The People's Perspective on Medicine

Doctor Praises Vicks for Nail Fungus

Q. I am an internal medicine physician. For a year I had progressive worsening brown discoloration of the medial and distal third of the right great toenail. On the advice of my dermatologist I used Vicks VapoRub topically and had complete clearing after about 12 weeks.

I stopped using it regularly and now I’m starting to see some recurrence. I’ll be using it again daily to keep my nails clear.

A. We are gratified when a physician benefits from a home remedy, especially if it is recommended by a specialist such as a dermatologist. Canadian researchers assessed a number of treatments for nail fungus and concluded:

“Vicks VapoRub has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of onychomycosis [nail fungus] without side effects and is a reasonable option in patients who choose to forgo conventional treatments” (ISRN Dermatology, online, Jan. 26, 2012).

For more information about Vicks and other remedies for nail fungus, we offer our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. We think the synergistic antifungal activity of thymol, eucalyptol and the other herbal oils in Vicks VapoRub help overcome some fungal infections, especially if the person is very conscientious about applying it.

Have you tried using Vicks for nail fungus? Tell us your story in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I used the generic brand from Walgreen’s and literally saw results overnight.
My fungus is mild to moderate and was mostly topical at the top part of my big toes. The white marks I thought were bruising from wearing high heels everyday, but then I started to see some yellowing in the top 1/3 of my nail.
I stopped using polish for a few days and square cut my nails to a short length. After work, I washed my feet and then scrubbed the toenails and surrounding skin with a paste of equal parts baking soda and warm water. I then rinsed and dried them thoroughly with a towel. I used a disposable coarse nail file and filed off the white topical fungus from each toe and threw away the file. I then wiped clean and dried further with rubbing alcohol. Afterwards, I applied the generic ointment with a q-tip on the nail and surrounding skin to make sure I covered any fungus I couldn’t see. There was some tingling and slight heat, but no pain.
When I went to bed, I kept my feet exposed and out from under my sheets/blanket. When I woke up this AM, my nails were almost 100% normal looking. The white topical fungus was not there, and most of the yellow had gone away with the exception of a slightly darker streak at the top of the nail. The dark means that the ointment is killing the fungus.
I wish we could post photos here because the improvement is amazing (yes, I took photos of my foot fungus, haha). I’m so glad I found this remedy. As a 25 y/o F with other health issues, I did not want to have to take anti-fungal pills or wait for months on end to see results with a prescription polish or cream. I will continue to use a thin layer of ointment during the day and then slather on at night for at least a few weeks after the signs are completely gone.
Thanks again for all the posts! This really helped.

Hi Gin,
Could you please tell me more about your success with oregano oil.

I have had a toenail fungus on my right great toe for a few years. Five different times I have used a variety of treatments. All seemed to work & allowed the ugly nail to grow out & fungus seemed to disappear. The first time, I discontinued tx as soon as the nail was clear. The fungus returned within a few weeks. Each subsequent time I continued the treatment a little longer after the nail seemed clear. It always returned. I’m now at the point again when the nail seems to be clear but I’m afraid to stop. The 5 tx I used, in order, were bleach water, Vicks, tea tree oil, Fungi-nail, & now Vicks again. How do I know when to stop tx?

I have grown up with Vicks. I gues it has cured about everything. This is silly but I thought about the people who works for Vicks ever gets sick?

I’ve used Vicks, however learned that oregano oil works fast and very well. It doesn’t smell very good but my nail fungus has not returned since it cleared up using the oregano oil.

Quite a while ago I think I read in your column that putting Vicks on the bottom of your feet would help with a cold, congestion, etc. Easily done. I discovered from doing that, that my cracked feet, and fingers, from applying the stuff, have cleared up, after 20 plus years of cracking, and using every RX or cream, lotion known to woman, due to my thyroid condition!!!
I apply every night, and now also to fingernails and cuticle, they have never looked better, and I am 72, with gorgeous hands and nails. The Vicks has not particularly worked on my toenail fungus, which I have had for years and years, and seems to get no better and no worse. I have also taken biotin for years and years for my nails that were cracking from that condition. Regular straight doctors are not real good about RX, except for Synthroid. Going on to a different doctor finally.

Even the NY Times recommends Vick’s VapoRub for nail fungus:

I got the laser treatments for toenail fungus twice and it didn’t seem to work, I am soaking in Listerine twice a day and putting antifungal polish on toes also, one big toe is almost healed, the other is not, will be trying Vicks also.

does it have to be name brand vicks or will a generic brand from walmart work?

Vicks worked for me on toenail fungus and it never returned.
I’d like to comment on coconut oil. At 73, my hair is not completely gray but what is, has a straw-like quality. Perming, as I do, doesn’t help. After shampooing and rinsing with sterilized, strained rain water with vinegar (which really helps the texture,) I put coconut oil on the wet ends with my fingers. The results were amazing. No more frizzies. It curled up and lost that transparent look. The rain water and vinegar rinse beats any creme rinse I’ve ever used and doesn’t leave ones hair slick and curl-less.
The coconut oil enhances it even more. So glad I tried it. Don’t care for the coconut oil as a hand creme tho, leaves my hands drier after a few days of using in the winter.
I grease by bread pans with it, and the bread pops out with ease. It imparts a slight, pleasant flavor.-also Use it as a margarine substitute in baking, 1/2 and 1/2 with butter.

What did your doctor recommend for the reversal of diabetes and lowering of cholesterol? Thank you.

I also had a nail fungus. Podiatrist had a “new” treatment not covered by insurance. I had to pay $600 up front for laser treatments–a second one free if the 1st didn’t do it. After 3 treatments, no improvement. After 18 months of ugly toenail I tried Vicks Vaporub and the nails are growing in clear and the ugly, thick yellow stuff is gone. Cost: $9.95 plus tax. Got the advice from my daughter who listens to NPR–thanks!

It would be great if doctors like you would start offering the promise of natural cures as an option first before conventional pharmaceutical drugs or at least give your patients a choice. There are so many options for many ailments from which to choose. I was lucky to find an internist who helped reverse my diabetes, thinned my sticky blood and lowered cholesterol all without the use of traditional drugs and no side effects. But there are so many folks out there who prefer natural options if they only knew about them.

I had bunion surgery several years ago and asked the doctor at the time about what he would recommend for my toe nail fungus. He did not want to prescribe the usual medication because of the side effects. He said to live with it. I found the Vicks cure in the PP column in the newspaper, and it worked like a dream. No recurrence. Thanks!

Does anyone know whether Vicks’ “greaseless cream” formula is equally effective for toenail fungus? Or might the petrolatum be an important factor in the effectiveness of the original formula?

Will this work if nails have polish on them?

I wholeheartedly agree. I used Tea Tree oil for about 10 years to just keep a toenail fungus “at bay”, but it never cured it. Switched to Vick’s after hearing about in on the PP, and saw marked improvement in just weeks. I apply it to all of my toes every morning just before putting my socks on. I’m keeping it up way past when I think it is “cured”, as toenail fungus is so pernicious…

My fiance also used Vick’s Vapo Rub with some success, however, we discovered that he had even greater success when he used Extra Virgin Coconut Oil daily. It was actually amazing to see what the coconut oil could do!

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