Many people overlook herbal remedies because they’re unconvinced that plant-based medicines have the power to fight stubborn toenail infections. The truth is, some herbal remedies are just as effective, if not more effective, than their pharmaceutical counterparts.
At a small clinical trial in 2007, researchers discovered a topical solution that completely eradicated one volunteer’s toenail fungus. The solution contained – arrowroot, baking soda, basil oil, tea tree oil, sage oil, and clove oil. The researchers predicted that this solution would destroy fungal nail infections in the wider population.
Before you head off to mix-up this solution, let’s explore some further research to determine which herbal formulation will work best for your fungal toenail infection.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Toenail Fungus
- 1.1 What Causes Toenail Fungus?
- 1.2 Why Do I Have a Fungal Nail Infection?
- 1.3 Why Treat Fungal Nail Infections Naturally?
- 1.4 Treat Toenail Fungus with Tea Tree Oil
- 1.5 Olive Leaf Extract for Diabetic Toenail Fungus
- 1.6 Thyme Essential Oil for Candida Toenail Fungus
- 1.7 Aniseed Oil Can Heal Toenail Fungus
- 1.8 Lavender Oil Cures Nail Fungus
- 1.9 Benefits of Basil and Clove Oil
- 1.10 Can Turmeric Treat Onychomycosis?
- 1.11 Garlic and Fungal Infections
- 1.12 Change your Diet to Heal Toenail Fungus
- 1.13 Can Baking Soda Remove Toenail Fungus?
- 1.14 What Kills Toenail Fungus Naturally?
- 1.15 Read Our Latest Posts:
Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Toenail Fungus
There are two popular ways you can treat toenail fungus naturally:
- Topical Herbal Treatments – Certain essential oils inhibit yeast and fungi, allowing the nail time to heal.
- Oral Herbal Remedies – Fungus tends to strike when our immune system is weakened. Often this is caused by stress, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies. We’ll show you which herbs will boost your immunity and discourage fungal infections.
As we know, fungal infections can take a while to heal. Infections on the nail are particularly challenging to treat because topicals have a hard time penetrating the nail.
For this reason, topical treatments need to be applied consistently, and should ideally be combined with oral treatments for the best results. As we’ll explore, some natural remedies can be applied topically and taken orally.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
To understand how herbal remedies can help, let’s first understand what causes a toenail infection.
When we’re suffering from a fungal toenail infection (onychomycosis), there is an overgrowth of yeast or fungi on the nail bed. These spores feed off the keratin – causing the toenail to become yellow, flaky, or thickened. As the spores multiply, a foul odor develops.
Fungal toenail infections are usually caused by dermatophytes (a type of fungi). Less often, they are caused by candida albicans (a type of yeast). Try to determine which toenail infection you have so you can choose a treatment most suited to your needs.
Toenail Infections Caused by Dermatophytes (Fungi) – If the infection is caused by a dermatophyte, it usually starts at the tip of the toenail and gradually works its way down towards the cuticle. Also, the toenail becomes thickened, and flaky, and may start to move away from the toenail bed. Most fungal toenail infections are caused by dermatophytes. Trichophyton is the type of dermatophyte usually responsible.
Toenail Infections Caused by Candida (Yeast) – Candida is more likely to occur on the fingernails but can occasionally occur in the toenails (it can also spread from the fingernails to the toenails). Candida also causes oral thrush and athlete’s foot. If a toenail is infected with candida, you don’t typically see the infection working its way down from the tip of the toenail to the cuticle. Instead, the nail becomes yellow all over, or white and yellow spots appear sporadically underneath the nail.
As we’ll explore, some herbal remedies are particularly effective at eradicating yeast – as opposed to fungi – spores.
Why Do I Have a Fungal Nail Infection?
Let’s briefly explore some of the risk factors for this condition, to understand why herbal remedies can be so helpful.
You’re more likely to develop onychomycosis if you fall into one of these categories:
- Poor Foot Hygiene – dirty socks, old shoes, using communal sports facilities and failing to dry your feet after washing can cause this condition.
- A Weakened Immunity – this could be due to a medical condition, a poor diet or stress.
- Diabetes – one-third of diabetics suffer from fungal toenail infections, perhaps due to poor circulation and unstable blood glucose levels.
Herbal remedies can provide natural solutions to all of these problems. This is why, when used correctly, they can become powerful treatments for fungal nail infections.
For example, the following properties are found in many herbal remedies:
- Anti-microbial and Anti-fungal – Many essential oils can discourage or exterminate the fungi or yeast spores caused by poor foot hygiene.
- Immune-Boosting – Some herbs, when taken orally, can boost immunity and discourage infection. Herbs should be used in conjunction with a well-balanced diet to reap the most benefits.
- Anti-inflammatory/Regulate Blood Glucose– Some plant-derived oils have hypoglycemic qualities. Ultimately, these oils can help a diabetic person to reduce the amount of sugar in their blood. Consuming these natural oils orally may help reduce diabetic symptoms – such as onychomycosis.
Why Treat Fungal Nail Infections Naturally?
Medical intervention is sometimes required where toenail conditions are concerned. Nonetheless, natural remedies are extremely effective in a lot of cases. It makes sense to try natural remedies as a first-line treatment.
So, what are the benefits of ‘going natural’?
- Fewer Side Effects – Generally speaking, pharmaceutical drugs have more side-effects than herbal ones. Fungal nail infections are sometimes treated with a low dose of antibiotics. Limiting the use of unnecessary antibiotics is something we should all work towards. As we’ll explore, some clinical trials have found herbal remedies to be just as effective as their pharmaceutical equivalents.
- Anti-Odor Properties – The smell of toenail fungus can be hard to mask. Herbal oils are more pleasant than pharmaceutical fragrances so can disguise odor more effectively.
- Holistic Treatments – Experimenting with herbal remedies encourages you to view your body holistically. Rather than treat the toenail fungus, herbal remedies allow you to tackle the underlying conditions.
With all this in mind, let’s explore some herbal remedies that are proven to work. Remember, some remedies work better for certain types of fungal infections. Also, some tackle the root of the cause, rather than the symptoms. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding which herbs to combine!
Treat Toenail Fungus with Tea Tree Oil
Whether you subscribe to the benefits of essential oils, or you’re a complete skeptic; chances are you’ll have heard about tea tree oil. This essential oil is valued for its anti-microbial, anti-fungal and odor-eliminating properties.
Tea tree oil could well be the ‘gold-standard’ herbal treatment for toenail fungus. According to a study published on Semantic Scholar, tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) is just as effective as 1% clotrimazole solution at clearing a fungal toenail infection.
So, if you are looking for a natural alternative to a pharmaceutical-grade anti-fungal cream, tea tree oil could be the perfect solution.
To apply tea tree oil to the toenails, follow these steps:
- Wash your feet with a gentle soap, and dry thoroughly using your own towel
- Using a Q-tip, apply a layer of tea tree essential oil to your toenails (apply to all toenails, not just the ones that are infected)
- Leave the solution on for at least 20 minutes (ideally overnight)
- Repeat the process every other day.
Most aromatherapists agree that it is generally safe to apply ‘neat’ essential oils to the nail, but not to the skin. Essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil when applied to the skin surrounding the nails.
Fungal nail infections often spread to (or from) the surrounding skin so try alternating between the above nail treatment and the following foot treatment:
- Wash the feet with a gentle soap and dry the feet thoroughly
- Combine two drops of tea tree oil, with a quarter teaspoon baking soda, and one tablespoon of coconut oil (a carrier oil with anti-fungal, soothing properties)
- Massage the mixture into your feet – focus on hard-to-reach areas between the toes
- Put some clean antifungal socks on and leave overnight
- Wash your feet thoroughly in the morning and pat dry with a clean towel
- Repeat every other day
If you alternate between these two treatments, you’ll see quicker, longer-lasting results. Tea tree and coconut oil are affordable and accessible natural products that can ‘ease’ you into the world of herbal remedies.
Nonetheless, let’s explore some complementary herbs that might enhance the healing power of these oils, or offer more targeted treatments for the underlying causes of fungal nail infections.
Olive Leaf Extract for Diabetic Toenail Fungus
If your toenail problems are related to a chronic condition like diabetes, olive leaf extract could be the ideal remedy.
According to a review on ChiroFind, when taken orally, olive leaf extract helps diabetics to regulate their blood glucose levels. As a result, foot and ankle complaints (including fungal nail infections) are less likely to arise in the first place. If they do occur, they’ll heal a lot faster when blood glucose levels are under control.
If you want to try olive leaf extract, look out for ‘oleuropein’ supplements. Oleuropein is the naturally occurring polyphenol that is extracted from olive leaves. Follow the instructions on the label and allow 1 – 3 months for the toenail fungus to reduce. If you are diabetic or have a chronic disease, it’s a good idea to discuss supplements with your doctor first.
This herbal remedy can be applied topically, too. It can slow the growth rate of dermatophytes, yeasts, molds, and many other bacteria!
Thyme Essential Oil for Candida Toenail Fungus
Thyme essential oil has anti-microbial properties so may be useful for treating a variety of bacterial and fungal infections. However, according to a study published by WileyOnline, thyme essential oil is especially effective at eradicating candida albicans.
It is the active ingredient thymol that affords thyme oil its anti-fungal properties. Thymol is also found in oregano oil. Opt for thyme over oregano where possible, as thyme contains much higher concentrations of thymol.
As mentioned, candida is more likely to affect the fingernails, but it can affect the toenails. If your toenail has turned yellow in its entirety, this suggests candida. Nonetheless, thyme is thought to be effective at treating fungal nails caused by dermatophytes, so anyone suffering a fungal nail infection could benefit from this powerful oil.
To treat your fungal nail infection with thyme, follow these steps:
- Clean the feet with a gentle soap, and pat them until they are completely dry
- Mix 2-4 drops of thyme essential oil, with a quarter teaspoon of baking powder, and one tablespoon of castor oil
- Massage this mixture into the feet – be sure to massage the oil into your cuticles and across the tops of the toenails.
- Put some clean socks on and leave overnight
- Repeat daily
Any of the essential oils mentioned in this guide can be blended with castor oil. Like coconut oil, castor oil helps stop fungi from spreading. Castor oil is a lot lighter than coconut oil, so it’s particularly suitable for sensitive skin and very warm environments.
Castor oil also minimizes inflammation in the skin. If your toes are sore or swollen from the infection, castor oil treatments are a must!
Aniseed Oil Can Heal Toenail Fungus
According to a study in Acta Pharma Journal, aniseed oil (pimpinella anisum L., apiaceae) can inhibit four species of dermatophytes – including trichophyton. Trichophyton is the fungi most responsible for toenail infections. Also, researchers found aniseed oil helped to slow down the spread of candida yeast.
So, aniseed oil (or anise seed oil) seems another good ‘all round’ treatment. Aniseed essential oil can be particularly potent so try to avoid getting it on the skin around your toes.
If you have sensitive skin, you’d be better off treating your feet to an essential oil foot soak, rather than a massage.
Follow these steps:
- Find a container big enough to place your feet in, or a foot bath, and fill with warm water
- Add 5 – 8 drops of aniseed oil to the water
- Place your (clean) feet in the water and sit for 20 minutes
- Wash the feet and dry thoroughly
- Repeat daily
If you repeat this process daily, you should start to see results in 1 – 2 months. This might seem like a long time to wait, but the wait-time for pharmaceutical topicals is very similar. While topicals can kill the fungi and stop them spreading, you’ll ultimately need to wait up to 6 months for the damaged toenail to grow out.
Lavender Oil Cures Nail Fungus
Many studies have shown that lavender has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Although still a potent essential oil, most people can tolerate lavender essential oil without experiencing a skin reaction. So, if you’ve got sensitive skin, lavender oil could be a great option.
Perhaps the most endearing asset of lavender oil is its smell. The smell is strong enough to mask offensive fungal odors, yet floral enough to please most people’s tastes. Try applying lavender oil directly to your infected nail using a Q-tip. Repeat this daily to manage your foot odor.
Benefits of Basil and Clove Oil
The study mentioned at the beginning of this guide recommends basil oil and clove oil for the treatment of onychomycosis. Let’s explore why you should consider adding these to your herbal regimen.
Clove oil (eugenia caryophyllata) can fight candida and fungal infections effectively. Not only that, it can provide pain relief and help to boost circulation in the feet. Poor circulation is linked to many foot conditions – including fungal nail infections.
If you get into the habit of itching your nails, the fungal infection will spread to other parts of the body. Basil oil can help prevent this because it soothes the skin and prevents itching.
These essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil if you are going to apply them directly to the skin. If you intend to apply them to nail only, use a neat solution with care, and always carry out a patch test first.
Can Turmeric Treat Onychomycosis?
According to a study on Science Direct, turmeric can treat fungal nail infections caused by the dermatophyte ‘trichophyton,’ but it may not be an effective treatment for yeast infections (candida).
We know that most toenail infections are caused by trichophyton rubrum, so turmeric will be a useful treatment for most people.
If you want to try this as a topical treatment, apply turmeric essential oil to the toes (rather than turmeric powder or freshly ground turmeric root). This study found that turmeric essential oil was the only form of turmeric that was able to halt the spread of fungi.
However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid dietary forms of turmeric. Cooking with turmeric powder or fresh turmeric root may help strengthen your immunity.
Garlic and Fungal Infections
Garlic is another immune-boosting food that may ward off fungal infections. When garlic is cut, it produces a compound called allicin. Allicin has extremely potent anti-microbial properties, but these properties are only available for a few seconds. As such, rubbing fresh garlic on your toenails is unlikely to help!
There is good evidence to suggest that eating more garlic can improve immune functioning. If you have a weakened immune system due to stress or a poor diet, consuming more garlic may help prevent fungal infections.
If you don’t fancy the idea of eating more garlic, try supplementing instead. It’s important to wait at least 2-3 months before evaluating the results of an oral herbal treatment.
Change your Diet to Heal Toenail Fungus
When coupled with topical herbal treatments, a positive change in diet could help you eradicate your toenail problems once and for all. So, what dietary changes should you be making?
Firstly, try to include more probiotics in your diet. Probiotics encourage your stomach to harbor disease-fighting bacteria, so you’ll put up a stronger fight when fungal spores attack.
Foods with prebiotic properties include:
- Jerusalem Artichokes
Also, try to eliminate (or reduce) processed sugars from your diet. This is especially important for diabetics, but it applies to everyone. Fungi and yeasts feed off sugar, and there is some evidence to suggest that dietary sugar plays a role in the proliferation of fungal nail infections.
Can Baking Soda Remove Toenail Fungus?
Essential oils work well if they are given time to penetrate the nail. At the same time, oils are lubricants, so may cause the feet to become sweaty when they’re left on for too long.
Evidence suggests baking soda is useful for treating fungus because it draws moisture away from the infection. If you intend to keep oils on your feet overnight, baking soda will help absorb excess moisture, so yeast and fungi cannot proliferate.
Arrowroot powder is also used to ‘mop up’ the moisture caused by a fungal nail infection. You could try adding arrowroot to the herbal treatments mentioned here, though many people find success with baking powder alone.
Should I See a Doctor?
If you’re not seeing results in 3 months, you may need to try an over-the-counter fungal nail treatment or see your doctor for advice. Similarly, if you are experiencing intense pain, bleeding or persistent swelling in your toes, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
If you have diabetes or another chronic condition, you should take advice from your doctor before starting any herbal treatments. In some cases, herbal remedies can work alongside pharmaceutical drugs to yield a positive outcome.
What Kills Toenail Fungus Naturally?
The small study from 2007 predicted that a mix of arrowroot, baking soda, basil oil, tea tree oil, sage oil, and clove oil might get rid of toenail fungus in the wider population. So, are these the best herbs for eradicating toenail fungus?
Many studies support the claim that tea tree oil is an effective treatment for yeast and fungi, so this is a remedy worth trying. Also, we know that basil and clove oil are complementary oils that should speed up the healing process. Baking soda should be included in herbal treatments because this substance helps draw moisture away from the infection.
However, not all the herbs mentioned in the 2007 study seem to be necessary. According to a study on NCBI, sage was found to have the weakest anti-fungal properties when compared to a string of other herbal products. At the same time, other herbs explored in this guide seem to promise excellent potential, so should not be overlooked.
These alternatives include thyme, lavender, aniseed and olive leaf extract. Indeed, if a candida toenail infection is suspected, thyme oil should undoubtedly be included in your treatment!
In summary, a combination of the herbs mentioned in this article will serve you best. Each herb has a different function, so use your knowledge of the oils (and your symptoms) to pick a treatment that works for you.
Finally, if you want to see long-lasting results, tackle your dietary intake of sugar and increase your intake of probiotics!