Essential Oils for Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is a type of fungal infection that adversely affects the toenails and fingernails. This fungi nail infection is caused by the same type of fungi that can cause jock itch, ringworm and athlete's foot. These types of infections are slow growing, so one might not immediately notice any changes in his or her nails until the infection has reached more advanced stages. 

There are four major varieties of toenail fungus:

  • Distal sublingual onychomycosis (DSO)
  • White superficial onychomycosis (WSO) 
  • Candida onychomycosis (yeast infection)
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    Proximal sublingual onychomycosis (PSO)

How toenail fungus occurs

There are a wide variety of causes of Toenail fungus infections. Each one has its own fungi nail treatment. The most common types of onychomycosis that cause toenail fungus thrive in environments that are warm and moist. Wearing shoes for prolonged periods of times can create the ideal environment to incite fungi to overpopulate.

When an overgrowth of fungi occurs in, under or on a toenail, a fungal nail infection develops. The fungi usually appears as white scaling around the nails, but can also manifest as black toenail fungus. Both types of toenail fungus can grow increasingly more alarming in appearance, and can also begin to actually eat away at the nails themselves. If left untreated, the fungus can completely destroy the nails, and can result in hot, painful, itchy areas on the toes. 

If you suspect you may have toenail fungus, here are a few things to look for:

  • Nails that begin to thicken 
  • Nails that are flaky or brittle
  • A cloudy white or yellow discoloration 
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    Nails that are black beneath the surface
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    Nails with distorted shapes

While toenail infections or fungus can be caused by many different external factors, these types of infections can also be caused by fungi that already exist on the body. The fungi can also be contracted by coming into contact with someone else who has an infection. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that fungal infections attack the Toenails more frequently than fingernails, due to the fact that the toes are usually covered by shoes where a warm, moist environment easily occurs. 

Onychomycosis can also be contracted when one gets a pedicure or manicure at a nail salon, if employees neglect to disinfect their tools as often or thoroughly as they should. Nail clippers, emery boards and other salon implements used for these services can spread fungal infections from one person to another if they are not sanitized properly. Sometimes, the nail beds can be damaged during a pedicure, or by other means, which is a condition also conducive to toenail fungus. 

Those at highest risk for toenail fungus

Certain risk factors exist that make it more likely for one to develop toenail fungus. Men incur toenail fungus infections more frequently than women. Adults incur them more often than children. Family members are more likely to contract toenail fungus infections if their other family members have them. Elderly adults are at the highest risk for incurring any type of fungal infections of the nails, due to their propensity toward less active body circulation, thus causing their nails to grow more slowly and thicken as they grow older. 

Additionally, one is much more likely to develop one if he or she: 

  • has diabetes
  • is over the age of 65
  • has a disease that results in poor circulation
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    wears artificial nails
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    swims in public pools
  • has an injured nail 
  • has a localized skin injury in the vicinity of the nail 
  • works in a situation that causes the fingers or toes to be moist for extended periods
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    has immune systems that are weakened
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    frequently wears closed toed shoes 

When fungal infections are left untreated for a long period of time, a type of black fungus can develop. It is important to see a doctor under these circumstances, because black nails can indicate other health concerns. When other health conditions, such as melanoma or heart disease have been ruled out, and a doctor has determined that the condition is, indeed, black fungus, it can be safely treated using essential oils, diet and other natural methods, if desired. 

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Anti-fungal Diet 

An antifungal diet can be consumed to help boost the immune system, which, in turn, discourages the growth of fungus in the body. Ideally, one should consume foods that have high fiber content, healthy amounts of protein, and healthful, nourishing fats. It is advisable to eat fermented foods as often as possible, and to consume foods that contain probiotic properties. Additionally, consuming the following foods can help keep toenail fungus at bay. 


Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that boost both immune functioning and digestion . Fungal growth is fueled by inflammatory conditions. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to have antifungal properties. By drinking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in water approximately 30 minutes before meals, fungal growth can be arrested.

Gluten Free Whole Grains 

Gluten free whole grains can help inhibit fungal growth as it enhances wellness, and instills nutrients like iron, selenium and B-vitamins. 

Pumpkin Seeds 

Pumpkin seeds are not only a wealth of Omega-3 fatty acids. They also have anti-parasitic, antiviral and antifungal properties. 

Cayenne Pepper 

Good circulation can help one's body clear up fungal infections. Cayenne is known for increasing both the metabolism and the body's circulation. 

Coconut Oil 

Coconut oil contains lauric acid and caprylic acid, both powerful antifungals. 


The best fruits to eat for antifungal properties are:

  • Bananas
  • White peaches
  • Brown pears
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Fresh Vegetables 

The following vegetables have antifungal properties:

  • Broccoli
  • Rutabagas
  • Parsnips
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  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
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Yogurt contains strong antifungal properties, and also helps with digestion, controlling the body's PH balance, and killing Candida yeast cells. (*Yogurt can also be applied topically to toenail fungus to aid in the healing process.) 


Garlic contains, not only antibacterial properties, but also anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties as well. 

It can also help to eliminate the following items from the diet:

  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy 
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    Processed grains
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    Foods that one is allergic to 

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Treatments for Toenail Fungus 

Toenail fungus usually does not improve on its own, and most often requires treatment. Treatment methods can often have harmful side effects. For instance, sufferers may receive medical prescriptions for antifungal pills or other types of oral medication. While proven effective, these medications may have more side effects than other treatment methods. Other methods include medicated nail polish, or antifungal nail cream or topical ointments. Alternatively, the nail can be removed by surgery. Laser treatments are also being used to treat nail fungus. However, this method can take up to six months to work, can be painful, and requires several visits to the doctor's office. 
For people who are seeking alternative treatments that are less invasive, less harmful and fully effective, essential oils are a good option. 

Essential Oils for Toenail Fungus 

Certain essential oils have natural antifungal properties. For instance, with the use of tee tree oil nail fungus has been shown to clear up relatively quickly. 

How to use essential oils for toenail fungus 

Essential oils for toenail fungus are most effective when used topically. Start with clean toes and nails. With the exception of tea tree essential oil, which can be used safely full strength, mix 5 drops of essential oil with 10 drops of a desired carrier oil, such as almond or coconut oil. Rub small amounts of the oil directly into the nail and surrounding area in the morning, and just before bed. Wear clean, white socks for at least one hour after application to allow the oil to absorb thoroughly into the nails, cuticles and surrounding areas. Reapply as needed. 

Cinnamon Essential Oil 

The essential oil of cinnamon, also known as Cinnamomun verum, has antifungal properties that are effective in the treatment of toenail fungus. 

Side effects and warnings:

  • Should not be taken internally 
  • Contains coumarin, which is potentially toxic to the kidneys and liver 
  • Skin irritations 
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    Allergic reactions 
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    Should be avoided during pregnancy 

How to use Cinnamon Essential Oil for toenail fungus:

Clean the area to be treated first. Apply 2-3 drops of the essential oil to a cotton swab or cotton ball and apply liberally to the affected area. Allow to air dry before putting on socks or shoes.

Ocotea Essential Oil 

​Ocotea essential oil, or Ocotea bullata, is not a commonly used essential oil because it can be difficult to find. It comes from the branches and leaves of a tree genus native to Ecuador, called the Ocotea. Ocotea trees come in more than 200 different species, all of which are noted for their powerful health benefits. 

However, the medicinal properties of this oil are considerable and powerful. It works very well as an effective treatment for toenail fungus.

Side effects and warnings:

  • Potential skin irritation
  • Hypoglycemia in diabetics
  • Hypotension in those using blood pressure medications 
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    Should not be used during pregnancy 

How to use Ocotea Essential Oil for toenail fungus:

Ocotea essential oil can be applied directly to the affected area without a carrier oil. Make sure the affected area is clean before applying 2-3 drops of the oil using a cotton swab. Then allow to dry thoroughly before replacing socks or shoes.

Tea Tree Essential Oil 

​Tea tree oil for nail fungus is one of the most commonly sought after essential oil treatments available. It comes from Australia and is one of the most highly antifungal essential oils there is. This is an essential oil that is usually affordable and easy to access. Tea Tree essential oil is technically known as Melaleuca alternifolia, or more commonly, Melaleuca oil. This oil does not require dilution before use.

Side effects and warnings:

  • Possible skin sensitivity 
  • Consult with physician prior to use if pregnant 

How to use Tea Tree Essential Oil for toenail fungus:

To use tea tree oil for toenail fungus, first make sure the affected area is clean. Simply apply a few drops of the oil to a cotton swab and apply liberally to the affected area at least twice a day. Allow to air dry before putting on sock or shoes.

Peppermint Essential Oil 

​Peppermint essential oil comes from the leaves of a perennial herb that can be found in many parts of the world. Its scientific name is scientific name is Mentha piperita. When using peppermint oil for toenail fungus, it is important to select an oil that is of high quality, and that is a therapeutic strength.

Side effects and warnings:

  • Possible skin sensitivity
  • Eye irritant
  • Should be kept out of the reach of children 
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    Keep out of eyes, inner ears, genitals and sensitive areas, such as wounds

How to use Peppermint Essential Oil for toenail fungus:

Peppermint essential oil does not need to be diluted for the treatment of toenail fungus. Simply clean the area first, then apply 3-4 drops directly to the affected nails with a cotton swab. Allow to dry naturally before wearing shoes or socks.

Tamanu Essential Oil 

​​Tamanu essential oil comes from the nut kernel of the tamanu tree. When one uses tamanu oil toenail fungus is known to respond favorably when applied from 3-5 times daily. Depending on the variety of Tamanu tree from which it originates, its scientific name is either Calophyllum tacamahaca seed oil, or Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil. It comes from Melanesian countries, such as Vanuatu, and also from Polynesian countries, such as Hawaii. Tamanu essential oil also comes from trees grown in Vietnam, Thailand, and from other tropical countries.

Side effects and warnings:

  • Tamanu oil does not have any known negative side effects. However, one should always administer a patch test if he or she suspects sensitivity to a particular oil. 

How to use Tamanu Essential Oil for toenail fungus:

First clean the affected area thoroughly. Apply a few drops of Tamanu essential oil to a cotton ball or swab and apply directly to the toe infection. Allow to air dry before replacing shoes and socks.

Essential Oil Blends for Toenail Fungus 

​Thieves oil for toenail fungus is highly touted as an effective treatment. This oil is a blend of Lemon, Clove, Eucalyptus Radiata, Cinnamon, and Rosemary essential oils. By virtue of the complexities inherent in blended oils, they are more likely to have side effects than singular oils. When used in small quantities with a good carrier oil, thieves oil can be used safely.

Side effects and warnings:

The clove oil, also known as Syzygium Aromaticum, used in thieves essential oils blend contain three potentially toxic compounds: Vanillin, Caryophillin and Eugenol. These compounds can result in:

  • Skin irritations
  • Nausea
  • Allergic reactions
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    Respiratory symptoms
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    In rare cases, seizures

How to use Essential Oil Blends for toenail fungus:

When using Essential Oil blends, it can be helpful to perform a patch test on a small area of skin first, on the unlikely chance that an allergy exists. To treat toenail fungus infections, mix a few drops of the blend with a few drops of carrier oil. Apply directly to the affected area and allow to dry naturally before replacing shoes and socks.

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