a bag of cornmeal

Q. My husband had ridiculously horrible toenail fungus for years. I told him to soak his feet in cornmeal water (1 cup cornmeal and a couple quarts of water in a container big enough to fit his foot; let it set for an hour, then soak for 1/2 hour). I read about it in your column. It totally cleared up the fungus in two months of weekly soaks.

A. Some gardeners have recommended sprinkling cornmeal around the base of rose bushes to discourage mildew and fungus. This has generated tremendous controversy within the botanical community, with some experts challenging the antifungal properties of cornmeal while others extol its benefits.

There is no research on cornmeal foot soaks for nail fungus. Nevertheless, we have heard from many readers that they have had success with this inexpensive method if they were persistent. Here’s a testimonial:

“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

There are quite a few other inexpensive approaches that have been successful for some readers. They range from applying the oil out of a vitamin E capsule to the cuticle and under to nail to soaking the feet in a dilute vinegar bath. Listerine and Vicks VapoRub are favorites when it comes to treating toenail fungus at home, perhaps because the herbal oils they contain have antifungal properties.

You can learn more about nail fungus and its treatment in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. The one thing that all remedies for nail fungus require is patience. It takes a long time for toenails to grow out uninfected.

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  1. jack

    I might be of some help why this works. When farmers don’t rotate their crops enough, the dirt develops a type of disease that is hard to kill off. It also is triggered by extreme wet and cool conditions. A friend told me I should [as a preventative] plant sorghum on a piece of unused farmland it breaks the disease cycle from continuous planting . The AG Department sent this out . Many farmers use this now. Since sorghum is in the corn family this may be why corn meal works. Heck I might try sorghum meal instead of corn. Just Saying

  2. ken

    it seems to have worked for me. However how long do you continue the bath after the discloration is cleared up? Quit altogether and watch to see if it returns?
    Thanks for the info .

  3. Anthony Smith

    Thanks for sharing this article. Informative, I should say. I have been suffering from toenail fungus from a long time(years I must say) and with no improvement at all. It leaves a bluish green residue on the nail bed and is sometimes painful. I have not yet tried oatmeal solution yet. But hopefully I will soon do it. One of my neighbors used to have athletes feet. He got foot health care treatment from RMT at Physiomed, Toronto. I want to know how beneficial is this therapy for the toenail fungus ?

  4. A.D.

    As a podiatrist, I have thought I had heard of everything to treat nail fungus. Then I was asked to comment about Cornmeal soaks, and I admit in 10 years, that was a new one so I researched what was being said here.
    My thoughts,
    The damage that occurs to the nail plate through fungal infection or nail damage will be permanent. Thus the thickening of the nail will not be affected by the treatment of the fungal nail. i.e. total removal of the organism will not return the nail to a beautiful thin clear nail plate. However, I can not think of any harm that would occur using this method, so if it works, GREAT!
    Remember there are many things to cause a nail to become white, brittle, and crumbly, and they are not all fungal infections. A true diagnosis with a fungal test would benefit any attempts to cure this, and guide appropriate treatment guidelines.
    A word about Listerine, Vicks, etc. Listerine while being in large part Ethanol, is not harsh enough of a chemical to sterilize fungal spores. They have evolved with cell walls to protect themselves from harsh environmental conditions, thus they will survive an ethanol bath.
    Vicks was used to soften the keratin of the nail plate which it does very well. This was meant to facilitate a person trimming their own nails with common nail cutting implements. However this historic advice has been misconstrued to mean that it “cured” nail fungus. It cannot.
    The unfortunate fact is that only pharmacologic agents are effective at curing nail fungus, at the risk of affecting the liver function. Nails that are cleared of fungus may not regain an aesthetic appearance despite not having fungal elements. And finally, the recurrence rate of fungal infections is nearly 100% at 10 years despite complete clearing with oral meds, suggesting there is a metabolic or dietary component to pre-dispose a person to fungal infections.
    Good luck with whatever treatment you find works for you. Just don’t harm yourself with unproven claims.

  5. mary t.

    Surely gonna try your advice on nail fungus.I am struggling for years now with no improvement. Thanks for your nice tip on nail fungus.

  6. LMR

    You don’t say how often to use the cornmeal soak.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Many people tell us that soaking once a week works against nail fungus.

  7. DDK

    I have been using the vinegar soak for toe nail fungus and I think it is gradually helping to get rid of it. But I wonder how infectious the fungus is? If I use nail clippers on the infected toes and then on non-infected toes will that spread the fungus? And can socks spread the fungus? Do they need to be washed after each wearing? Thank you.

  8. Karen S.

    I use cornmeal for toe fungus also. But I mix it with vinegar instead of water. Use it once a week for three to four weeks. Works every time.

  9. M

    Please verify cornmeal or corn flour?
    Thank you.

    • Bernie Allan

      I believe Cornmeal is what we would call Maize flour in the UK. Polenta is also made from Maize flour. Cornflour is a very finely ground maize flour which is used in the UK as a thickener in cooking.

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