toes with nail fungus

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 for nail fungus 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 Remedies for Nail Fungus:

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.

Vicks VapoRub

“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!

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  1. debbie

    colloidal silver will cure it

  2. Jackson
    Texas, USA

    The fungus on my big toe nail is almost gone! I just need a couple more months for the rest of the thick ugly nail to grow out. 3/4 of the nail is now flat and beautiful! I tried the natural stuff like tea tree oil and vinegar. I tried Vicks. I had no luck with these for three stinky months. I was ready to take the pills with all the side effects….but my last resort remedy started working in about two months. It has now been 5 months and is obviously working great.

    I went to two drug stores and purchased whatever cure looked most promising. I ended up with Fungi Cure and Woodward’s Mycocide NS. I put Fungi Cure on in the morning and Mycocide on every night and 5 months later most of my nail is perfect…only the outer 1/4 is still thick and crumbly. I use a lot of each of the treatments and use a toothpick to shove as much of each up under the nail, after scraping the underside of the nail as much as possible to get all the crumbly stuff out of there.

    It worked for me!

    • Terry Graedon

      The ingredients you are using, tolnaftate and undecylenic acid, have long been used for athlete’s foot, so they do have antifungal activity. They’re not usually thought of as powerhouse antifungals, though.

      • Jacksoon

        I was happy to read your reply! I really had no idea if what I was using was strong or not, but I am glad to hear that what is working for me is not particularly harsh. Thanks for you comment.

  3. Alan

    Get the laser treatments. Wait for a cost around $300 on Groupon. Its for all toes, both feet, 2 treatments. Then take the prescription Lamisil pills (covered with basic insurance).

    Then as an ongoing maintenance routine, keep a little bowl, toe brush and vinagar near your toilet and every time you take a dump, clean / scrub your toes in the vinegar. Put Vics Vapor Rub near you sock draw and put it on/under your toe nails before you put on your socks every morning. You will have the healthiest toes forever.

  4. Granny Gruntz
    Chicago suburb

    My comments have nothing to do with toenail fungus, HOWEVER – MUCH TO DO WITH WHITE VINEGAR! WHITE VINEGAR MAY HAVE GREAT HEALING PR0PERTIES! When the first “coolish” days of fall start, the tips of my thumbs start to split. AND IT IS VERY PAINFUL!! ALSO – I start to have recurrences of “SEVERE hang nails” on my fingers. I keep a “pump-style” dispenser next to the wash basin, FILLED WITH WHITE VINEGAR!And when I see signs of the above, I spritz my thumbs and fingernails with WHITE VINEGAR. I DUNNO – BUT IT WORKS! AND YES – I was doubtful when first told of WHITE VINEGAR having “healing properties but it WORKED FOR ME! I would rather smell like a pickle – than suffer the pain of the split thumbs and finger nails! ACTUALLY – I find there is no lingering “after smell” from using white vinegar on my hands.

  5. Wayne

    I fought toe fungus for 15yrs. Used every med possible including Lamisil that did not kill the fungus but did kill my kidneys. The sure cure is to go to a Podiatrist and have them remove the portion of the mail that is detached from the toe. You must have the infected toe mail removed, nothing that you apply to the toe nail is going to penetrate the nail. Buy a bottle of Tea Tree Oil (pure) and a small bottle of cider vinegar. Apply the oil with a Q-tip three times a day. In between applying the oil, apply the vinegar with a Q-tip three times a day. My cure took approx 3-4 months

  6. Kathy

    I have always had this problem and fought it all my adult life. I have sanded it off, Fungi Nailed it, Vixed it, soaked my feet, even tried Bleach. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

  7. Jackie

    @ Larry: “I did the cornmeal therapy for three week I don’t know why it works, and the fungus was gone.
    According to doctor on radio program in LA; the cornmeal bacteria eats/attacks the toe nail fungus……

  8. Monique
    Chicago, Illinois

    I ran across this website by mistake. I just got fungus on my two big toes. One of my big toe I have always had problems, but I started using the Listerine/White distilled Vinegar and found that is starting to fight my nail fungus. It’s really working on the nail I just got infected with the fungus. The medicines the doctors prescribe take a very long time. I would suggested using one of the suggestions on this website to find what works for you. I’m hopeful. CGW

    • Kathy

      I will try it.

      • Doris
        sequatchie tn

        This sounds good. I have had it on my two big toes for 3 years. I thought you could rid of leprosy easier than a tow nail fungus. Why doesnt the FDA help us? I am so frightened to a nail place. Thanks, will let you guys know what happens. Doris

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