A few weeks ago we posted this message from a podiatrist who hated home remedies:

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 (ciclopirox) or oral Lamisil (terbinafine) or Sporanox (itraconazole). 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.

The response was overwhelming. Here are just a handful of the messages we received:

I am a veterinarian practicing for 21 years. I am offended, dismayed and embarrassed by this doctor’s remarks. There’s more than one way to skin a cat….pun intended! D.H.

I wanted to throw in my 2 cents – At my doctor’s suggestion, I tried not one, but FOUR courses of Lamisil – 4 months at a time, over $100 per month – to no avail. I realize that I took a huge chance with my overall health to get rid of the toenail fungus. I had begun receiving your website about that time. I was very depressed about the unsightly fungus, when I read of people’s experience with Tea Tree oil. I used it diligently, started to see the difference after about 2 weeks. That was years ago. I now use the oil as “maintenance” – every so often, I use it morning and night for maybe 2 weeks, to make sure it never comes back. So far, so good!

And don’t get me started about raisins soaked in gin – this is a miracle, especially coming from the world’s biggest skeptic! I have NO PAIN in my hands anymore! Who would have thought? M. E. A.

That podiatrists smug attitude and lack of insight is infuriating. “Home remedies” DO work — and often better than the costly, side-effect-laden Rx meds that Big Pharma throws at us. Shame, shame, shame on him! Cindy B.

My husband and daughter used Listerine for toenail fungus…And guess what…IT WORKED…C.M.S.

Doctors DON’T see their patients WHEN THE HOME REMEDIES WORK! Plain as day.

I experienced having ailments for which the doctor gave me an antibiotic. I decided not to take it and work with changing my diet. Two months later I am still doing wonderful. I found that I when I eliminated wheat I was cured and didn’t need the medicine or expensive tests to tell me by problem.

And for that I paid nothing and am healthier because I didn’t take antibiotics when I didn’t need them. B. G.

I must respond to the letter from the podiatrist who wrote to say that home remedies for toenail fungus are unproven urban legends and never work. Have him call me.

A few years back my nurse practitioner confirmed that one of my toenails was infected with fungus. She listed options such as live with it or have the nail removed. Instead, I began soaking the infected nail in a vinegar/water solution and afterwards applied Vicks VapoRub. Eventually the nail grew back good as new.

If a treatment is relatively harmless, as this is, and there’s even a chance it can work, I believe doctors should encourage alternative methods instead of high-priced medicines laden with potential side effects.

If you would like to learn more about our favorite home remedies you may wish to consider our book from National Geographic, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It has hundreds of remedies for common conditions, from allergies and arthritis to gas and gout. What better holiday gift than practical, low-cost, low-risk approaches for good health.

If you would like to read more angry responses to the podiatrist, click here and scan down to comments:

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  1. Bob

    I used a daily vinegar soak to treat toenail fungus. It works well. At one point my doctor prescribed Ciclopirox Topical 8% Fungicide solution. It does work, but it’s ridiculously priced at $119 for 6.6 milliliters (about $6,000/gallon). This Ciclopirox product is essential clear nail polish with a fungicidal additive. I wouldn’t pay $119 if I hadn’t had insurance at the time. Medical insurers should stop paying for outrageously priced drugs. Most people with insurance who pick up a prescription at the pharmacy are generally unaware of what the real costs are. No wonder insurance premiums are through the roof.

  2. NS

    I have really stiff toe nails that have fungus under all of them. I have soaked them in baking soda. I have used the Listerine and it works.

  3. Anne

    About 40 years ago my family of parents & 3 children were living in a small apartment over our landlord and my husband’s job switched him to a night shift. A day sleeper in a small apartment, over the landlord? Problems! My youngest, 7 months old at the time, got his days and nights mixed up and would wake up every night at 2:40 a.m.
    Nothing would put that baby back to sleep! I had 2 other children and a the landlord’s family to think of! My mother mentioned my problem to a friend and was told I should try putting 1/4 teaspoon of Epsom Salt into 8 ounces of cold milk at baby’s bedtime.
    At first I resisted this. Then I tried it for one night and it worked. The next day was Monday and the baby’s regular, scheduled checkup with his pediatrician. I told the doctor what I had done and he was hesitant. He suggested it was coincidence and not a good idea to continue.
    So I stopped it. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – night after night the baby woke up again at 2:40 and would be wide awake until 6:30. I was exhausted and by Thursday determined to do it again. The baby slept through the night. Blessed relief.
    When I next saw the pediatrician, about 3 weeks later with my other son, I told him I was giving the Epsom Salt to the baby every night and he was at last sleeping through the night. The Doctor turned to me and said,” You know my Greek mother-in-law has lots of old home remedies. For instance she puts onions on burns! So I won’t stop you from doing this. Just be careful that you don’t put too much in and his bowels become loose.”
    I left the office smiling because of something my father had told me a long time ago. My father, who started working in his father’s restaurant at a young age, had seen an accident when a stock boy pulled a 20 gallon stock pot of boiling stock over onto himself, mostly affecting his ankles.
    The kitchen crew quickly pulled his shoes off and grabbed hands full of fresh chopped onions and smothered one ankle with this. There was not enough chopped onions left to do the other foot quite as well before an ambulance got to the restaurant. He went to the hospital for treatment. Later he thanked the crew for their quick work.
    He said that the foot they had treated healed quite fast but the other one was taking much longer and was more painful.
    So much for old-fashioned “home remedies”! By the way, I kept my baby on the Epsom Salt for about 5 weeks and stopped giving it to him as a test. He slept through that night and never again needed the Epsom Salt and I never had trouble in giving him too much.

  4. JC

    I, too, would really like an opinion on the laser treatments. Expensive, but worth it, if it works, but don’t want to be ripped off. Any real studies seem hard to come by.

  5. GRD

    In the past, I have heard using uric acid paste treatment for nail fungus. What ever happened to that remedy? I have not heard of it in all these posts. As I understand it is very effective.
    Just the last few days I have seen local ads for nail fungus treatment using a laser.
    Has anyone looked into that laser treatment? I am going to. It is advertised as $400 for both feet and may only take two treatments.

  6. ck

    People (doctors included) need to understand that toe nail fungus is very hard to get rid of and takes a long time. I’ve seen friends who had treated their toe nails with Listerine, Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar and did get wonderful results OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. Consistency and patience will win!

  7. Kathy

    someone said there are 4 types of toenail fungus. I believe it. I tried vicks vaporub for about a year without success. I also tried vineagar without success. I am seeing improvement with peroxide. (I put on my toes after I shower. I am thinking of taking probiotics. It makes sense to me.

  8. CD

    I tried Vapo Rub, Listerine and Tea Tree oil on a pesky fungus, but it did eventually go, I found it difficult to treat, I had it for years and it took that long to go away. Be persistant and patient.

  9. CM

    Gee, I wonder what drug company is paying this pathetic podiatrist (maybe a winter holiday or a new set of golf clubs?) to recommend prescription meds that don’t work anyway, but leave one with plenty of side effects worse than the problem itself.
    My mother suffered for 30 years with this problem. Her brother, a doctor, tried every prescription under the sun but nothing worked until I started reading your column and she started using Vicks Vaporub….what a relief to be able to see her toenails coming back to life again, healthy and normal.
    Whatever your payoff, “Dr. Podiatrist”, I hope YOU never have to suffer from fungus toenails…….but of course, if you do, you can always run to the drug company.

  10. JimP

    I used Vapor Rub successfully for years, but switched to Vagicaine after hearing on the radio show that Resorcinol was an anti-fungal. 3 of 4 nails now look perfect, as opposed to the “etching” that Vapor Rub made on my nails. I tried Tea Tree oil, but the fungus started coming back.

    My dermatologist told me there are 4 types of toenail fungus, so what home remedy works may depend on which type you have. (She also has recommended Vapor Rub to a few other patients after seeing my success.) Plus, I remember Joe and Terry reporting that U. of Mich. med school tested Vapor Rub, and found it effective in the majority of cases of toenail fungus they treated.

  11. PAR

    This podiatrists is just mad because he wants the money (& lots of it). My husband and I have both used vapor rub for toe nails works great.

  12. patricia s. d.

    I have a good story about arrogant drs. About 30 years ago, I was having reoccurring bladder infections about every two weeks. The doctor checked and did a procedure to correct my problem. 2 weeks later I had another infection. He had been giving me the antibiotic of choice for such infections.
    This time I went to an “Internist MD” who proclaimed that I has a bladder infection. He called my urologist who said “That’s impossible!!! I cured her! With that the internist said he would check himself. The urologist brought me back and did a drug sensitivity test.
    Sure enough all that time I was not prescribed the right antibiotic. Got the new antibiotic and did not have a bladder infection for years. But I have leakage after his procedure that he preformed.

  13. Barbara W

    This reminds me of my telling a podiatrist, many years later, of a problem I had had after he had
    removed a neuroma. He answered, “I have NEVER done anything but a PERFECT operation.”

  14. MLS

    I took probiotic capsules twice a day for toe nail fungus and within a few months I grew a new beautiful, healthy toe nail. I got this advice from the sales lady at the health food store.

  15. SE

    And he thinks I trust the FDA??? NO! It’s run by “big pharma”. No more than I now trust doctors (with reason). I research everything myself both before and after medical attention. (Degree in biochem-mostly nutrition- and computer science/math).

  16. Kathy M

    My husband is a Viet Nam vet, he came home with a fungus on his feet and lived with it for 25 years. We were married in 1997, I had him use tea tree oil, and lavender oil in a epsom salt foot soak, guess what? in two weeks he was cured. He treats it once a year now as a preventative, but hasn’t has it re-occur. I am a firm beleiver of alternative medicine!!

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