The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Cornmeal on Your Feet Help Clear Up Fungus?

Can you clear up fungus on your toenails by soaking your feet in cornmeal? Should it be dry or damp for the best effect on fungus?
Toenail fungus foot

As summer approaches, people survey their toenails to see whether they will be embarrassed to bare them in public. Consequently, lots of folks are looking for a way to help clear up fungus. One reader found a unique approach.

How Can You Clear Up Fungus on Your Toenails?

Q. Sandal weather is on the way, so I am trying to treat my toenail fungus. I have been rubbing Vicks VapoRub all over my two big toenails and wrapping them in bandages for more than a month now.

The toenail on my right foot has a new nail growing under it. The left one is showing slight yellowing on one side.

This morning I poured cornmeal right out of the box into a shallow plastic tub and buried my feet in it. I felt like I was at a sandy beach. After watching TV and surfing the internet for an hour, I brushed most of the cornmeal off, but left the powdery stuff on my toes. I put on fresh socks, sprinkled more cornmeal in my new walking shoes and walked the dog. When I got home, I forgot all about my toenails.

Later, I felt a snag in my sock, took my sock off and the top old dead nail just fell off! No pain, nothing. The new nail looks pretty good. I was surprised it worked this fast. My expectation was that I would use this method for several weeks before seeing any results. I think different methods work because there are different types of toenail fungus.

I will keep “soaking” my feet in dry cornmeal and sprinkling it in any shoes I’m wearing. It worked for me! My feet feel soft, too.

What’s the Best Way to Use Cornmeal?

A. We appreciate your success story, although it is somewhat surprising. Other readers who have used cornmeal to treat nail fungus have made it into a warm mush first.

One person wrote:

“To make the cornmeal soak, put about an inch of cornmeal in a shallow container that will just fit the affected foot.

“Carefully pour about an inch of warm (not hot) water on top of the cornmeal and let it sit for an hour, so the water and cornmeal can combine naturally. After an hour, add enough additional warm water to cover the foot and soak for an hour.

“The mush must cover the whole area, not just the toenails, because fungus thrives everywhere on the toes, especially between them. After an hour, rinse the mush off with warm water and pat the foot dry with a clean towel. Soak the toenails once a week until the fungus clears up.”

Did Vicks VapoRub Help Clear Up Fungus?

Possibly your weeks of diligent Vicks VapoRub application contributed to the infected nail coming off so easily. Some people find this alarming, and not all fungus-infected toenails respond in this way.

As you note, there are different types of organisms causing trouble, and they seem to call for different ways to clear up fungus. Perhaps the cornmeal treatment also helped disrupt the biofilm protecting the fungus that was living in your toenails (Skin Appendage Disorders, Aug. 2018). 

To learn about this and other kitchen table cures for nail fungus, you may wish to consult our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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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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The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies
  • Gupta AK et al, "Antibiofilm treatment for onychomycosis and chronic fungal infections." Skin Appendage Disorders, Aug. 2018. DOI: 10.1159/000480023
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I had success with corn starch. I just put a spoon-full inside my socks near the toes, and that seems to do the trick. As a precautionary measure, I re-treat every so often because those nasty fungi are always around.

Would like to see more comments on corn meal successes. Once a week treatment is much preferable to Listerine or vinegar soak 20-30 minutes EVERY day. For 5-6 months. Thank you

With any foot/nail fungus success I add my word of caution/warning. Before you dance for joy consider continuing treatment for sometime. [How long? unsure]. I did the Listerine soak, some Vicks at night [months] and danced a jig when nails came off. But then I stopped the treatments and it all came back. I believe stopping too soon was the reason. Nails looked great but the scourge was still there and hidden. Now I need to begin again. Be certain your diligence is not wasted. In the meantime, being lazy, I am spraying with vinegar after shower and night-time. They’re not leaving, but nails are presentable enough for sandals. Good luck!

Should it be organic cornmeal?

I’ve had toenail fungus for over 20 years, at times very painful. I started taking organic olive leaf internally 3 times a day, and the fungus is clearing up quite nicely. I just make sure the olive leaf is organic. It’s my understanding that a lot of herbs and spices are irradiated, destroying any benefit they have. I also stay away from sugar; it just feeds the fungus. I also use a white vinegar peroxide and baking soda soak 15 minutes a day: 1 tbsp soda, 3 tbsp peroxide, 4 tbsp white vinegar with enough warm water to cover both feet.

The neem tree, found in Africa, produces an oil with strong anti-fungal properties. When I got toenail fungus on my big toe, I got NeemCure from and dabbed a tiny bit on the toenail with a paper towel each night for two weeks. I let the oil stay on for one hour each time. Then I stopped after two weeks. The fungus had stopped spreading and died, but it takes several months for the toenail to grow out enough to get rid of the discolored part. As it grows out, I clip normally and the discolored part gets smaller and smaller.

When done with your cornmeal mush, you can put it on your roses to fight fungus dieseases there.

I had started using +Plus CBD ointment (very greasy) on my pinkies and thumb/hand joint when the skin around the nails got hard and started to crack. I had read in PP about readers having this problem. Then my nails started splitting lengthways into two layers, curving upwards. Never in my 79 years have I ever had this happen to me. I am shocked and dismayed and have no idea where it came from. While dog-sitting, the pup was treated for a fungal ear infection. Can it transfer to humans? She had it several (snowbird) seasons prior, and nothing happened.

I have tried soaks in vinegar, listerine, a combo of both, cornmeal mush and listerine applied with Qtips twice daily while on a cruise. Nothing worked and dirt, coffee, etc. gets between the layers. It looks like I am digging in dirt. Had to apply nail polish which I did not ever use before.
While in Germany, I read about a medicinal nail polish treatment, one to be applied once a week. A month supply costs 35 Euros, about $48! Name brand is Loceryl aka Amorolfin hydrochlorid ingredient.
Another brand is Ciclopoli which is water soluble and must be applied every evening and washed off in the morning.

With Loceryl one can apply regular nail polish to make it more durable and not chip off. Is this available in the US? My dermologist said to apply Aquaphor! The Internist said “It’s cosmetic. Leave it alone!!” This is ridiculous and unbelievable, since I also had symptoms of too much intestinal yeast after 3 pills of Azithromax for bronchitis.

Docs today do not know how to treat yeast, but my docs in the 70-80’s treated me for it, and I remember it. My doc finally wrote a prescription, and it was for LAMISIL pills!! I did not pick the prescription up since I know it only works 50% of the time, at the most, and he agreed. I hope this expensive stuff helps or I am doomed to have ugly nails. Feet are also affected but not as bad and obvious.

Answers anyone?

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