from both groups showed improvements or resolution of the infection.4
3. Snakeroot Extract
Apply snakeroot extract to the affected nail once in 3 days for a month. You can reduce the treatment to twice a week in the second month and once a week thereafter.
Snakeroot plant has been traditionally used in Mexico to treat fungal skin infections. It may also help clear up that infection on your toenail. The antifungal effects of snakeroot are attributed to the presence of a compound known as encecalin. According to a study, the topical application of snakeroot extract encecalin for 6 months resulted in therapeutic success in about 55% of the participants.5
4. Pau d’Arco Tea
Make a Pau d’Arco infusion by steeping 6 tea bags in around 4 liters of boiling water. When it cools down to a comfortable temperature, soak your feet in it for about 15 minutes. Do this twice a day.
Pau d’Arco tea is made from the inner bark of a tree native to South America and has been traditionally used by the people of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina for its medicinal properties. Naphthoquinones (beta-lapachone and lapachol) present in it have antifungal effects.6 Some reports suggest that soaking your toenails in an infusion of Pau d’Arco can clear toenail infections.7
5. Oregano Oil
Mix 2 drops oregano oil with 1 teaspoon olive oil and apply it to your nail daily. But do take care not to use it for longer than 3 weeks. Take a break for a couple of weeks if you want to continue.
Oregano oil contains thymol and carvacrol, both of which have strong antifungal effects. And it is commonly used topically to treat fungal nail infections. But do remember to do a patch test before you use it as some people have an allergic reaction to this essential oil.8
Soak your foot in a solution made with 2 cups vinegar and 4 cups warm water for around 20 minutes daily to get rid of that fungal infection. Rinse off your feet and dry them thoroughly afterward.
Vinegar or acetic acid is known for its antifungal activity probably due to its acidic nature. It is commonly used to treat fungal nail infections and many people find it to be effective.9 Even apple cider vinegar works.
Crush some fresh garlic cloves and apply them to the affected area for around 30 minutes. Dusting your feet with garlic powder should also work.
Another remedy for your infected toenail might just be sitting on your kitchen counter! Garlic has traditionally been used for its antifungal properties and studies show that ajoene, an organic trisulfur derived from garlic, is effective against fungi that can affect your toenails.10 11
A Consistent Approach Is Important
Do remember, whatever the mode of treatment, fungal nail infections are notoriously hard to treat. Topical treatments, in particular, have a hard time penetrating the hard nail to reach the area where the infection resides.12 In fact, according to some estimates, the infection is prone to return. So you have to be consistent in your approach and use the remedy regularly. Also, be patient as it might take about a year for a new healthy nail to grow after the infection is cured.13
It’s also a good idea to do your best to prevent a fungal infection from taking hold.
How To Prevent Toenail Fungus?
Here are a few tips to help keep your toenails free from infection.
- Take care to keep your feet dry and clean.
- Wear shoes and socks made of natural materials which will let your feet breathe and won’t make them sweaty.
- Keep your nails clipped short. If a toenail is infected, make sure you use a separate nail clipper for it so that the infection doesn’t spread to your other nails.
- Don’t go barefoot in public showers, pools, or locker rooms or share towels, nail clippers, or socks with other people. This will help you avoid potential exposure to fungal growth.
- If you get athlete’s foot, a fungal skin infection of the foot, get immediate treatment so that the infection doesn’t spread to your toenails.
- Your footwear could be a source of infection, especially if you’ve had a fungal infection in your feet or toenails, so think about replacing them.14
When Should You Go To The Doctor?
Check in with a doctor if your toes become reddened, are filled with pus, or are painful. Also, remember that a fungal infection in your nails can lead to complications if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, so it’s best to seek medical advice.
|↑1||Fungal nail infection. National Health Service.|
|↑2||Menéndez, Silvia, Leopoldina Falcón, and Yordana Maqueira. “Therapeutic efficacy of topical OLEOZON® in patients suffering from onychomycosis.” Mycoses 54, no. 5 (2011).|
|↑3||Hammer, KA 1., C. F. Carson, and T. V. Riley. “Antifungal activity of the components of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil.” Journal of Applied Microbiology 95, no. 4 (2003): 853-860.|
|↑4||Buck, David S. “Comparison of Two Topical Preparations for the Treatment of Onychomycosis: Melaleuca altemiﬁlia (Tea Tree) Oil and Clotrimazole.” The Journal of family practice 38, no. 6 (1994).|
|↑5||Romero-Cerecero, Ofelia, Alejandro Zamilpa, Jesús Enrique Jiménez-Ferrer, Gabriela Rojas-Bribiesca, Rubén Román-Ramos, and Jaime Tortoriello. “Double-blind clinical trial for evaluating the effectiveness and tolerability of Ageratina pichinchensis extract on patients with mild to moderate onychomycosis. A comparative study with ciclopirox.” Planta medica 74, no. 12 (2008): 1430-1435.|
|↑6||Pau d’arco. University of Maryland.|
|↑7, ↑8||Graedon, Joe, and Teresa Graedon. Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy: What You Need to Know Before Your Next Visit to the Doctor Or Drugstore. Rodale, 2006.|
|↑9||Green, Joey. Joey Green’s Magic Health Remedies: 1,363 Quick-and-easy Cures Using Brand-name Products. Rodale, 2013.|
|↑10||Ledezma, E., L. De Sousa, A. Jorquera, J. Sanchez, A. Lander, E. Rodriguez, M. K. Jain, and R. Apitz‐Castro. “Efficacy of ajoene, an organosulphur derived from garlic, in the short‐term therapy of tinea pedis.” Mycoses 39, no. 9‐10 (1996): 393-395.|
|↑11||Parashar, Bharat, Virendra Yadav, Brajesh Maurya, and Love Sharma. “Natural therapy of fungal nail disease: review.” The Pharma Innovation 1, no. 4 (2012).|
|↑12||Shirwaikar, A. A., T. Thomas, A. Shirwaikar, R. Lobo, and K. S. Prabhu. “Treatment of onychomycosis: an update.” Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences 70, no. 6 (2008): 710.|
|↑13||Fungal nail infection. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑14||Treatments for a fungal nail infection. National Institutes of Health.|