Nail fungus remedies are sometimes used to treat fungal infections in the toenails or fingernails. Also referred to as onychomycosis, nail fungus is often difficult to treat with conventional medicine. But while natural nail fungus remedies are widely used, there is very little scientific support for their effectiveness.
Common Nail Fungus Remedies
To date, very few studies have tested the use of natural nail fungus remedies. Here's a look at some natural substances often recommended in treatment of nail fungus:
1) Essential Oils
Certain essential oils show promise as natural nail fungus remedies. For instance, a 1999 study published in Tropical Medicine & International Health found that tea tree oil may help fight nail fungus. For 16 weeks, 60 patients used either a cream containing 5 percent tea tree oil or a placebo to treat their onychomycosis. By the study's end, 80 percent of participants assigned to the medicated cream were cured (compared to none in the placebo group).
In an earlier study involving 177 people with toenail fungal infection, researchers found that tea tree oil was effective as clotrimazole solution (a topical antifungal medication) in treatment of nail fungus. Published in the Journal of Family Practice, the study involved a six-month treatment period.
Preliminary findings from laboratory research suggest that clove oil may also help knock out the fungus associated with onychomycosis. However, it's too soon to tell whether clove oil might be effective as a nail fungus remedy.
Proponents of apple cider vinegar suggest that acetic acid (a substance found in many types of vinegar) can destroy the fungi that cause nail fungal infections. However, there are no studies to support the claim that soaking your feet or hands in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and warm water can eliminate nail fungus.
Should You Use Nail Fungus Remedies?
Due to the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend any nail fungus remedies. If you notice any symptoms of nail fungus (such as brittleness, a change in nail shape, debris trapped under the nail, or thickening of the nail), consult your physician. While nail fungus can only be cured by the growth of new and healthy nails, prescription antifungal medications may help get rid of the fungus.
To reduce your risk of nail fungus, it's important to avoid sharing manicure or pedicure utensils with other people, limit your use of closed-in footwear, practice good foot hygiene (especially when visiting public swimming pools, gyms, or shower rooms), and keep your immune system in check.
If you're considering the use of nail fungus remedies, talk to your doctor before beginning treatment.
Buck DS, Nidorf DM, Addino JG. "Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole." J Fam Pract. 1994 Jun;38(6):601-5.
Gayoso CW, Lima EO, Oliveira VT, Pereira FO, Souza EL, Lima IO, Navarro DF. "Sensitivity of fungi isolated from onychomycosis to Eugenia cariophyllata essential oil and eugenol." Fitoterapia. 2005 Mar;76(2):247-9.
National Institutes of Health. "Fungal nail infection: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". June 2011.
Syed TA, Qureshi ZA, Ali SM, Ahmad S, Ahmad SA. "Treatment of toenail onychomycosis with 2% butenafine and 5% Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil in cream." Trop Med Int Health. 1999 Apr;4(4):284-7.