Q. I am a Podiatrist, and I would like to comment on toenail fungus and treatment. When you write, “Home remedies don’t always work,” you imply that sometimes they do work. This is untrue. Home remedies rarely work.
There are real, doctor-prescribed, FDA-approved, clinically tested medications to treat toenail fungus. These include topical Penlac or oral Lamisil or Sporanox. I have successfully treated hundreds of patients with these drugs.
The unproven treatments you mentioned are little more than urban legends. In 23 years in practice I have never seen even one patient who has responded favorably to Vicks VapoRub, dilute vinegar soaks or Vitamin E oil. Don’t make me waste time dispelling these myths.
A. We know that home remedies like Vicks VapoRub don’t always work. There are few scientific studies of such treatments. But we have heard from many individuals who responded well to dilute vinegar soaks or topical applications of Vicks or tea tree oil to their infected nails. Perhaps people who benefit from such remedies don’t return to a podiatrist.
The prescription drugs you mention have certainly been tested and approved. But they are also pricey, and the oral medications require monitoring for possible serious side effects. Some people are reluctant to take on such costs and risks for an issue that is rarely medically urgent.
Q. I have a long business trip coming up and I cannot afford to come down with a cold. Whenever I fly I frequently come down with some bug or another. Because of a thyroid condition and high blood pressure most over-the-counter cold remedies are off limits. Do you have any suggestions?
A. You may want to consider Astragalus root. This ancient Chinese herb appears to boost the immune system and help fight off viruses. It can be used preventively.
Zinc or Kan Jang (Andrographis paniculata) have been shown to speed recovery from colds. To combat a cough, ginger or thyme tea can be helpful.
We are sending you our Guide to Cold Remedies with information on zinc, Echinacea, vitamin C and other approaches to preventing and treating colds. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. Q-20, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your face as you travel. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cold viruses.
Q. My 10-year-old has had a plantar wart surgically removed twice by the dermatologist. It came back and my son refuses to go back, but it hurts to walk on it. I worry about the scar tissue from the surgery and hope there’s another way to get rid of plantar warts.
A. A controlled study published in a medical journal showed that duct tape works at least as well as freezing warts off. One reader reports:
“Duct tape really works! Both my daughter and my husband had plantar warts on the bottoms of their feet. Duct tape cured them, as well as my best friend’s stepdaughter.”
A piece of tape the size of the wart is applied to the wart for six days, then removed. The wart should be soaked in water and sanded with an emery board. The following day, the tape is reapplied as before. This procedure can be repeated for up to two months.
Podiatrist Knocks Home Remedies For Nail Fungus

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