How to Treat Nail Fungus Naturally

Nail fungus is a widespread condition which can affect anyone. The disease affects both toenails and fingernails. It starts small, as either white or yellow spots under the tips of your nails. Then the fungus begins to spread further and can cause your nails to lose color, thicken, and even crack and crumble at the edges. [1]

The condition can affect several nails at once. However, if the symptoms are mild, you won’t need any treatment. But if you start feeling pain or see your nails thickening beyond comfort, you will want to try out some treatments. 

On the downside, nail fungus is notoriously difficult to treat because of several reasons, including:

  • the slow growth of toenails
  • nail thickness
  • the difficulty of penetration of medicinal drugs through the nail to reach the fungus
  • the survival of fungi in footwear for long periods
  • and lack of blood supply directly to the nails causing lack of immune function in the nails.

Nail fungus can be a very long-lasting condition, especially in the absence of effective treatment. One study showed that the average disease duration was almost 18 years [2]

A complete cure can be achieved in 18 months in 75% of patients following persistent medicinal treatment. However, this often comes with a price tag of toxicity from the drug leading to many side effects. [3] [4]. 

There is also a very high recurrence rate, with relapse occurring in up to 53% of patients [5] due to the presence of residual fungal spores.

In this article, I will suggest several natural treatments that have been proven to help heal from nail fungus.  If followed persistently over a sustained period, these potent compounds will slowly kill the fungus until it disappears with time.

Causes and Prevention

Before we start with the treatment recommendations, you should learn about the origins of nail fungus and how to prevent it from occurring.

Nail fungus is more prevalent among older people, and several types of fungi can cause it. It usually appears when you have cracks in your nails, reduced blood circulation such as with diabetes, or because of a weaker immune system. Furthermore, you’re at higher risk of developing nail fungus if you have had athlete’s foot or a similar condition that affects the nails. 

The best way to avoid nail fungus is to take good care of your nails and their hygiene. Also, take care of your footwear. Ensure your shoes are dry and clean and avoid prolonged exposure to damp and dirty environments such sweaty shoes or going without socks in closed shoes for prolonged periods.

Natural Remedies for Nail Fungus

An unlikely home remedy for nail fungus was found in oregano oil. More specifically, it contains an ingredient called thymol, which was found to contain antibacterial and antifungal attributes. All you need to do is use a cotton swab to apply the oil to the infected area two times daily for 6 months. You may even drip one drop directly between the nail and the skin twice a day for two months. [6]

A study from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine has found that Vicks VapoRub can be used to treat nail fungus. The product is a topical ointment used for cough suppression, but two of its ingredients, (namely eucalyptus oil and camphor), have shown to have positive effects in treating nail fungus. These active ingredients can be used on their own in the same way oregano oil is used. [7]

According to a review from 2012, olive leaf extract has shown to affect the nail fungi. You can either ingest it in its capsule form or apply it as a salve directly. The substance responsible for the positive effect is oleuropein. It appears to have antimicrobial, antifungal, and immune-boosting properties. [8]

Another study showed the benefits of tea tree oil in battling the nail fungus. The study found that tea tree oil was just as effective as the antifungal medication Clotrimazole. [9] 

Snakeroot extract is another potent antifungal. It’s made from plants from the sunflower family. The extract was shown to be as effective against toenail fungus as the prescription medicine ciclopirox. [10]

You can also try soaking legs in apple cider vinegar once a day for two months, as vinegar is known to have strong antifungal properties. You will also want to change your diet to ensure you are eating healthy foods. A healthy and regulated diet will boost your immune system and help keep the fungi under control.

You may wish to try several of these remedies, and hopefully find the one that will help solve the problem. But be sure to persist with any of theses treatments for the treatment period recommended before switching to a new therapy.

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References:

  • [1] Daniel III CR, Elewski BE. The Diagnosis of Nail Fungus Infection Revisited. Arch Dermatol. 2000;136(9):1162–1164. doi:10.1001/archderm.136.9.1162
  • [2] Szepietowski J.C., Reich A., Garlowska E., Kulig M., Baran E. Factors influencing coexistence of toenail onychomycosis with tinea pedis and other dermatomycoses: A survey of 2761 patients. Arch. Dermatol. 2006;142:1279–1284. doi: 10.1001/archderm.142.10.1279.
  • [3] Scher R.K., Baran R. Onychomycosis in clinical practice: Factors contributing to recurrence. Br. J. Dermatol. 2003;149:5–9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.149.s65.5.x. 
  • [4] Gupta A.K., Daigle D., Carviel J.L. The role of biofilms in onychomycosis. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2016;74:1241–1246. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.01.008. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
  • [5] Tosti A., Elewski B.E. Onychomycosis: Practical approaches to minimize relapse and recurrence. Skin Appendage Disord. 2016;2:83–87. doi: 10.1159/000448056.
  • [6] Anna Marchese, Ilkay Erdogan Orhan, Maria Daglia, Ramona Barbieri, Arianna Di Lorenzo, Seyed Fazel Nabavi, Olga Gortzi, Morteza Izadi, Seyed Mohammad Nabavi. Antibacterial and antifungal activities of thymol: A brief review of the literature. Food Chemistry, Volume 210, 2016, Pages 402-414, ISSN 0308-8146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.04.111.
  • [7] Richard Derby, Patrick Rohal, Constance Jackson, Anthony Beutler and Cara Olsen. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine January 2011, 24 (1) 69-74; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2011.01.100124
  • [8] Dr. Bharat Parashar, Virendra Yadav, Brajesh Maurya, Love Sharma. Natural Therapy of Fungal Nail Disease: Review. Vol. 1 No. 4 2012. Online Available at www.thepharmajournal.com
  • [9] Buck D.S., Nidorf D.M., Addino J.G. Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole. J. Fam. Pract. 1994;38:601–605.
  • [10] Romero-Cerecero O, Zamilpa A, Jiménez-Ferrer JE, Rojas-Bribiesca G, Román-Ramos R, 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 Med. 2008 Oct;74(12):1430-5. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1081338. Epub 2008 Jul 31.