Natural Remedies for Fungal Nail Infections

Nail fungus remedies are sometimes used to treat fungal infections in the toenails or fingernails. Also referred to as onychomycosis, nail fungus is often difficult to treat with conventional medicine. But while natural nail fungus remedies are widely used, there is very little scientific support for their effectiveness.

To date, very few studies have tested the use of natural nail fungus remedies. Here's a look at some natural substances often recommended in the treatment of nail fungus.

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.


DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Essential Oils

Certain essential oils show promise as natural nail fungus remedies. For instance, a 1999 study published in Tropical Medicine & International Health found that tea tree oil may help fight nail fungus. For 16 weeks, 60 patients used either a cream containing 5 percent tea tree oil or a placebo to treat their onychomycosis. By the study's end, 80 percent of participants assigned to the medicated cream were cured (compared to none in the placebo group).

In an earlier study involving 177 people with toenail fungal infection, researchers found that tea tree oil was effective as clotrimazole solution (a topical antifungal medication) in the treatment of nail fungus. Published in the Journal of Family Practice, the study involved a six-month treatment period.

Preliminary findings from laboratory research suggest that clove oil may also help knock out the fungus associated with onychomycosis. However, it's too soon to tell whether clove oil might be effective as a nail fungus remedy.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Proponents of apple cider vinegar suggest that acetic acid (a substance found in many types of vinegar) can destroy the fungi that cause nail fungal infections. However, there are no studies to support the claim that soaking your feet or hands in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and warm water can eliminate nail fungus.

The Takeaway

If you notice any symptoms of nail fungus (such as brittleness, a change in nail shape, debris trapped under the nail, or thickening of the nail), consult your healthcare provider. While nail fungus can only be cured by the growth of new and healthy nails, prescription anti-fungal medications may help get rid of the fungus.

To reduce your risk of nail fungus, it's important to avoid sharing manicure or pedicure utensils with other people, limit your use of closed-in footwear, practice good foot hygiene (especially when visiting public swimming pools, gyms, or shower rooms), and keep your immune system in check.

If you're considering the use of nail fungus remedies, talk to your healthcare provider first to discuss the potential risks and benefits. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shirwaikar AA, Thomas T, Shirwaikar A, Lobo R, Prabhu KS. Treatment of onychomycosis: an update. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008;70(6):710-4. doi:10.4103/0250-474X.49088

  2. Syed TA, Qureshi ZA, Ali SM, Ahmad S, Ahmad SA. Treatment of toenail onychomycosis with 2% butenafine and 5% Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil in cream. Trop Med Int Health. 1999 Apr;4(4):284-7. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3156.1999.00396.x

  3. Buck DS, Nidorf DM, Addino JG. Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole. J Fam Pract. 1994 Jun;38(6):601-5.

  4. Chee HY, Lee MH. Antifungal activity of clove essential oil and its volatile vapour against dermatophytic fungi. Mycobiology. 2007;35(4):241-3. doi:10.4489/MYCO.2007.35.4.241

Additional Reading

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.