Some people may try home remedies to get rid of toenail fungus. Examples include baking soda, menthol products, foot care, and more. However, home remedies may not be effective in preventing infections. Medical treatments may be necessary.

Toenail fungus is a common infection of the toenails. Also known as onychomycosis, it can cause the toenail to discolor and thicken. As it is contagious, it often starts in one toenail and spreads to several others.

Fungal nail infections can occur in anyone and result from many different types of fungi. They can be difficult to treat and often do not go away without prescription-strength antifungal medications, such as antifungal pills. Though effective, these medications cause unpleasant side effects in some cases, ranging from an upset stomach to other skin issues.

As a result, people may consider home remedies to treat toenail fungus. However, home remedies are often not effective. While they may help suppress mild cases, they are unlikely to prevent infections. Instead, people may consider trying certain remedies alongside prescription antifungal treatments.

This article will discuss some of the more popular methods that people may try at home to treat toenail fungus and their effectiveness.

A person with toenail fungus. Share on Pinterest
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Proponents of baking soda may suggest it as a remedy as it can help absorb moisture that may cause toenail fungus. Additionally, it may possess fungistatic properties, meaning it does not kill fungi but can prevent them from growing. A small older study supports this, suggesting that baking soda can prevent fungal growth.

However, there is not much scientific evidence to support baking soda as a remedy and no evidence suggesting it can treat fungal infections.

Some people may advise using products that contain menthol, such as a menthol rub, to help treat toenail fungus. However, they are unlikely to provide many benefits.

A small 2011 study using a mentholated ointment suggests it may help with toenail fungus but is unlikely to treat the infection. More research is necessary to prove that menthol products are effective for treating toenail fungus.

Vinegar is a common household product, and apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a common ingredient in many different home remedies. A 2017 study notes that ACV may possess some antifungal properties. However, it also notes that more research is necessary to investigate this further.

Click here to learn more about apple cider vinegar and candida.

As with vinegar, there is no direct scientific evidence to support using mouthwash to treat toenail fungus. However, some research suggests that mouthwash containing chlorhexidine may have antifungal properties.

It is worth noting that mouthwash containing this ingredient generally requires a prescription in the United States, so a person cannot buy it over the counter.

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

A 2019 study notes that garlic extract may display antifungal properties against fungi that can cause toenail infections. However, more research is necessary, and the study suggests using garlic extract alongside common antifungal drugs.

Snakeroot may not be well-known in the U.S. but is a traditional treatment for different skin conditions and injuries in Mexico. Also known as Ageratina pichinchensisis, it is part of the sunflower family and may possess antifungal properties.

A 2020 study adds that while a few small studies have found varying levels of success using snakeroot oil, larger, well-designed studies are necessary to evaluate its effectiveness further.

Some evidence suggests that certain essential oils may possess antifungal properties and have some use alongside existing antifungal treatments. However, these oils can pose a risk of allergy and irritation.

A 2020 study using a topical formulation containing vitamin E and essential oils of lime, oregano, and tea tree indicates it may have some benefit in treating onychomycosis. However, it is worth noting that this study used a topical product containing these ingredients, and using them at home may not have the same effect.

While home remedies are unlikely to provide many benefits, the following tips may be beneficial:

  • keep nails short, dry, and clean
  • use one nail clipper for the infected nails and another for the other toenails
  • wear well-fitting and breathable shoes
  • keep feet dry, wear cotton socks, and change them daily
  • maintain good foot hygiene
  • wear clean shower shoes when using a communal shower
  • consider seeking treatment from a podiatrist if thickened toenails cause discomfort when walking

A person may require either oral or topical antifungal medication in most cases. In severe cases, they may also require surgery to remove the toenail.

Topical treatments

The American Academy of Dermatology notes that topical medicine may help treat a mild infection. In some cases, they may cause mild side effects, such as swelling, stinging, or burning. Topical treatments may include:

  • amorolfine
  • ciclopirox
  • efinaconazole
  • tavaborole

Oral treatments

For more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe oral medications. These are often more effective and work quicker than topical treatments. However, these pills can cause side effects.

A doctor may advise that people avoid alcohol and sun exposure while taking these antifungals. They may also require blood tests to check for any problems. Oral treatments may include:

Combination therapy

In some cases, a doctor may advise using both topical and oral antifungal treatments.

Toenail fungus is typically not a significant problem for most people. However, if there are no improvements or complications occur as a result of home remedies, people should speak with a doctor and stop using the home remedy as soon as possible. It is also advisable to contact a podiatrist if a person notices any discoloration, thickening, or abnormality of the toenails.

Furthermore, people at higher risk for complications should seek medical treatment for their toenail fungus and avoid home remedies altogether. This includes those with diabetes or with weakened immune systems.

Home remedies are typically not effective for treating toenail fungal infections. While some options may help temporarily suppress milder infections, they are unlikely to treat the infection. Instead, people should use prescription-strength oral and topical antifungal medications. It is also important for people to take care of their feet and maintain good foot hygiene.

A person should contact a doctor if they have any doubts about treatments, their infection is not clearing, or they have underlying conditions, such as diabetes.

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