If you’ve ever looked down and noticed your toenails looking less-than-ideal, you might want to avoid activities such as taking a pleasant walk on the beach in your flip-flops or enjoying a well-deserved foot massage from your spouse.
While you might feel embarrassed and instinctively want to cover up your feet, how your feet look should be the least of your worries. That’s because there are more severe causes of yellow toenails, and covering up your feet may actually do more harm than good.
Toenail fungus, also called onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection of the toenail. It can be caused by types of fungi called dermatophytes or some Candida species. Fungi are parasitic microorganisms like mold or mildew, all of which tend to thrive in dark, moist areas. Toes are the most likely area to get exposed to nail fungus and develop an infection. Usually, the fungus enters under the nail bed or through a cut around the nail. The most noticeable symptom of fungal toenail infection is a white, brown, or yellow discoloration of one or more of your toenails.
The infection may spread and cause the nails to thicken or crack. It can also spread and turn into athlete’s foot, ringworm or jock itch. This is why it is so crucial to fight nail fungus at the first sign of an infection.
If you haven’t been able to prevent the problem, luckily, there are many treatments you can try. Prescription oral antifungals are traditionally used to treat toenail fungus, but they may cause serious side effects ranging from upset stomach and dizziness to severe skin problems and jaundice. This could be a good reason to try home remedies instead.
Here are some of the most popular at-home treatments for yellow toenails, or fungal toenail infection.
Manuka honey is a unique, highly sought after honey that is different from most other kinds of honey. Instead of being light brown and sweet like most mainstream honey, manuka is a dark brown, medicinal-tasting honey that has a variety of health benefits. Honey is well documented as an active anti-fungal remedy against common fungal species, such as Candida.
To treat a fungal nail infection, apply therapeutic-grade manuka honey straight onto the affected nail. Cover the nail with gauze and repeat at least two times daily. The antifungal environment created by manuka honey can help stop the development of fungi, restore the nail bed, and help nail regrowth.
Tea tree oil
Essential oils have been well-researched for their antifungal properties, and tea tree oil is one of the most promising options. Fungi can rarely develop resistance to essential oils, and essential oils don’t usually cause side effects. The oils can also easily penetrate the nail bed due to their low molecular weight.
Tea tree oil contains multiple active compounds called terpenes, which makes it effective against fungal organisms. Try applying three drops of tea tree oil to the affected nail twice daily and applying a bandage to keep the oil in place. Since tea tree oil may discolor clothing, wear black socks when using this treatment.
Olive leaf extract
Olive leaf extract is another natural plant compound with proven antifungal properties. It contains a substance called oleuropein, which stops pathogens from replicating and simultaneously boosts action in the immune system.
A recommended course of treatment for toenail fungus is to take one to three capsules of olive leaf extract two times per day with meals. The olive leaf extract should always be taken with food to prevent stomach upset. This regimen should be continued until the nail is fully grown out, which indicates the fungus has been eradicated from the system.
Apple cider vinegar
Studies have confirmed the antifungal properties of apple cider vinegar, and it is a reasonably safe and easy home remedy to try. You could even make a relaxing foot bath part of your pre-bed evening routine. To use apple cider vinegar as a toenail treatment, grab a large bowl or plastic container and soak the affected foot in one part vinegar to two parts warm water for up to 20 minutes daily.
Besides natural remedies, try these simple habits to prevent the growth of toenail fungus:
- Avoid wet areas such as showers at the gym or swimming pool.
- Do not share nail files or clippers with others.
- Clean your socks regularly. When wearing socks, make sure they are dry.
- Rotate your shoes so that you’re not wearing the same ones every day. Give each pair of shoes at least 24 hours to dry out, and wear them every other day.
- Thoroughly dry your feet between your toes, especially after a shower or activities that cause you to sweat.
With a little persistence and the right natural remedies, yellow fungal nails can be a thing of the past.