Toenail fungus is one of the most difficult problems to treat. The infection can be caused by a fungus like trichophyton or by candida. As people get older, the problem increases. For people over 60 years old, 20% will suffer from it. By 70 years of age, 50% of the population has it. The fungus causes thickening of the nail bed and discoloring of the nail. It can be a sign of other problems like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and widespread (systemic) candida. For people with diabetes, 33% have toenail fungus.
Medical treatments can be topical or oral but they are expensive, require a year of treatment, and have very poor results. For example, a bottle containing less than a teaspoon of efinaconazole (Jublia) costs $539. A year of treatment for 3 toes would require 16 bottles ($8,624) and it would only cure 17% of the time.
Less expensive treatments have been tried. Soaking your feet for 30 to 50 minutes per day for several months in Listerine mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or white vinegar have anecdotal followings but no real scientific studies. Tea tree oil (without a carrier oil) has been evaluated in studies and is slightly better than Jublia but at full strength it can cause skin irritation.
A surprising home remedy is Vicks VapoRub. After 48 weeks of treatment, 28% of study participants were cured and 56% had partial clearance. VapoRub has thymol, menthol, camphor, and oil of eucalyptus which are anti-fungal.
One of the best solutions turns out to be sunlight (UV radiation). Exposing the toenail to direct sunlight or using a UV lamp for at least 15 minutes a day can be very beneficial. A healthy nail is transparent and allows some amount of sunlight to travel down to the nail bed and kill the fungus. The more opaque the toenail, though, the less effective the treatment. But it is a wonderful, preventive approach before the nail becomes too affected.
Another natural, highly effective remedy is coconut oil. It penetrates the skin easily and is absorbed into the root where new nail growth occurs. Some people mix coconut oil with oregano oil or tea tree oil. The coconut oil acts as a carrier oil and can get the oregano and tea tree oils further into the nail. People have reported success in as little as 3 to 6 months.
Dr. Bruce Fife wrote a wonderful, in-depth article on this issue in his Coconut Research Center newsletter if you want more information. It is the best I’ve ever seen on nail fungus. He also outlines a 4-step approach involving coconut oil, tea tree oil, and sunlight. Click here to read.
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