Is Tea Tree Oil Effective on Toenail Fungus?

By Traci Joy

A toenail fungus, onychomycosis, can be unpleasant to look at, as well as painful. According to the Mayo Clinic, the fungus can be caused by yeast, mold or a type of fungi called dermatophytes. The fungus finds its way under your nail, often through a crack in the nail or the skin around the nail bed. Medical treatment for nail fungus can include medications that can take up to a year to work, or even surgery. If you want a gentler, more natural treatment, try tea tree oil.

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What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is from a tree called melaleuca alternifolia that is native to Austrailia. The oil is produced from steam-distilling the leaves of the tea tree. According to a report by the American Cancer Society, tea tree oil has been used for years to treat many skin conditions. Scientific evidence now supports tea tree oil as an effective remedy for many ailments, including nail fungus. The 2003 edition of the Journal of Applied Microbiology contains a study that shows all of the chemical components of tea tree oil are effective in treating several different types of fungi, and the August 2002 issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy specifically names dermatophytes as being susceptible to tea tree oil treatment.

How To Use It

Tea tree oil is very strong, and can be an irritant for some people. It is very rarely applied full-strength on skin conditions, but it can be applied full-strength to toenail fungus. To apply, wash and clean the infected toenail. Buff the nail and trim it down. Dry it thoroughly. When dry, pour several drops of 100 percent tea tree oil on the affected nail. Using a sterile cotton swab, make sure the oil is applied as far under the nail, and into the edges of the nail, as you can possibly get it. The only way that you can effectively treat the fungus is to make sure that it comes in contact with the oil. Rub the oil deep into the nail, but be careful to not put full-strength oil on the surrounding skin. Applying a bandage to the tea tree oil-covered nail will help keep the nail clean, as well as help the oil stay on the toe. Apply oil once in the morning and once at night.


If you experience any pain or redness when applying the tea tree oil, switch to a solution of half olive oil and half tea tree oil. If redness persists upon subsequent applications, you may have an allergy to the oil and must discontinue its use.