Five home remedies to treat toenail problems

lemon juice and slices
Lemons can be a handy helper for foot problems.

As if all the things associated with getting older weren’t enough already, you have to add toenail fungus and other foot problems to that long and growing list. However, the health of your feet contributes to your overall health so it’s important you don’t take them for granted or neglect them.

If you have cracked, yellowing or discoloured toenails, it could be doing more than just affecting your ability to wear thongs and sandals. It could result in nail fungus, which causes your nails to not only look unsightly but can give you pain, swelling and inflammation.

The cause of a fungal infection

Toenail fungus is quite common, more so if you are over 60.

Fungi typically lives and thrives in warm, moist environments like your shower or swimming pool, and because your shoes can recreate those conditions your toenails are at a much higher risk of developing a fungus.

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You’ll need to determine what is causing your fungal infection and you can do this by wearing the same shoes every day, wearing sweaty socks or walking barefoot through community showers. Doesn’t sound terribly appealing but it can help when it comes to finding the right treatment.

If you see yellow streaks on your nails or the nail bed, it could definitely be a fungal infection. You might also notice pieces of skin or nail fragments under the nail. If the nail is separated from the skin and looks discoloured, this could indicate a fungal infection. Brittle, broken or thickened nails are also common signs of fungal infections.

Read more: The 10 medical conditions your feet can reveal

Home remedies as treatment

1. Apple cider vinegar

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This pantry staple can help cure nail fungus and is also a wonderful home remedy for foot rot when applied topically or taken internally. Mix apple cider vinegar (do not use white vinegar) and Epsom salts with hot water and soak your feet in the solution twice a day for at least 30 minutes to help kill the nail fungus. Likewise, mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 225ml water and a bit of honey for sweetness and drink once a day.

2. Tea tree oil and castor oil

Castor oil and tea tree oil have natural antiseptic and anti-fungal properties and have been used to treat nail fungus for centuries. Undiluted tea tree oil can be applied directly to affected nails to help kill fungus; 10 minutes after application, gently massage the oil into the nail using an old toothbrush. When applied to surrounding skin, tea tree oil is best diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. Continue to use daily until several weeks after new nail growth has occurred to prevent the fungus from returning.

Read more: Follow this easy foot-care guide for a general health boost

3. Vicks Vapor Rub

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Useful for more than helping you breathe easier when you have a cold, Vicks can also eliminate nail fungus. Vicks contains oil of thyme (thymol) which has natural anti-fungal properties. Spreading it on affected areas can help disrupt the cell membranes of the fungus.

4. Baking soda

Baking soda is alkaline, so it doesn’t support the environment fungus lives in. It actually prevents toenail fungus from spreading because it creates an uninhabitable environment for it. Baking soda also helps neutralise foot odour.

Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda, a 1/2 cup of Epsom salts and 4 cups of hot water. When mixed thoroughly add 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Soak the infected toenail in the solution for around 10 minutes. Wash with clean water and dry your foot thoroughly. Repeat the process daily over several weeks.

5. Lemon juice

Lemon juice has both antiseptic and antifungal properties. The citric acid present in lemon juice also will help stop the toenail fungus from spreading. Apply fresh lemon juice on the infected toenail. Leave it on for about 30 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water. Another option is to mix equal amounts of lemon juice and olive oil and use this mixture to massage the infected area. Leave it on for a few hours before rinsing it off. The olive oil will help soften your skin, while the lemon juice will help control the fungal infection.