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.