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Tea Tree Oil Zaps Nail Fungus

Readers report success treating persistent toenail fungus with tea tree oil. Could this approach work for you?

For most people, fungal infections of the toenails are unsightly and disturbing, but not painful or dangerous. Consequently, many are reluctant to invest in pricey prescription medicines to eliminate the fungus. Readers have experimented with a wide range of home remedies to address the problem, and some have had success.

Toothpaste and Tea Tree Oil on Your Toes?

Q. I found the cure! My toenail was infected with fungus I hadn’t been able to shake.

I recently started applying a brand-name advanced whitening toothpaste, alternating with tea tree oil. It has been three months, and about three-fourths of the nail has now grown in healthy. The toothpaste was a bit harsh on the skin in the beginning, but it got better over time.

I applied the toothpaste daily to the entire nail, making sure to get in every little nook and underneath the nail. I scrubbed it with a brush in the shower, then applied tea tree oil.

In the mornings, I applied the toothpaste before putting on my socks. Let’s see if anyone else has good results.

A. Thanks for sharing your regimen. To get rid of toenail fungus, you have to keep treating the nail until it has grown out completely free of fungus. That can take months.

We don’t know what is in your toothpaste, but many whitening toothpastes contain hydrogen peroxide, a known antifungal agent. Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) also has antifungal activity (International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Aug. 4, 2023).  It seems that you have found a combination that works well together. We too would like to know if anyone else has positive results.

Treating Toenail Fungus at Home:

Q. I ignored my nail fungus for years but finally my wife started complaining about how gross the nails are. Last fall I started soaking my feet in a dilute vinegar solution for half an hour and then applying tea tree oil directly to the nails. It has taken several months, but the nails are nearly back to normal. Why is this essential oil so effective?

A. Tea tree oil comes from an Australian tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). It has been shown to have antifungal properties. Tea tree oil is active against the fungi that cause nail fungus (Mycopathologia, online, Feb. 8, 2013).

Some people report that this herbal oil is also effective against bacterial and viral infections. Some toenail infections are caused by these microbes.

Beyond Nail Fungus:

Dermatologists have found that a combination of tea tree oil and iodine can be useful against molluscum contagiosum, a common childhood rash caused by a virus (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, March, 2012).

The oil derived from tea trees can cause a rash in some people, so it should be tested first. Anyone who would like to know more about home remedies for nail fungus may be interested in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care.

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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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  • Iacovelli F et al, "Deciphering the broad antimicrobial activity of Melaleuca alternifolia tea tree oil by combining experimental and computational investigations." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Aug. 4, 2023. DOI: 10.3390/ijms241512432
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