Alternatives for Toenail FungusJune 13, 2012 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Nothing says ‘summer’ quite like lounging around the pool in a swimsuit and flip flops. But, if you’re one of the millions of people with toenail fungus, wearing sandals may be something you dread. Fungal infections of the toenail (onychomycosis) affect an estimated 6 to 8% of the adult population. And, although they rarely present a serious health risk, it’s still an unsightly reminder that an infection has taken hold. Worse still, conventional treatments for this largely cosmetic condition often carry the risk of serious side effects including liver damage. Thankfully, both allopathic and alternative healers have some non-pharamacological options worth considering.
If you search for home remedies for toenail fungus online, you’re likely to come across numerous sites that suggest soaking your feet in variety of natural solutions containing everything from Epsom salts to vinegar. These alternative options are certainly economical, require no prescription and are widely regarded as safe. Whether or not they’re effective is another matter. To the best of my knowledge, these traditional remedies haven’t yet been studied in a controlled, scientific manner. That’s not to say that they’re disreputable. Rather, they’re only supported by anecdotal evidence i.e. testimonials. In essence, you’re taking the word of the people who claim to have found success with these natural approaches.
There are a few holistic solutions that have been subjected to scientific scrutiny. Mentholated ointments, such as Vicks VapoRub, have demonstrated efficacy in cases of toenail fungus both in vitro and in vivo. A pilot study, published in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, reported that 83% of those tested found a “positive treatment effect” after using Vicks VapoRub for 48 weeks. Of those, 27.8% was deemed cured and 55.6% was described as presenting “partial clearance”. Tea tree oil has likewise shown positive results in managing onychomycosis. In fact, one trial determined that tea tree oil was comparable to an over the counter antifungal medication (clotrimazole). Another intervention found that combining tea tree oil with conventional treatment (butenafine hydrochloride) resulted in an 80% cure rate without signs of relapse in follow up assessment.
Two other natural remedies are noteworthy in relation to fungal infections: grapefruit seed extract (GFSE) and propolis. Some experiments report that GSE possesses activity against dermatophytes, fungi and molds – the underlying causes of toenail fungus. However, several investigations have uncovered a consistent trend of adulteration in tested batches of GFSE. The findings indicate that, “A significant amount, and possibly a majority of ingredients, dietary supplements and/or cosmetics labeled as or containing grapefruit seed extract (GFSE) is adulterated, and any observed antimicrobial activity is due to synthetic additives, not the grapefruit seed extract itself.” Propolis, an ingredient derived from beehives, does not present the same controversy as GFSE. Having said that, the only peer-reviewed data with regard to propolis and toenail fungus is based on test tube studies. The preliminary data is positive, but needs to be verified in human studies.
A recently introduced, conventional treatment is also worthy of consideration: laser therapy. Unlike other allopathic options, the use of lasers is not linked to systemic side effects. The small number of studies currently available for review indicate that laser treatment inhibits “fungal colony growth” and lead to clearance or improvement in most cases of onychomycosis. The downside to this treatment modality is the cost – between $750 to $1,500. Furthermore, insurance companies typically don’t cover any of the expense and some degree of topical treatment is often recommended after the procedure is complete.
Regardless of the treatment option employed, both allopathic and complementary practitioners generally support the idea that improving circulation to the feet, increasing exposure to free air and sunlight and managing high blood sugar and immunity system deficiencies helps the cause. There isn’t much evidence that diet or antifungal supplements directly impact onychomycosis. Nevertheless, any strategy that positively affects the above noted issues may be helpful, albeit from a theoretical standpoint. In practical terms, this might mean: exercising more, exposing your feet to non-peak sunlight, cutting back on high glycemic carbohydrates and supporting immune function by eating probiotic-rich foods and getting adequate sleep. This is by no means a comprehensive “to do” list, but certainly a decent place to start.
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis Using Over-the-Counter … (link)
Study 2 – In Vitro Antagonistic Activity of Monoterpenes and Their Mixtures … (link)
Study 3 – Comparison of Two Topical Preparations for the Treatment of … (link)
Study 4 – Treatment of Toenail Onychomycosis with 2% Butenafine and 5% … (link)
Study 5 – Effects of 33% Grapefruit Extract on the Growth of the Yeast … (link)
Study 6 – Antimicrobial Activity of Grapefruit Seed and Pulp Ethanolic Extract … (link)
Study 7 – The Adulteration of Commercial “Grapefruit Seed Extract” with … (link)
Study 8 – Antifungal Activity of Propolis Extract Against Yeasts Isolated from … (link)
Study 9 – New Concepts in Median Nail Dystrophy, Onychomycosis … (link)
Study 10 – Mayo Clinic: Nail Fungus – August 25, 2011 Update … (link)
Clinical Improvement in Toenail Fungus Using Vicks VapoRub
Source: J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;24(1):69-74. (link)
Tags: Grapefruit, Propolis, Tea Tree Oil
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Detoxification, General Health