Toenail fungus is a common infection of the toenails. It is contagious, so it can often start in one toenail and spread to several others.

Medical treatment usually involves the use of prescription-strength antifungal medications. Though effective, some people experience unpleasant side effects, ranging from upset stomach to other skin issues.

As a result, some people may choose home remedies to treat toenail fungus. The following are some of the more popular home methods that people have tried to treat toenail fungus.

Baking soda

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There are a number of popular home remedies that may help treat toenail fungus.

Baking soda soaks up moisture that may cause toenail fungus. In one small study, researchers studied the effect of baking soda on common fungi that cause infections, such as toenail fungus.

The researchers found that baking soda prevented fungal growth in 79 percent of the specimens tested. In another 17 percent, baking soda reduced fungal growth, though it did not eradicate it.

How to use it

A person can try putting baking soda inside their socks and shoes to soak up moisture.

People can also apply a paste of baking soda and water directly to the affected nail and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before rinsing. Repeat this several times a day until the fungus clears.

Mentholated topical ointment

Mentholated topical ointments could help treat toenail fungus.

Doctors often recommend these types of ointments to help treat cough and cold symptoms. The same active ingredients in mentholated ointments — menthol, eucalyptus oil, and camphor — have other properties that may be effective in treating toenail fungus.

One small study examined the use of one of these ointments to treat toenail fungus. All 18 participants reported being satisfied or very satisfied with the results of using the rub on their toenail fungus. However, mentholated topical ointment cured just five participants at the end of the 48-week-long study.

More research is needed to prove further that a mentholated ointment is an effective option for treating toenail fungus.

How to use it

Apply mentholated ointment directly to the affected nail. Do this about once a day for several weeks or until the nail shows noticeable improvements.

Vinegar

Vinegar is a common household product found in cooking and some home cleaning solutions. Though no clinical evidence exists to date, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that vinegar is an effective tool to help treat toenail fungus.

How to use it

Anyone interested in trying vinegar can apply vinegar directly to the affected nails by soaking the toes in a bowl of warm water mixed with vinegar. People should use a 2–1 mix of water to vinegar.

Mouthwash

As with vinegar, there is no direct scientific evidence to support using mouthwash to treat toenail fungus. However, some studies suggest that many types of mouthwash have antifungal properties.

One study reports that seven commercial types of mouthwash showed some antifungal activity in laboratory samples.

How to use it

Try soaking the toenails in a small bowl of mouthwash.

Garlic

Typically used for seasoning food, garlic may help treat toenail fungus as well. Though limited, there is some evidence to support this claim.

One study found that a garlic extract showed strong antifungal properties against fungi that cause fungal infections in laboratory samples. Another study also reported promising results for garlic oil against certain strains of fungus, again in lab-based samples.

How to use it

Many people use chopped cloves of garlic to help treat their toenail fungus. To use garlic, chop up a clove and apply it to the affected nails and leave it on for about 30 minutes.

Be careful when using garlic to treat toenail fungus, as raw garlic can sometimes cause a chemical burn on the skin.

Snakeroot extract

Snakeroot is not well-known in the United States but is a traditional treatment for fungal infections in Mexico. Snakeroot, also known as Ageratina, is a part of the sunflower family and is known for its antifungal properties.

One laboratory review observed that specific compounds within snakeroot showed antifungal properties against strains of fungus that can cause athlete's foot.

Another recent but small study found no significant differences in the results for treating vaginal yeast infections with snakeroot extract compared with a common antifungal medication.

How to use it

Those interested in snakeroot extract can buy it at specialty stores or online. People can apply the extract to affected toenails two to three times a week. Treatment typically lasts for about 3 months.

Essential oil blends

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It may help to apply essential oils with antifungal properties to the affected nails.

Blends of certain essential oils may have an antifungal effect when applied to fungus.

These blends included:

  • lavender oil
  • petitgrain oil
  • clary sage oil
  • ylang ylang oil
  • jasmine oil

One study suggests that blends of these oils have an antifungal and antimicrobial effect in laboratory samples. However, the efficacy depends on the mix of the oils and the amount of the chemicals linalool and linalyl acetate that the oils contain.

How to use them

A person interested in trying a blend of essential oils can buy the oils online or from a health food store. Mix the oil with a carrier oil before applying the mixture to the affected nails.

Ozonized oils

Ozonized oils are oils infused with ozone gas. Examples of oils that are available in ozonized form include sunflower oil and olive oil.

According to one study, ozonized oils show positive effects similar to a traditional medication called terbinafine cream in treating one type of fungus. In this study, the researchers used rabbits to test the effectiveness of the treatment.

Another study carried out on 400 people tested how ozonized oils affected fungal infections. In this 2011 study, researchers used ozonized sunflower oil to treat toenail fungus.

Their results indicated that ozonized oils cured up to 90.5 percent of the total infections with only a 2.8 percent relapse rate after 1 year. The researchers concluded the ozonized sunflower oil works more effectively than ketoconazole cream, which is an antifungal medication.

How to use them

To use ozonized oils, apply the oil to affected nails twice a day for 3 months.

Olive leaf extract

Some researchers have identified olive leaf extract as a potential home remedy for toenail fungus. People have used olive leaf extract for centuries, though not many people in the U.S. use it, today.

According to one review, olive leaf extract is a safe way to help treat toenail fungus.

However, olive leaf extract may cause potential side effects. These include flu-like symptoms, such as:

How to use it

A person should start slowly to help avoid the side effects. If taking capsules, a person can typically take between one and three capsules two times a day with a meal once they are used to them.

Dietary changes

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Including iron-rich foods in the diet can help prevent brittle nails.

A person can change their diet to improve their overall health. Though no clinical evidence suggests a dietary change can cure toenail fungus, certain diets may help improve a person's overall health and well-being.

Diets should include plenty of nutrients. In particular, a person can eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other materials that help aid nail growth and development.

Some foods to include in a nail-healthful diet:

  • any food rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon
  • yogurts that contain probiotics
  • food rich in lean protein to help nail growth
  • foods rich in iron to help prevent brittle nails, such as spinach

When to see a doctor

Toenail fungus is not a significant problem for most people.

Those most at risk for complications are people with diabetes and those with weakened immune systems. People in either of these groups should seek medical treatment for their toenail fungus and avoid home remedies altogether.

Any person who does not see improvements or has complications as a result of home remedies should talk to their doctor and stop using the home remedy as soon as possible. Always speak to a doctor before trying any treatment for toenail fungus.

Takeaway

Home remedies for toenail fungus may be a safe alternative to traditional medications. In most cases, the remedies are considered safe and simple to apply.

When purchasing alternative remedies and supplements, it is essential to buy from a trusted retailer. These treatment options are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way as medications, and so people should take more care when buying them.

A person should speak to their doctor if they have any doubts about treatment, if their infection is not clearing, or they have underlying conditions, such as diabetes.