Q. What is a good home remedy for yellow, ugly toenails? Yuck!
A. Just when we thought everyone in the known universe had become sick and tired of reading about remedies for nail fungus, along comes this question from Pat in Irvine, California. Perhaps there are a few other people who are also suffering from unsightly thick, yellow-brown nails.
The official dermatological name for this condition is virtually unpronounceable: “onychomycosis.” Dermatologists do love their Latin and Greek names. “Mycosis” means infection caused by fungus. “Onych” or “onycho”) means a condition of the finger or toe nail. A German doctor (Rudolf Virchow) came up with the name in 1856 and derms still use it to this day. They also refer to it as tinea unguium.
We have been writing and talking about nail fungus for decades and offering a variety of creative solutions to solve this unsightly problem.
First, some questions to ponder:
Why do some people get fungal infections under their nails while others appear resistant?
As far as we know, the dermatological community does not have a good answer. We suspect there is an immune component, because people tend to be more susceptible as they age and their immune systems seem less capable of fighting off the invasion.
Why do some people get quick relief with a particular home remedy (like Vicks VapoRub) and others see no benefit even after several months of diligent application?
Again, there is no good answer. We are constantly surprised why some people respond to one approach but others say it is worthless. Part of the difference may be which specific fungus is causing the infection. They may have differing sensitivities.
Why do dermatologists generally reject home remedies as a waste of money?
We are a bit puzzled by this attitude, though we suspect they may see a lot of patients who report home remedy failures. People who are happy with the results of a home remedy are not likely to go back and mention their success to a doubting doctor. Generally, home remedies are a lot less toxic and expensive than prescription anti-fungal medications.
People’s Pharmacy Nail Remedies:
We make no promises about any of these approaches. What works for one may not do the job for another. We have heard from many people, though, that these remedies can be surprisingly effective.
“I have been using the Vicks for a number of years. It takes a long time (about 6 months) for the nail to grow out, but the fungus is gone. However, it does come back and the treatment has to be repeated.” M.W.
“I have had fungus and nail bed damage on my right thumb nail (about half way up the nail) for approximately 8 eight years. My nail technician has suggested, and I have tried, everything: anti-fungal treatments, vinegar, etc. She said the nail would probably never grow out because of unknown nail bed damage.
“At one point, we even glued one half of an acrylic nail on each week for about a year to protect the nail. Nothing helped, or even looked right. I always had to have my nails polished because of the ugly discoloration.
“About six months ago, on my own, after reading one of your columns, I began using Vicks VapoRub twice a day. I just dabbed a little on a toothpick and gently rubbed it around and under the nail. Low and behold, after two months, I could see new growth! Now, it has almost completely grown out. I am so excited! I only use the Vicks once a day now. Hope this long information helps someone else.” Martha
Cornmeal Foot Soaks
“When examining me my doctor noticed that I had nail fungus affecting toes on each foot. He recommended that I make a batter by mixing cornmeal and water, let it sit for an hour, and then using a shallow pan, soak my feet for an hour. He told me to do this once a week for a month. If the fungus was not gone, I was supposed to apply Vicks Vaporub once a week for a month.
“I did the cornmeal therapy for three week and the fungus was gone. I don’t know why it works, but it’s cheap, harmless, and it worked for me.” Larry
“I’ve used vinegar and Listerine foot soaks in the past and it does help but takes an extremely long time to see good results. In the last year, I started soaking my feel in the cornmeal paste (also reported by the Graedons) once a week and started seeing results within three weeks and by three months the fungus was gone and within six months my toenails had grown to the point where I started wearing toeless shoes again and was no longer embarrassed about hideous toenails.
“I highly recommend the warm cornmeal paste and found that it was so easy because I’d soak my feet for an hour while reading the morning paper. (Killing two birds with one stone.)” Shirley
Listerine & White Vinegar Foot Soaks
“I have tried Vicks, hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil with no benefit. The Listerine and white vinegar soaks was the only treatment that worked on my nails. I used it for about 2 months and saw things get better.
“Then I went to a festival for 3 days. It was 30 degrees and did not bring anything for my nails. Needless to say back to square one. Is it possible that results could show after like half a year? Maybe I just quit too soon.” L.M.
“I have been using generic white vinegar and generic brown Listerine for a couple years now ever since I read about it in the Peoples’ Pharmacy. I just do a maintenance soak twice a month now, mostly because it makes my feet feel so good. A nice side affect. You will never have athletes’ feet again! Thanks again Peoples’ Pharmacy!” Kathleen
“I have been keeping up on your ideas to combat toenail fungus. I am happy to say that since March, 2013 I have been soaking my toes every day for 30 minutes with a combination of Listerine and ACV (apple cider vinegar) with great success. All my nails are nice and pink-colored now except for one. That one will require more soaking to complete the deal.
“What a sight to see (normal nails). I also treat my nails with Vicks for the remainder of the day. Thanks so much! I will continue to treat sparingly to stay ahead of any returning fungus.” N.P.
To learn more details of these and many more approaches to overcoming nail fungus we recommend our 264-page book Quick & Handy Home Remedies (published by National Geographic). You will learn about cornmeal mush foot soaks, hydrogen peroxide, de-colorized iodine, Listerine and vinegar and tea tree oil, not to mention the strangest of all… urine soaks!