We all have that one guest who always seems to be wearing one scent all the time – Eau de Foot (literally!). You know what I’m talking about; that one friend who you always prefer to host in open areas like the balcony, backyard, patio, basically anywhere but inside your home.
Why? Coz their smelly feet will stink up the place faster than a cornered skunk. But instead of chasing my uncle outside all the time (he knows who he is), I decided to find out what really causes his foot odor and if there’s a remedy on God’s green earth that could help him. And wouldn’t you know it – the culprit was toenail fungus.
Today, we’ll dive into how to get rid of toenail fungus using essential oils.
What is Toenail Fungus?
Also known as onychomycosis (quite a mouthful), toenail fungus is one of the most common foot problems affecting a large percentage of the global population. The name refers to a condition that affects the nails, but it’s more common for toenails than fingernails.
It is typically characterized by pain, redness or inflammation in the toe. The infection starts off as slight discoloration and develops slowly. As it goes deeper, the infection causes heavy discoloration as the nails become thicker and more brittle. Definitely not a pretty sight.
Toenail fungus affects over 10 percent of the population, with older people and men being more prone to it. Fortunately, the condition is quite easy to address even without treatment. But first, how do you really know it’s toenail fungus and not something else like athletes foot?
So, First Things First: What Does It Look Like?
Although you might think otherwise, nail fungus is a very common nail condition. It all starts with the appearance of white or yellow colored spots beneath the tip of your toenail or fingernail and goes deeper causing the nail to crumble, thicken and discolor at the edge. Further, the nail could become dull, ragged and brittle, dark in color, or may change shape.
You may start suffering from the condition called onycholysis where the nail starts to split from the nail bed causing great discomfort and pain. If this condition is ignored, it could go on expanding indefinitely and cause trouble in other parts of the toe. In several cases, the infection comes back even after going through the complete course of treatment.
Symptoms And Causes Of Toenail Fungus
Thickening and yellowing discoloration of the toenails are a dead giveaway for onychomycosis. However, you may also see black, white or even green discoloration. The toenails become more brittle as the fungus progresses with pieces or entire nails breaking off. The skin underneath gets painful and inflamed with a very foul stench emanating.
In short, you’ve got toenail fungus if your nails are:
- Thickened and discolored
- Distorted, brittle, ragged and crumbly
- Getting darker with debris buildup underneath
- Breaking away from the nail bed
- Painful and inflamed
- Smelling foul
As the name suggests, toenail fungus is caused by a set of several fungal organisms with the most common being dermatophytes, yeasts and molds.
Derrmatophytes are the fungus responsible for the condition in temperate western countries while candida yeasts and molds are more frequent in regions with hot, humid climates. These organisms are found almost everywhere.
So, perhaps the most important question to ask would be, what are the factors that put some people more at risk of getting toenail fungus than others?
Some of the most common being exposure to excessive moisture, a pH imbalance in the skin, inadequate foot hygiene, and/or poor circulation (often seen in diabetics). Other factors include:
- Perspiring Heavily
People who sweat more (especially in the feet) are at a higher risk of getting toenail fungus. That’s because the yeasts and molds prefer warmer, humid temperatures which you provide when you sweat all day in your shoes.
- Health Problems
People with circulatory problems, athletes foot, or diabetes are at a higher risk of getting toenail fungus. That’s because these ailments lead to low peripheral temperatures on the feet or weakened immune systems.
- Going Barefoot
Toenail fungus can spread through direct contact such as when you walk barefoot in public places. These include swimming pools, gyms, hotels, spas, showers, among others.
When Should You Seek Treatment?
More often than not, treatment is not always necessary for toenail fungus – as long as you can maintain good hygiene and proper foot care, the problem tends to go away on its own. However, there are instances where the onychomycosis could lead to other severe infections that could spread beyond the feet.
Likewise, a severe case of toenail fungus could become very painful and cause permanent damage to your nails. With this in mind, it’s clear that getting treatment (conventional or otherwise) as early as possible is the best thing you could do.
The first group to seek treatment should be where there’s an underlying illness involved such as diabetes, athletes foot or people with a suppressed immune system. After that, anyone who has tried to get rid of the fungus at home and failed should also seek treatment.
Conventional Treatments for Onychomycosis
Again, not all cases of toenail fungus will require treatment. But if your doctor confirms you will require some treatment, here’s how conventional treatments work in an escalating order.
- Oral Antifungals
Your doctor will prescribe an oral antifungal medication based on the kind of fungus you’re dealing with. These oral medications include terbinafine which is substantially more effective than the alternatives fluconazole and itraconazole.
- Topical Agents
Topical antifungal treatment is also prescribed for some cases of toenail fungus. While oral treatment takes about 3 months, topical treatments usually need to be applied for prolonged periods of up to a year. Some of the topical agents include amorolfine, ciclopirox nail paint and efinaconazole. Unfortunately, these treatments only address the fungus and don’t heal the nail itself.
In more extreme cases where the above treatments aren’t working, doctors may recommend chemical or surgical debridement of the affected nails. But not to worry, a new nail will usually re-grow within a year.
Facts About Nail Fungus
The two images below show 13 facts about nail fungus.
What Are the Benefits of Going All-Natural?
You’ve already seen that most cases of toenail fungus don’t require treatment. But if we could all do something early on before the infection spreads, then I can confidently say that zero cases of toenail fungus would even need treatment in the first place. This is just one advantage of going all natural with your toenail fungus treatment. Other benefits include:
1. Zero Side Effects
This has to be the most notable benefit of opting for natural treatments as opposed to conventional treatment. See, almost all the medical treatments for toenail fungus come with dire side effects. In the case of oral antifungal drugs, they pose the severe risk of harming your liver’s function.
2. True Treatment
Topical agents on the other hand don’t even promise a cure, they just improve the appearance of fungal nails. This is a huge waste of time and money if you ask me. Like washing your cup on the outside only and calling it clean.
3. Budget Friendly
Natural treatments have always stood out for being cheaper alternatives. But for problems like toenail fungus which require extended periods of treatment, the cost of conventional treatment will really get you down. Who wants to take expensive antifungals and then apply costly creams for a whole year? Natural treatments may take just as long, but at least they won’t cost as much.
Why Use Essential Oils For Toenail Fungus: Are They Safe?
I’ll be honest, there’s no shortage of medical treatments to fight off any type of fungus. Unfortunately, all these medication come with hefty side effects such as allergic reactions, heart problems, liver damage, gastrointestinal disorders among others.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have bad nails but keep my heart and liver healthy. Well, what if I told you there was a way to treat toenail fungus without any of the side effects?
Essential oils are packed with all the natural healing components your body needs to beat the fungus. Some essential oils such as Tea Tree and Oregano are ripe with antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties that eliminate yeasts and harmful organisms in your system while others like lemon and cinnamon oil prevent any regrowth of fungus.
Other essential oils like frankincense are known to boost the immune system while peppermint will provide a double whammy in regards to relieving discomfort and eliminating foot odor.
Having said that, here are some of the best essential oils you can use for quick relief in nail and toenail infection:
The Best 7 Essential Oils For Toenail Fungus
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is one of the best oil for combating this villain fungus. My own personal experience says that you can bank upon this oil as a standalone solution for all your toenail fungus woes.
How to use Tea Tree oil for best possible outcomes?
In order to begin with the treatment, clean the affected area by rubbing it with alcohol, and then apply undiluted tea tree oil straight to the nails. Allow them to soak in the solution. After about 10 minutes, scrub the nails very softly using a soft bristle toothbrush.
Follow this therapy on a daily basis until a new healthy nail grows out completely. Thereafter, continue using the oil for another 2-3 weeks to prevent the re-growth of the fungus.
2. Oregano Oil
Oregano is highly effective in killing the fungi that is responsible for nail and toenail infections. Only a small amount of this oil is enough to help you get rid of all kinds of infection in the toenail.
In addition, Oregano can easily top any list of essential oils that are effective against any kind of colds.
3. Orange Oil
Another essential oil that I recommend to use against toenail fungus infection is Orange Oil. You can combine this oil with tea tree oil to make a highly effective blend that can easily counter the fungi development in the toenail.
Another way of using orange essential oil is mixing it in ACV and then applying the blend over the affected area. Both these methods of using orange essential oil will get you quick relief.
4. Lavender Oil
The anti-fungal quality of Lavender essential oil makes it an effective remedy for treating mild cases of nail and toenail fungus.
Apply a small amount of lavender oil to the infected nails before going to bed and allow it soak in while you sleep. To prevent the oil from rubbing off, you may cover the feet with a pair of woolen socks.
You should ensure that the socks you are using are not made from synthetic fibers, as this will aggravate the infection. It is my recommendation to continue with such topical treatments for around several weeks even after the infection has subsided. Keep in mind, a healthy looking toenail might still carry the traces of fungus within it.
How to use Lavender essential oil for nail fungus?
While lavender is one of the best oils for nail / toenail fungus, I would recommend using the mix of lavender and tea tree oil rather than using lavender alone if you are looking for quick and sustainable relief.
Here is a step-by-step guide in how to use the combo of lavender/tea tree for nail and toenail fungus:
- When fungus attacks, the nail produces a damp hideout for it to grow. Wash your hands / feet thoroughly and clip away the nail as much as possible and leave the edges rounded to make sure they don’t catch on carpet or clothing (metal tools used to trim the infected nails need to be sterilized and air-dried before being used for the procedure).
- Wash the toenail area carefully and allow it to air dry.
- Drip one to two drops of the blend of tea tree and lavender oils over the affected nail bed every evening and morning.
- Repeat the above procedure daily for at least 4-6 weeks.
5. Clove Oil
Because of the presence of Eugenol, the essential oil of clove is a potent antiseptic and antifungal agent. In addition, if you are experiencing pain due to the toenail fungus, then clove is the best oil to go with.
Here is an essential oil recipe for toenail fungus relief using clove oil as its main ingredient:
- Coconut or Olive oil: 1 tsp
- Clove oil: 6-8 drops
Mix the clove and coconut oil well and use the blend straight over your toenails. In case your skin around nails is sensitive or broken, you can dilute the blend further, i.e. use 2 tsp instead. Follow the same procedure 2-3 times in a day.
6. Cinnamon Oil
Cinnamon oil is another essential oil with antifungal properties that can be used for the treatment of toenail fungus.
Just like clove, Cinnamon is also rich in Eugenol and in addition, it is extremely effective against candida albicans bacteria, which is one of the many factors behind toenail fungus. The best part about the essential oil of cinnamon is that you can use it both topically and internally.
Here is how to use Cinnamon essential oil for best possible relief in nail and toenail fungus
To start off, clean your toenail. Apply undiluted cinnamon essential oil with a cotton ball to the affected nails at least two times in a day. In case the nails have thickened, clip and file them appropriately before the procedure.
If you have sensitive or broken skin then it is better to dilute cinnamon oil in a carrier oil (4-6 drops in 1 tsp carrier oil). However, if you can bear the tingle of the undiluted cinnamon oil then it is better to use it directly without any dilution.
Cinnamon foot soak
Add 1-2 tsp of cinnamon oil in a hot water bath and dip your feet in this blend for around twenty minutes. If you want, you may also add Epsom salt to this mix. Pat your feet dry after the procedure is complete.
Repeat the same procedure at least once daily.
Oral consumption – Cinnamon Tea
- Cinnamon powder: 1 tsp (or 1 cinnamon stick)
- Black tea: 1 tea bag
- Honey (optional): 1 tsp
- Water: 1 cup
Put the cinnamon powder (or cinnamon stick) in a pot and pour boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for roughly 5-7 minutes before straining. Add the tea bag and steep for 2-3 minutes. You can add honey to this mix as per your choice if the tea is too bitter for you to relish. Drink this tea at least 2 times per day.
Precaution: Breastfeeding and pregnant women should avoid taking cinnamon.
Thyme has been used since the times of ancient Egyptians for its antibacterial properties. While being a potent anti-fungal, its primary component thymol prevents the development of candida which ultimately helps the body to fight off nail and toenail fungus.
When it comes to obtaining quick relief in conditions like toenail fungus, you can consider thyme essential oil as good a treatment as over-the-counter medication.
Here is how to use the essential oil of Thyme for best relief in nail and toenail fungus
You can use thyme directly on your toenails. The oil will be directly absorbed into the area where it is needed. If your nails are thickened, then clip and file them down. This makes the absorption more effective.
If the oil is irritating your skin, consider diluting the oil in carrier oils such as olive, almond or sunflower.
Fill a container with lukewarm water and add in Epsom salt and 8-10 drops of Thyme essential oil. Soak in for about 20 minutes at a time.
2 Essential Oil Recipes To Get Rid Of Toenail Fungus
Recipe 1: Onychomycosis Thieves Blend
- 12 drops Clove EO
- 10 drops Oregano EO
- 5 drops Orange EO
- 7 drops Thyme EO
- 3 drops Rosemary EO
- Choice of carrier Oil – 2oz. (60ml)
This is the most effective topical blend for any type of fungal infection. To prepare it, simply mix all the above essential oil in a glass container. Apply just two to three drops of the resulting blend on the infected toenails twice a day.
Recipe 2: Disinfecting Cottonball Compress for Toenail Fungus
- 5 drops Tea Tree EO
- 3 drops Cinnamon EO
- Cotton balls
Mix the 2 essential oils and dip a couple cotton balls in the resulting blend. You can dilute the blend in a tsp of carrier oil if you have sensitive skin. Once the cotton balls soak in the oils, clean the nails and then apply the cotton on the infected nails. Let the cotton ball compress sit for about half an hour before removing it and washing your feet.
Few Tips On Using Essential Oils For Nail & Toenail Fungus
- Make use of a dropper to apply oil on nails and between toes.
- Allow the oil to soak in for at least 30-45 mins.
- Some essential oils could be too strong for people with sensitive skin, so if this is the case, dilute the essential oil in a carrier such as olive or almond oil before application.
- If you are unsure about using essential oils, conduct a patch test beforehand.
Other Natural Remedies For Nail & Toenail Fungus
Below are six of the most popular home remedies to help you get rid of nail /toenail fungus fast.
1. Corn Meal
Ever heard of fighting fungus with fungus?
That’s exactly what you can do when you put organic cornmeal to work to combat onychomycosis. Organic corn meal contains a particular type of fungus that is actually deadly to Distal Subungual Onychomycosis (DSO), the fungus that is most commonly responsible for toenail fungal infections.
Create a foot soak by mixing two quarts of water and one cup of organic cornmeal in a foot bath container. Make sure to wait about an hour to allow the cornmeal a chance to fully become saturated with water, and then soak the affected foot for at least 30 minutes. Repeat this routine at least three times a week until you see the signs of the infection begin to diminish.
2. Vinegar Paste
Vinegar has dozens of useful applications around the household, one of which is its ability to attack fungal infections by way of its acidic pH.
You can combat the fungus responsible for onychomycosis by creating a vinegar paste comprised of regular all-purpose flour mixed with whatever vinegar you choose (apple cider vinegar is my popular favorite).
Try to make the paste a little thicker so that it won’t be runny, as you will be leaving it on your toes for a good while after application. Simply apply the paste to all of the toenails that have been affected by the fungus, and then wrap your foot with Saran Wrap or any type of clear cellophane plastic wrap.
After this, you can put on your socks and shoes and go about your day while the vinegar paste goes to work on eliminating the fungal infection. You don’t have to leave the paste on for the bulk of your day; you can keep it on for as long as you see fit, but do shoot for a minimum of 15 minutes per application.
3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of nature’s most versatile substances, as it can be used in a wide variety of applications for both health and nutrition.
One important but little-known fact about coconut oil is that it contains a medium-chain fatty acid known as caprylic acid, which actually has the ability to break through the tough cell wall of the fungi and deprives them of their barrier of protection needed to survive. In the absence of this protective coating, the fungus cells liquefy and the infection subsides.
Simply apply a thin layer of coconut oil to the affected area, allowing it to sit on the skin and nails for a minimum of 15 minutes. The great thing about it is that since coconut oil is an all-natural substance and completely safe for skin health, so there’s really no danger of overdoing it – unless, of course, you’re allergic to coconuts.
4. Sodium Borate and Baking Soda
Sodium borate, more commonly known as “borax”, is a natural mineral substance that typically comes in powder form, and is a powerful antifungal agent.
Baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) is one of the most popular cleaning agents around, and its alkaline composition helps to prevent the spread of fungus by basically creating a “hostile environment” for it.
When you mix these two ingredients together, you have an effective one-two punch of antifungal potency that can get rid of nail fungus in a jiffy.
Try mixing equal parts baking soda and borax with a small amount of water in order to make a paste. Now wet your feet and then rub the paste onto the affected nails, allowing it to sit for about 10-15 minutes before rinsing it off.
Repeat this routine twice a day, and even after you see the symptoms of the fungus disappear, continue with the routine for at least two more weeks just to ensure that all of the fungus has been eliminated.
5. Vicks VapoRub
Vicks VapoRub has long been a favorite home remedy for clearing up congestion, but the active ingredients in this potent ointment offer a variety of other uses as well.
According to the authors of a 2011 study published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil in Vicks VapoRub were all found to inhibit the growth of various species of fungi that are responsible for toenail fungal infections.
Try spreading Vicks VapoRub directly onto the affected area, allowing it to fully soak into the skin and nail(s). Repeat this routine twice a day, once in the morning and once at night until you see the infection begin to clear up.
You may have heard about soaking your foot in bleach in order to get rid of a toenail infection, but this is not recommended.
While bleach definitely has the power to knock out a fungal infection, you could do significant damage to your skin during the process, which would make it somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory.
Instead, create a much safer solution comprised of one part bleach to 10 parts water, and use this as your antifungal concoction. Dip a cotton ball in the mixture and then apply it directly to the infected area, rinsing it off after about 10 minutes.
Repeat this routine twice daily for about two weeks, and you should see the fungal infection begin to go away during that time frame.
The home remedies listed above have been used by lots of people to get rid of bothersome toenail fungal infections. Just use your personal discretion to determine which method(s) will be the best fit for you, and knock that infection out!
General Preventive Measures For Toenail Fungus
In most cases, toenail fungus is the result of not taking good care of the feet. Here are some of the preventive measures to help you prevent fungal infections of the toenail:
- Damp shoes and socks are breeding ground for fungus. Let air reach your toes to avoid the buildup of damp environment around your toenail. You could wear open sandals instead of shoes if you find yourself vulnerable to toenail fungus.
- Wash your socks in warm water after every use.
- Spray some baking soda in your socks and toenails before wearing closed shoes for a long time.
- Each time when your feet gets wet, dry them completely before wearing shoes.
Recommended Products For Nail & Toenail Fungus
1. Ready To Use Essential Oil Nail Fungus Blend
Doctors and naturopaths recommend several different therapies for the treatment of toenail fungus. One among such therapies is aromatherapy that uses plant-derived essential oils as its major tool against the disease. Most of these essential oils are easily available and safe to use. One such pre-made blend is H-Nail Fungus from AMOILS. Click here to read my review on this product.
2. Zetaclear Homeopathic Nail Fungus Treatment
Let’s look at some of the benefits of the FDA-approved Zeta Clear Anti-Fungus Formula. Zeta Clear is a safe, natural and easy-to-apply homeopathic solution that helps clear nail fungus fast using natural fungicidal ingredients. Clinical studies have proven that it is 6x more effective than other anti-fungal OTC medication – it works by preventing and inhibiting the growth/reproduction of fungus cells. Click here to find out more.
The Bottom Line
While it is true that you may not require any treatment in cases of mild infection, external help becomes necessary if the infection is causing you pain and thickening of nails.
Essential oils may be just as effective as prescription medication when it comes to treating mild or moderate toenail fungus. And what makes them stand out more is the fact that they have absolutely no negative side effects to contend with.
But I won’t lie to you, natural remedies will take longer to show their effects and may take longer to wipe out the fungus. Allow a few months for the infection to subside and two to three months for the discolored and disfigured nail to heal itself completely. I don’t advise putting nail polish during this time. Let the healthy new nail tissue breathe.
So make sure you’re consistent in your application and that you keep your toenails trimmed, clean and healthy even after the infection clears…Taking good care of your toes can save you from all the distress of toenail fungus!