Being a podiatrist I can tell you that I have heard them all and then some. Everyone has their preferred method of fighting nail fungus at home, and they swear by it. First, let's look at the three most common home remedies I'm asked about, and then why I don't recommend them for my patients.
- Tea Tree/Orange/Olive Tree/Lavender/Oregano Essential Oil
I know what you're thinking; those are not just one remedy! I understand this concern, but for the purposes of our discussion I'm going to go ahead and lump them all together. Why? Well, because they all work the same way. These essential oils (and a few others) all have anti-fungal properties. So, of course, you would suspect they would be ideal in fighting toenail fungus. While this line of thinking is not incorrect, it will be very rare to see any improvement with this method.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (with or without baking soda)
This is a common favorite perhaps because you will find this solution in many households. It is readily available, inexpensive, and does offer some health benefits. This remedy calls for either soaking the feet in a diluted solution (usually twice daily) or creating a paste from the vinegar and baking soda and applying it to the effected nails. Aside from your feet smelling like coleslaw, this method has little effect, and can be messy and time consuming.
- Coconut Oil
In recent years we've seen a rise in the popularity of coconut oil. Whether it is for hormonal balance, improved digestion, cellulite reduction or just moisturizing the skin, coconut oil has become the "go to" for dozens of home remedies. But for toenail fungus, it's just as effective as the other two home remedies in this article.
Why don't these home remedies work?
Toenail fungus does not just live on top of your nails. It also lives underneath the toenail and in the area that known as the nail matrix. If you'll notice in the diagram, the nail matrix is underneath your skin. While all these solutions do fine at keeping surface fungus to a minimum, they never get to the root of the problem. PENETRATION of the toenail is the key and why most topical or soaks fail. Penetration is of critical importance when treating toenail fungus due to fungus living in and underneath the toenail. It is time we talk about other solutions.
- Have a toenail unit sample/biopsy done. There can be many causes of funky looking toenails including: psoriasis, trauma, melanoma(cancer), fungus, long term toenail polish use, poor circulation, other systemic diseases. Know if your funky looking toenail is actually a fungus before trying to treat a fungus, AND it may be wise to rule out toe/toenail cancer (that does exist) if there are black specs/streaking or other new/abnormal changes to the toe and toenail unit.
- Topical medication with a heavy urea enzyme component will break down the toenail and allow topical antifungal medications to work. A combination of a urea topical and a anti fungal topical very much increases the success of toenail fungus eradication.
- Laser toenail therapy is another option that can be very effective. It is a simple in office procedure that targets the cause of the fungus to kill it at its roots. It actually destroys the fungus, even the fungus you can't see in the nail matrix (under the skin).
For more information you can check out our toenail fungus section of the website. If you are reading this with concern about your own toenails you should call and make an appointment so we can talk about the particulars of what is going on with you and tailor a specific treatment plan which may include some or all of the above 3 choices, as well as many other options to consider.