One of the most dreaded and, let’s face it, a disgusting ailment is toenail fungus (medically known as onychomycosis). As most who read my blogs know, I usually write about topics that I have experienced personally, and/or observed in patients. Well, for this one, it is both. For years, one of my toes would become afflicted, I’d treat it, and then a year or two later it would return.
The truth is that “fungus is among us!”
You may view yourself as one with good hygiene, but even you are loaded with fungus on your skin. Fungus does not need much to overgrow and is exceedingly difficult to get rid of when it does.
The three changes in our local skin environment that cause it to grow are:
- A decrease in “good” bacteria (such as what happens when one takes antibiotics), since bacteria can suppress its growth.
- Excessive water/moisture.
But to get fungus on your nail a few things must happen.
Diabetics, because of elevated sugar, are at higher risk. However, many, like myself, who don’t have diabetes are still prime targets. That’s because of what I call the “blotter” effect. To understand this effect, imagine the following scenario. You are sitting behind a wooden desk with a glass blotter on top to protect the surface. You place a cup of water on the blotter and turn to work on your computer. As you turn, your elbow knocks over you’re the cup and the water spills over the edge of the desk. You then see some water track itself under the blotter.
Now, consider your nail as the blotter and your nailbed, the desk. When you shower or swim, usually the barrier of skin prevents water from seeping under the nail. But often, through very tiny cracks in that barrier, water gets between the nail and the bed. That’s all fungus needs to start growing and first, it grows along the nail bed and then as time goes on and treatment fails, it begins growing into the nail, hardening and deforming it.
There are many remedies, but unless the fungus is rid from the nailbed, it will return.
The standard medical approach relies on anti-fungal pharmaceuticals such as the prescription medications Diflucan, Sporanox, Lamisil, and the most recent a topical Jublia. These can be effective but can come with the potential for serious side effects and/or a hefty price tag.
The following, natural, approaches will work whether you have taken a medication or not (although, you may require a prescription, initially, if your fungus is severe. You’ll need to consult your doctor about that).
1. Neem Oil
Neem oil comes from the tree Azadirachta indica, a South Asian and Indian plant. It has insecticidal traits and acts as a fungicide. It is very safe. It should not be ingested, especially by pregnant women.
2. Tea tree oil, also called melaleuca
Tea tree oil is a natural fungicide and like Neem Oil has much utility in the garden. It is effective as well for toenail fungus. It can be used for athlete’s foot also, but it can be irritating to the skin.
3. Vicks VapoRub
There is evidence that Vicks VapoRub can cure fungal toenails in some people. This is largely due to its ingredients, including menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil.
The antifungal properties make vinegar soaks a good idea for people who have toenail fungus. Soak your feet for 10 to 15 minutes daily in a vinegar bath until the infection subsides
For me, the first two make the most sense. Vicks can get messy and smelly and Vinegar soaks time intensive. So how do you make the Neem Oil or Tea Tree Oil most effective? Let’s revisit the “blotter” effect. Remember the basic chemical proper of oil and water: they don’t mix! Often the beginnings of fungus occur in the summer when our toes get wet and water seeps between the nail bed and nail. Thus, my practical approach: before bathing, showering or swimming paint your affected nail with Tea Tree or Neem Oil or Vicks. It will form a protective barrier and act to “push” the oil away and under the nail (the “blotter” effect). You might, with the help of your doctor, trim your nail down low or even poke holes in your nail with a sterile object (only with medical supervision). This way the oil can get underneath.
I came up with this method myself and it has seemed to work very well. I don’t shower or swim before painting on these oils. You can find them in small bottles with applicator brushes.
Here’s to getting rid of your fungus, today!!