Q: I’m looking for toenail fungus remedies. Can you help me?
When fungus invades the nails, they become thick, discolored, misshapen or brittle—not a pretty sight. Beyond appearance, onychomycosis, as it’s officially called, may be painful and, in rare cases, cause more serious problems, so it’s important to know about toenail fungus remedies.
I wish I could tell you there’s a quick and easy natural remedy, but there isn’t. Fungal infections, especially in hard, relatively impenetrable nails, rarely go away spontaneously—and they’re notoriously hard to treat. So no matter what therapy you use, you’re going to have to wait until the affected nail grows out for complete resolution—and for your big toenail, that can take a whole year. However, there are toenail fungus remedies that I can almost guarantee will lick the problem, provided you stick with them.
My Top Toenail Fungus Remedy
Of all the natural toenail fungus remedies I know about, this is the one that I have used and recommend the most: Get some DMSO (a sulfur compound) and some SSKI (a saturated solution of potassium iodide), mix equal parts together, and rub on and under the nail a couple of times a day. SSKI has potent antimicrobial activity, and DMSO is a carrier that allows SSKI to penetrate the nail and skin, where it does its magic. The only downside of this duo is that DMSO has a distinctive odor (my wife says flat-out that it stinks), and the iodine in SSKI will likely discolor and stain your nails as well as your sheets, socks, and whatever else it comes in contact with, so be sure to let it dry.
Other Natural Toenail Fungus Remedies
Beyond DMSO and SSKI, tea tree oil is the most popular ingredient in natural products designed to treat toenail fungus. Although some people swear by it, I’ve never seen it actually get rid of this stubborn condition. However, tea tree ointments may improve the appearance of toenails and help prevent recurrences.
Other home remedies include daily soakings in diluted chlorine bleach (1/8 cup in 2 quarts of warm water) or vinegar (1 part vinegar to 2 parts warm water) and covering the nails with Vicks VapoRub, grapefruit seed extract, or thyme oil. I can’t vouch for any of these, but I’ve been told by reliable sources—Health & Healing subscribers—that they work in some cases.
Laser Fungus Away
Lastly, one of the newest toenail fungus remedies is lasers. Lasers work by exploiting the differences in energy absorption and heat conduction between fungi and healthy tissues. Lasers can be programmed to emit specific wavelengths and intensities of light that are selectively absorbed by fungi, producing heat that destroys the pathogens but spares surrounding tissues.
Several lasers have been approved for the treatment of onychomycosis, and it is a promising therapy for this exceptionally obstinate condition. We acquired a high-intensity laser at the clinic because I was impressed by its ability to relieve musculoskeletal pain and promote healing. At our patients’ request, we began using it for toenail fungus, and results are encouraging. Look for clinics that offer laser treatment in your area. Some facilities charge a lot and it’s rarely covered by insurance, so shop around.
As for the usual, more conventional toenail fungus remedies, you can pick up an over-the-counter antifungal ointment, but they don’t work well for toenail fungus.
Topical prescription medications are stronger but also have a spotty track record. Oral antifungals such as terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox) are more effective, but they’re expensive, heavy-duty drugs with liver toxicity that have to be taken for months—and they’re no sure cure.
That’s why many people just live with this condition. It may not be pretty, but it rarely causes problems. (Exceptions include diabetes and chronic circulatory problems involving the lower extremities. If you have one of these conditions, you really need to stay on top of this and other foot problems, as they may lead to deeper infections and increased risk of amputation.)
For strictly cosmetic concerns, these drugs are not, in my opinion, worth the risk. On the other hand, my wife and daughters tell me it can be embarrassing, even devastating for some women, so let’s leave it at this: Do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and make your own decision on which of these toenail fungus remedies are best for you.