Toenail fungus can be an embarrassing and persistent problem. Many of the over-the-counter medications used to treat it are harsh and often ineffective, and prescription medications can have strong side effects. This is why many sufferers of toenail fungus seek a more natural and more effective treatment. One such treatment is apple cider vinegar. It is natural, has limited side effects and it is much less expensive than over-the-counter and prescription remedies.
Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
The Mayo Clinic lists the common symptoms of toenail fungus as thickened, brittle, crumbly or ragged toenails, a distortion in the shape of the toenails, dull-looking toenails and a darkening of the color of the toenail. There can be separation of the nail from the nail bed if the infection becomes severe enough. In addition, there may be some pain associated with the infection. Finally, a foul odor may be present. An infected toenail can display some or all of these symptoms. An early infection can show up as a small white or yellow spot in the tip of the nail.
Why Apple Cider Vinegar Works
When a toenail fungus infection occurs, the pH of the surrounding skin and nail becomes more basic or alkaline in nature. The fungus thrives in an alkaline environment. If the pH of the area turns from basic to more acidic, the fungus cannot survive. This is where the apple cider vinegar becomes useful. The vinegar is acidic but still mild enough to not damage the surrounding skin and nail.
One of the more common ways to use apple cider vinegar as a toenail fungus treatment is to use it as a foot bath. The home remedies section of Livingclean.com suggests using a foot bath made up of one part vinegar and one part water. There should be enough fluid in the basin to cover the toes completely. For the most effective results, use warm water for every other foot bath. Use cold water the other times. Livingclean.com recommends that the feet be soaked for 30 minutes at least once a day but no more than three times per day. Dry the feet completely after removing them from the water.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar Without Soaking
Some people do not have the time to take two or three 30-minute foot baths a day. Another way to get the effects of the vinegar is to apply two drops of apple cider vinegar directly to the nail bed. Allow the vinegar to sit on the nail bed for several minutes before disturbing it or the desired effect might not be achieved. This should be done at least twice a day. This method can be used in conjunction with the foot bath.
Duration of Treatment
These treatments should be continued until all of the diseased nail has grown out and been removed. Once a healthy nail has replaced the diseased nail, it is unlikely that any infection remains. This could take a couple months or more because toenails grow slowly. The diseased nail should be clipped regularly and kept clean and dry. It is important that the toenails are dried thoroughly after these treatments because fungi love moist, warm, dark environments. Because every person's toenails grow at a different rate, the final length of treatment will vary person to person.
People who have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease or any other systemic disease that affects the blood flow to the feet should exercise caution when trying to treat diseases of the feet. These diseases can cause the person to heal more slowly and become more susceptible to infection if a wound occurs on the foot. Treatment should take place under the supervision of a qualified health care professional. According to the Mayo Clinic, vinegar can irritate the skin of the feet. The Mayo Clinic suggests two solutions to this problem: Either reduce the frequency of the foot baths or use a greater proportion of water to dilute the vinegar. If the irritation continues, discontinue the treatment and consult a physician.
Kristen Ball is a doctor of chiropractic medicine. She is also an acupuncturist trained in medical acupuncture and Chinese acupuncture. She specializes in natural health care and has been in private practice since December of 2003. Dr. Ball currently writes two weekly articles in a local newspaper. One pertaining to health care and one pertaining to environmental issues.