Harvard Health Letter

More on toenail fungus

Editor's note: After Dr. Kenneth Arndt answered a question about toenail fungus in the October 2009 Health Letter, a number of readers sent us their favorite remedies. We asked Dr. Arndt to comment on several of them.

African tree oil. Patients come in all the time asking about using African tree oil for various skin problems. There's some in vitro [test-tube] evidence that it has antimicrobial activity and maybe works against Candida albicans fungus in particular. It may work, but it's hard to imagine that it could penetrate deep enough into the toenail to have an effect.

Listerine and white vinegar. The smell of that combination might be interesting! I don't know whether menthol, thymol, and the other active ingredients in Listerine would do much. I'm more familiar with vinegar. The acetic acid in vinegar is a mild antimicrobial, so I often advise patients to use a clean cloth soaked in a very dilute vinegar solution as a compress over an area of the skin that's vulnerable to getting infected after a procedure or because of an open sore of some kind. But again, it's questionable whether vinegar — or Listerine — gets into the nail.

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