Whether you have got the problem from spending too much time sweating in confining footwear or through contact with the locker room floor, foot fungus is no joke. Athlete’s foot can be found between the toes, or on the soles and sides of your feet. In some cases, fungal problems also extends to toenails. A scaly rash with burning and itching are classic foot fungus signs, with the toenail version resulting in brittle and discolored nails, along with swollen surrounding skin.
Prescription creams are available for foot fungus, but many people swear by inexpensive, practical home remedies.
Tea Tree Oil and Horsetail Soaks
The antifungal properties of tea tree oil is well-documented, and useful for both athlete’s foot and for toenail fungus. The essential oil can be applied directly to toenails (if you have sensitive skin you may need to slightly dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil, such as olive or grapeseed.). Moisten a cotton ball or swab with a drop or two of the tea tree oil, and apply to the affected nail up to four times a day. 1
When several nails or other parts of your feet are suffering from a fungal infection, soaking your feet is a more efficient solution. Add about 10 drops of tea tree oil to a basin of warm water, and place your foot or feet in it for at least 10 minutes, taking care to dry your feet well after their soak. 2
If you have wild horsetail growing, or your health food store sells horsetail tea, add an infusion made by simmering either fresh or dried horsetail to your tea tree oil soak. Not only does horsetail have antifungal properties, but its high silica content helps strengthen brittle nails.
Readily available and inexpensive, baking soda is ideal for keeping both your shoes and your feet dry. To freshen up and wick moisture away from shoes between uses, sprinkle some into the inside of your shoes when you take them off at the end of the day. (Baking soda’s famous deodorizing properties is also a plus when it comes to smelly footwear.)
To use the same properties on sweaty feet, mix baking soda with enough water to form a paste, and then smear it over the affected parts of your feet. It will only take a few minutes for this mixture to soak up excess moisture, after which you can rinse and dry your feet. Finish with a little talcum powder or cornstarch, to continue the drying effects. 3
“Vapo” Cough Ointments
Because “vapo rub” products have concentrated amounts of antimicrobial and antifungal botanicals, such as thymol (extracted from thyme plants), they are a well-known home remedy for foot fungal issues. Because it’s an ointment, you can easily control where it goes, which is useful when you need to get around toenails or between your toes.
If you’re applying the slippery ointment to the bottoms of your feet, do so at night before you go to bed, and put on clean cotton socks to keep the messiness to a minimum. While there are store brand versions of the most well known “VapoRub” products, make sure to compare labels to make sure both the active and inactive ingredients are the same. 4
This treatment is such a well-known home remedy that studies have been conducted showing that at least half of the recipients using a vapo-rub on toenail fungus saw their condition measurably improved — at a fraction of the cost of prescription ointments. 5
Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do for your feet is the simplest. Exposing your toes, toenail and the rest of your feet to open air helps discourage the kind of fungal growth that thrives in moist conditions. Make sure to give the area between your toes special attention by drying them off with a small clean cloth. 6
When you can’t go barefoot or wear sandals, make sure to use footwear with venting holes, or made of natural materials like canvas, that “breathes” as much as possible, further discouraging fungi-friendly dampness. Socks with synthetic fibers that wick moisture away is ideal — look on the label to ensure that they list this property, or even “antifungal” materials. 7
- Nail disorders – University of Maryland Medical Center ↩
- The Green Witch Herbal: Restoring Nature’s Magic in Home, Health, and Beauty Care – Barbara Griggs – Get it on Amazon ↩
- 15 Athlete’s Foot Treatment Options – Prevention.com ↩
- Home remedies that may be worth a try – Harvard Health Publications ↩
- Nail Fungus – Mayo Clinic ↩
- Athlete’s Foot – Mayo Clinic ↩
- What type of socks helps prevent toenail fungus? – Sharecare.com ↩