Onychomycosis – better known as toenail fungus – affects millions of people.
In a recent letter one of our regular readers, Steve, wrote:
‘I have tried vinegar and tea tree oil to get rid of toenail fungus, and have not been successful. I don’t want what is prescribed as I understand it may not work, and it does a lot of damage to the liver. Has anyone been successful with any other things?’
The quick answer: Yes. And there’s also a natural solvent that may make Steve’s tea tree oil treatment much more effective.
Toenail fungus medication affects liver
When your bare feet are exposed to damp conditions in public areas – such as changing rooms or swimming pools – a fungus called trichophyton rubrum can slip in under a toenail and begin growing. Damaged nails are most susceptible, and people who have immune system disorders, diabetes or a history of athlete’s foot are particularly vulnerable.
Toenail fungus can be unsightly, but it doesn’t hurt, and except for extreme cases it doesn’t create any health problems. But once a nail is infected, the fungus can spread to other nails, including fingernails, so it’s important to treat it early, before it grows out of control.
Some doctors will lead you to believe that medication is the only way to treat the problem, but that’s simply not true. And in some cases the side effects for those medications are far worse than the fungus. They include headaches, nausea, rashes and even blood disorders.
As Steve notes, liver damage is also enough of a danger that patients taking these drugs need to have their liver function tested during the medication period, which can take up to a year or more. That’s because toenails only grow a couple of millimeters each month, and the healing progresses at the same slow speed no matter what type of treatment you use.
One of the most common natural treatments for onychomycosis is tea tree oil. Another one of our readers, named Lynn, says that after trimming her nail back (easy to do when it’s in a deteriorating condition), she used a soft toothbrush to apply the oil twice each day. This process took nine months, but the nail eventually grew in just fine.
Lynn might have helped her cause by taking one additional step. Because it’s sometimes hard to get natural anti-fungals (such as tea tree oil and oregano oil) under the nail in sufficient concentration, applying DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), a natural solvent available from many sources online. DMSO carries the natural anti-fungal solutions right through the nail where they can start to work against the fungus.
Oregano oil also appears to be the most effective natural anti-fungal, but cautions that it’s very strong. If it irritates surrounding skin, it can be diluted with a little olive oil to reduce potency.
Meanwhile, there are a few simple steps you can take to help prevent onychomycosis from ever getting started. If your feet are regularly exposed to damp conditions, avoid using nail polish, which can help trap moisture beneath the nails. Keeping your feet clean and dry also helps, as does changing your socks or hosiery daily.
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