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February 2018 (Vol. 28 Issue 11)

The Medical Detective - Be your own podiatrist

About the author: 
Harald Gaier

The Medical Detective - Be your own podiatrist image

Fight fungal foot infections with these nine DIY remedies, says Harald Gaier

Question: I regularly suffer from toenail fungus and athlete’s foot, both of which seem to have become resistant to the standard medication. Can you suggest any alternative treatments?

Answer: Fungal infections of the toenails (onychomycosis) and feet (tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot) are extremely common, especially in men. As you’ve discovered, they can be difficult to treat, but you’ll be pleased to know there’s a variety of simple home remedies you can use to stop these unpleasant infections in their tracks.

As there are several different types of fungus that could be causing your problem, you may need to try more than one of the following remedies to get rid of the particular infection you have.

Here are nine non-drug treatments that in my experience have proved effective.

1) Tea-tree oil

Derived from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree native to Australia, tea-tree oil has natural antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and fungicidal properties. One test-tube study found that its essential oil inhibited the growth of 57 out of 58 of the fungi tested.1 That’s why it’s often recommended for fungal infections.

What to do

• Apply tea-tree oil to the affected nail twice a day with a little brush. At the same time, apply one or two drops under the rim of the nail, after removing any fungal accumulation first.

• Do this regularly for at least two to three months even if you see improvement sooner, as
the fungus may come back if you stop the treatment too soon.

• Alternatively, pour a few drops of tea-tree oil onto a cotton ball, fix the ball in place on the affected nail with tape and leave overnight. Again, do this for two to three months.

2) Oil of oregano

Not just useful for cooking, oregano can also help get rid of fungal infections if you use the oil of this fragrant herb. It contains antimicrobial agents carvacrol and thymol, both of which can eliminate fungi and bacteria.2

What to do

• Blend three drops of oregano oil in 1 Tbsp of carrier oil like jojoba or olive oil.

• After washing and drying the feet thoroughly, apply the oil mixture to the fungus-infected nail or area with a cotton ball.

• Repeat twice a day for up to two months. As with tea-tree oil, you may see results sooner than that, but you should ideally continue the treatment for longer to ensure the fungus doesn’t return.

3) Lavender oil

Because of its specific volatile constituents and known antiseptic properties, lavender oil is another effective, natural home treatment for toenail fungus.3

What to do

• Apply it with a cotton ball to the areas beneath the rim of the infected toenail and the nearby skin.

• Pop on a pair of thick wool socks to help it work even better.

4) Clove oil

This essential oil, derived from Syzygium aromaticum, has well-established antifungal, anesthetic and antiseptic properties, thanks to its high eugenol content.4 This is also a great remedy if your infection is causing you pain, as clove oil also contains the natural pain-relieving chemical capsaicin.

What to do

• Apply it directly to the affected areas, but if the skin is broken or sensitive, dilute it with olive oil or unrefined coconut oil.

5) Garlic

Ajoene, an organosulfur compound found in garlic, is an effective treatment for athlete’s foot and other fungal infections. In one study, a twice-daily topical application of 1 percent ajoene for one week produced a 100 percent cure rate for athlete’s foot, onychomycosis and other fungal infections compared with 94 percent with 1 percent terbinafine hydrochloride, the standard antifungal medication (better known under its trade name Lamisil).5

What to do

• Apply a warm moist compress to affected areas.(Heat attracts the fungus to the skin surface, making any treatment more effective.)

• Place a well-mashed clove of garlic between two pieces of gauze, cut to fit over the affected area, tape the open sides and then tape the whole patch to the affected area.

• Replace with a fresh mashed-up garlic clove and clean gauze every three to five hours. Do this until it clears and continue beyond that to avoid recurrence.

• Alternatively, soak your feet in hot water and crushed garlic for 30 minutes, or apply minced garlic in olive oil with a cotton ball directly to the affected areas.

6) Lemongrass oil

This native Southeast Asian plant (Cymbopogon citratus) is widely used as an insect repellent, but its essential oil—with its high proportion of citral—is also a potent antimicrobial and antifungal agent.6

What to do

• Apply it topically in the same way as oil of oregano.

7) Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used topically for centuries for toenail fungus in India and China. Leaves of the herb contain curcumin, which has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that pathogenic fungal growth can be inhibited by turmeric and its essential oil, formulated as an ointment.7

What to do

• Add a little water to 3 tsp turmeric powder to make a paste and apply this to the affected toenail(s).

• Leave for 30 minutes, then wash off with warm water. As turmeric stains, scrub your skin well and avoid getting it onto your clothes.

• Repeat three times daily.

• Also try drinking a glass of milk containing 1 tsp turmeric powder every day, which can heal any fungal or yeast infections inside your body and strengthen your immune system.

8) Vicks VapoRub

This popular over-the-counter mentholated ointment for coughs and colds can also treat toenail fungus. Depending on the type of fungus, it may take six weeks or up to 48 weeks to work. In one small study, 83 percent of onychomycosis sufferers showed positive effects, with 28 percent of them achieving “clinical cure.”8

What to do

• Cut and trim the affected nail, and wash and dry the foot thoroughly.

• Apply the Vicks VapoRub to the affected area, cover with a bandage or gauze and pop on a pair of socks.

• Repeat this process every day until the infection is gone.

9) Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash

This over-the-counter product is, in fact, a powerful antimicrobial agent, making it a great home treatment for toenail fungus.9

What to do

• In a large bowl, mix the mouthwash with equal amounts of lemon juice and white or apple cider vinegar (ratio should be 50 : 25 : 25).

• Soak the affected foot in this solution for 10–15 minutes, then rinse the foot. Some recommend soaking for 50 minutes to an hour, whatever works best for you.

• Repeat daily until the infection is gone.


Medicine in the raw image

Medicine in the raw

The secret stamina sapper image

The secret stamina sapper

References

References

1

J Am Podiatr Med Assoc, 1998; 88: 489–92

2

Nahrung, 2002; 46: 317–20

3

J Med Microbiol, 2011; 60: 612–8

4

J Med Microbiol, 2009; 58: 1454–62

5

J Am Acad Dermatol, 2000; 43: 829–32

6

Mycobiology, 2006; 34: 219–29

7

Physiol Mol Biol Plants, 2010; 16: 177–85

8

J Am Board Fam Med, 2011; 24: 69–74

9

www.peoplespharmacy.com/2013/12/02/listerine-soaks-proved-effective-against-toenail-fungus/

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