Natural Ways To Heal Toenail Fungus

Most of us likely see our nails as accessories to our fingers and toes; things that need to be trimmed occasionally, but aren't really essential. While it is true that we do not need nails to survive, they can be helpful in alerting doctors to the presence of certain health conditions, and may themselves become directly affected by disease (per Cleveland Clinic).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is very common for nails to become infected by fungi. The infection is mostly caused by fungi called dermatophytes, but it can also be caused by yeasts and mold such as Candida. You can get these infections when you have any break in your nails or the skin around them, followed by exposure to the fungi from the environment or from physical contact with infected people. You are also more likely to get an infection if you have diabetes, a weak immune system, and poor circulation in your legs.

A fungal infection on the toenails begins as yellow or white spots under the nails, which gradually spreads and can change color. The nails thicken and deform, or sometimes become brittle. It is not painful initially, but over time, it can become sensitive to pressure. You may even have difficulties with walking. The recommended way of treating toenail fungal infections is through medications and/or procedures, but there are some methods you can try at home. Take note, however, that data on these natural remedies are limited and sometimes contradictory.


Vinegar is a common condiment that can be found in almost all kitchen pantries. Aside from it being used to make delicious meals, it can also be used to clean virtually anything, deodorize rooms, polish items, unglue stickers, keep cut flowers fresh, and get rid of mold and mildew, among many other things (via Tips Bulletin).

Vinegar is composed mostly of water and acetic acid. Although the amount of acetic acid can vary from one product to another, it typically ranges between 4% to 8%. Vinegar has long been used as a natural disinfectant, which is supported by several small human studies and larger animal research data (per Harvard Health). However, some study results question its effectiveness. For example, a 2017 study in the Natural Product Research journal showed that apple cider vinegar at full concentration is able to inhibit the growth of several bacterial and fungal species. But at lower concentrations, it is more effective in killing bacteria than fungi. A 2021 study from the International Journal of Microbiology showed similar results, with the more acidic apple cider vinegar samples showing more promising effects compared to less acidic samples.

To use vinegar on the toes, Healthline suggests soaking your feet in a one-part-vinegar, two-parts-water bath for 10 to 15 minutes daily. However, Medical News Today warns that the tradeoff is the risk of developing skin burns and irritation, especially at higher concentrations of acid. If this happens, stop the soak immediately and wash your feet with running water.

Baking soda

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can be found in almost all households. Aside from being able to make your chickens crispy and your pastries rise, WebMD states that it can also help with indigestion, insect bites, tooth and gum health, and getting rid of bad smells.

Authors of a 2012 study in Mycopathologia tested the effect of sodium bicarbonate on several fungal species that commonly infect the skin and nails. Their results show that in vitro, it is able to prevent the growth of all fungal species tested, especially at a higher concentration. Even at a lower concentration, it was able to suppress the growth of around 80% of their samples. It is important to note, however, that ex vivo, baking soda may not be as effective in inhibiting nail fungi compared to skin fungi, since almost a third of the nail fungi research samples showed only a partial effect. offers a different explanation. According to them, baking soda can absorb extra moisture from the nail. Because fungi thrive in humid environments, this may help prevent them from further multiplying. Regardless of which explanation is more accurate, if you are planning to use baking soda to help with a fungal nail infection, you can make a paste with baking soda and water and apply it to the affected nail for 15 minutes. Another way to do it, according to Healthline, is to mix baking soda with water and soak the affected area for 10 to 40 minutes.


Whether you fully embrace the pungent smell of garlic and can never get enough of it, or you sympathize with the mythical vampires and cannot get farther away from it, no one can ignore the many proven benefits of garlic. According to The Botanical Institute, garlic can reduce inflammation, help maintain blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, decrease cholesterol levels, reduce oxidative stress, prevent growth of bacteria, and treat fungal infections. Garlic may also possibly help decrease blood pressure in people with hypertension, treat seasonal allergies, prevent liver dysfunction, and promote hair growth.

But even though it has several benefits, garlic is not without side effects. Cleveland Clinic warns that when ingested, too much garlic can cause gut issues (e.g., stomach upset, bloating, diarrhea), strong body odor, and bad breath. And when applied on the skin (especially for prolonged periods of time), it may cause a chemical burn. Because of this, it seems like there is no unifying consensus on whether it is safe to apply garlic on your skin or not. 

Some experts like and eMedihealth suggest cutting garlic cloves in half and applying the inside part of the garlic directly on the affected nail daily for 20 to 30 minutes. On the other hand, there are also published reports of people experiencing serious skin burns after applying garlic to treat wounds and infections, which caused other experts like the University of Washington Medicine to advise against it.


As a close relative of garlic, onion contains antioxidants and similar compounds that give garlic its many beneficial properties (via SFGate). Some possible health benefits of onion (per Organic Facts) include preventing tooth decay, protecting against oral infections, strengthening the immune system, decreasing inflammation, relieving sore throat and cough, alleviating asthma symptoms, repelling insects, controlling blood sugar levels, and protecting against heart disease.

Despite having many potential benefits, however, eating onions or applying it on the skin can also lead to several adverse reactions. First and foremost, onions can cause you to develop bad breath and body odor. You can also experience stomach upset, heartburn, and gas, especially if you are allergic to them or if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And as many people know, cutting raw onions can cause eye irritation and tearing. This is caused by a gas called lachrymatory factor, which is released from the onion when it is cut. It is also what gives onion its characteristically spicy flavor when eaten raw (via Healthline).

Researchers of a 2020 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences found that red onion extract is effective against the dermatophyte Trichophyton rubrum, and that the higher the concentration of red onion extract, the more effective it is at inhibiting the growth of the fungus. Currently, credible information is still lacking on how onions should be used to treat fungal nail infections, and more research needs to be done to prove its safety and efficacy.


Cornmeal is dried-up corn that has been ground to bits. The type of cornmeal depends on how fine the bits are. For example, the finest cornmeal is corn flour, followed by fine cornmeal, medium cornmeal, then coarse cornmeal, which includes polenta and grits. 

According to Medical News Today, polenta specifically has many nutritional benefits. It has a good amount of fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, while also being low in fat and calories. It also contains some vitamin A, which plays an important role in several body processes that involve your vision, growth, reproduction, and immunity (per Mayo Clinic). In addition, cornmeal may be effective in killing candida, according to However, aside from a few anecdotal evidence, not much scientific data exists to support this claim.

If you want to try using cornmeal for a fungal nail infection, recommends making a paste or a foot bath. You can make a paste by mixing cornmeal with warm water and letting it cool. Apply it on the affected area for one hour. If you want to make a soak, put an inch of cornmeal in a shallow basin and add another inch of warm water. Wait for one hour, place your foot inside the basin and add more warm water to cover your foot. Keep your foot soaked for one hour.

Epsom salt

Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and its related products have gained steady popularity over the years. Aside from being an FDA-approved laxative, it is believed that Epsom salt can also be readily absorbed through the skin (per the Epsom Salt Council). According to Healthgrades, Epsom salt can help relieve stress and anxiety, reduce inflammation, accelerate muscle recovery, exfoliate the skin, provide pain relief, and relieve flu and cold symptoms. In addition, it may also help with all kinds of foot issues such as swelling, arthritis, ingrown nails, and fungal infections.

Although Epsom salt does not have any antifungal properties, it may provide relief of fungal nail infection symptoms by improving circulation and decreasing inflammation, which in turn can help accelerate the healing process. You can make an Epsom salt foot bath by dissolving 2 cups of Epsom salt with warm water. Submerge your feet in the soak for at least 30 minutes, and try to do this at least three times a week. 

Alternatively, you can also soak a cotton cloth in a mixture of warm water and Epsom salt, and apply it on the affected nail for 15 to 20 minutes. You can also make a paste by mixing epsom salt with a cup of hot water, and applying it on the affected nail once it cools (via While the process is simple, Cleveland Clinic warns that you should avoid using Epsom salt if you have severe inflammation, infections, open wounds, or severe burns on your skin.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is perhaps one of the most widely used essential oils. According to Mayo Clinic, a few small studies support its beneficial effects in treating common conditions like acne, dandruff, athlete's foot, and lice. However, its ability to help treat fungal nail infections has yet to be fully established. Results from several studies conducted over the years so far show contradicting results.

Nonetheless, if you want to try using tea tree oil to help with a nail fungus, remember to always dilute it with a carrier oil first. Carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, and argan oils. There are several ways to apply tea tree oil. You can pour the mixture in a cotton ball and place it on your affected nail for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can place the mixture in a cotton swab, apply it on your affected nail, and let it dry. Lastly, you can soak your feet in a bath made by mixing tea tree oil with the carrier oil and warm water (per Medical News Today).

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), one of the most important things to remember when using tea tree oil is to not ingest it. When consumed, tea tree oil can cause serious adverse effects such as confusion, loss of muscle control, breathing issues, and loss of consciousness. It may also cause irritation in susceptible people, even when it is just applied to the skin.

Coconut oil

Many people believe that ingesting coconut oil is good for their health. It is derived from coconut, which is a fruit, so it should be healthy, right? But while it gained attention for its supposed abilities to burn fat, boost immunity, and protect against heart disease and dementia, research data somewhat says otherwise. According to Harvard, the results of studies on the health benefits of coconut are somewhat misleading. Either the formulation of the coconut oil used in experiments were different from the ones used in commercially sold coconut oil, or other factors could have influenced the results.

On the other hand, its benefits when used externally may be more valid. According to Healthline, coconut oil is a good moisturizer for the skin, and it can also help reduce irritation and promote faster healing. It also has strong antifungal properties, which makes it a good supplement for treating fungal infections. To use coconut oil, melt it and wait until it is somewhat cool before you apply it on the affected area. You can use a cotton ball or swab, but make sure to clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after. You can do this up to six times a day. You can also mix coconut oil with tea tree oil for possibly better results.

However, be careful when applying coconut oil on other areas of your body, especially if you are prone to acne. Cleveland Clinic states that it may clog pores, cause breakouts, and increase the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads.

Plant extracts

Snakeroot (Ageratina pichinchensis) is a plant that has long been used in Mexico as a natural remedy for superficial fungal infections caused by dermatophytes. An extract is made using fresh or dried snakeroot leaves and alcohol. Once the plant compounds have been extracted, the liquid concoction is then applied to the affected area. In 2008, a clinical trial published in Planta Medica found that snakeroot extract was equally effective in treating nail fungus when compared to ciclopirox, a commonly prescribed antifungal solution. A year later, results of another clinical trial published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that applying a cosmetic lacquer containing 16.8% snakeroot extract for six months was effective in treating mild to moderate fungal nail infections. Despite these promising results, in a 2020 article published in Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, the authors warn that these are just small studies, and testing should be done on a much larger scale in order to fully establish its effectiveness.

Another plant extract that is sometimes used in nail fungus treatment is olive leaf. According to WebMD, it contains high amounts of antioxidants, which is believed to help decrease the risk of many conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia. It has also been found to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. SingleCare suggests applying olive leaf extract on the affected area or taking capsules containing olive leaf extract. If you are going to do this, however, be sure to speak with your doctor first.

Ozonated oils

Do you remember hearing the word "ozone" for the first time as a young kid in science class, listening to your teacher talk about the earth's ozone layer? The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that ozone is a natural gas made up of three oxygen atoms (O3) that primarily protect us from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. However, ozone can also form from pollutants in the air that we breathe, and become part of smog. This type of ozone is dangerous when inhaled, and can cause several health issues.

Ironically, artificially made ozone gas is actually commonly used as a disinfectant. Authors of a 2009 article in the Journal of the International Ozone Association state that aside from being used by food and agricultural industries for decontamination purposes, they found that ozone gas is also effective in eradicating mold infestations in buildings, including surfaces like plastic, cotton, fabric, and cardboard.

Additionally, results of a 2017 study in the same journal suggest that ozonated olive oil is effective in preventing the growth of several fungal species (including Candida), and may even be useful in controlling hard-to-treat strains. Ozonated oil is made by injecting ozone into oil (commonly olive oil) for a set amount of time. According to Healthy Focus, ozonated olive oil can be used externally for several skin conditions like acne, eczema, wrinkles, cellulite, sunburn, and infections. To use ozonated oil for toenail fungus specifically, Healthline suggests applying it on the affected nail twice a day.

Lemon juice

Lemons are known for their bright yellow appearance and citrusy sour taste. They are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which may be beneficial in protecting you against stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, anemia, and infections (via Medical News Today).

According to Herbsey, studies show that lemon extract (not lemon juice) may be effective in inhibiting the growth and spread of dermatophytes and possibly, Candida. Before using lemons, it is important for you to know how lemon juice differs from lemon extract. Lemon juice is the liquid you get from squeezing lemons, while lemon extract is the liquid substance produced from submerging lemon peels in alcohol (via MasterClass). You can buy lemon extract at your local grocery store, or you can make it yourself at home.

Extracts also differ from oils. Lemon oil is a more potent and concentrated version of lemon extract, but with less alcohol content, meaning it can lose its quality much faster (per Tastylicious). A 2017 review that consolidated and analyzed data from several studies on lemon oil and other essential oils found that lemon oil is effective against dermatophytes and Candida.

Similar to tea tree oil, you should mix lemon oil with a carrier oil before applying it to your skin. Some people may be allergic or sensitive to lemon oil, and there have been cases where lemon oil caused people to have increased sensitivity to sunlight. If you get bad skin reactions, wash the oil with water and do not use it again (per Healthline).

Black tea

Black tea comes from the leaves of a plant called Camelia sinensis. Although it is picked from the same type of plant, the color and flavor of black tea can vary depending on how it is processed. According to MedicineNet, you can reap several health benefits by incorporating black tea in your diet every day. Among these include decrease in blood pressure and blood sugar levels, protection against heart disease and certain cancers, increased immunity, gut protection, improved concentration, stress relief, and prevention of premature aging.

In addition, a 2009 study published in the Chemotherapy journal revealed that polyphenols found in black tea exhibit some degree of antifungal activity against several species of Candida. Similarly in 2011, results of a study published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry showed that fermented green and black tea (kombucha) is also effective against several species of Candida. However, it is important to note that because these studies were done in controlled environments and did not involve actual fungal samples from infected tissues, there is still much to learn and discover about how (and to what extent) black tea can possibly help in the treatment of fungal nail infections.

If you want to try using black tea for nail fungus, SingleCare suggests adding five to six tea bags to 8 cups of boiling water. Once the tea is cooled, soak your feet for 30 minutes everyday.

Good hygiene practices

It is always important to practice good hygiene, especially because it protects you from all kinds of diseases and health conditions — both infectious and non-infectious. Specifically for nail fungus, you should make it a point to keep your nails trimmed, thinned, and buffed. 

According to WebMD, buffed nails can help antifungal medicine reach deeper areas. Per the CDC, your nails can collect dirt and germs that play a role in transmitting several infections, so keeping them nice and clean can help prevent this from happening. Apart from frequently clipping your nails, do not forget to scrub the underside of your nails with soap and water when you wash your hands. Clean the tools that you use on your nails and avoid manipulating your cuticles. You should also avoid chewing or biting your nails as much as possible.

Aside from your nails, pay close attention to your feet as well. Wear clean socks and shoes at all times, and change your socks regularly. Fungi love warm and humid conditions, so feet that are often enclosed in socks and closed shoes is the perfect environment for them to set up shop and settle (per the CDC). By keeping your feet clean and dry — and by practicing good foot hygiene — you are preventing the fungi living in your nails and skin from thriving and causing more problems.

Diet and exercise

The lifestyle choices you make greatly influences the quality of your life. By staying healthy through proper diet and exercise, you are allowing your mind and body to function at full potential, and to protect you against the countless health problems that may try to come for you throughout your life.

Just as how the different parts of your body work together to make sure that nothing goes wrong, nasty diseases also exert extra damage when there are a lot of them. For example, people who do not get adequate nutrition from their diet and do not exercise are prone to developing several health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Following this, people with diabetes are also at risk of developing health issues, including foot and circulation problems. Without proper circulation in the feet, wounds do not heal and the feet become prone to infections. The body becomes unable to fight off the infection, and sometimes it can get to a point where even medications will not help (per WebMD).

To avoid problems like this from happening, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends doing physical activity for at least half an hour on most (if not all) days of the week; incorporating endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility in your exercise routine; eating plenty of fruits and vegetables; going for foods that are low in sodium, sugars, and saturated fats; and opting for whole grains and lean protein and dairy products.