Onychomycosis, better known as toenail fungus, is a fungal infection that can affect the toenails. The fungus prefers warm, moist environments like gym showers and public pools. Human toes also present an ideal environment for the fungus, which is why the toenails are often the first body parts to become infected.
The symptoms of a toenail fungus infection are easy to identify. In many cases, the infection starts with a white or yellow spot under the tip of the toenail. The infected nail often becomes thicker than normal, and it can be yellow in color. The nail can also become brittle, loose, or have a warped appearance.
Toenail fungus is resilient but extremely treatable. Most cases can be treated successfully as long as they are addressed in the early stages. Once diagnosed, toenail fungus can be targeted with prescribed medication. However, those medications often come with unpleasant side effects. Luckily, toenail fungus responds just as well to home remedies. One of the best home remedies for a toenail fungus infection is tea tree oil.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that comes from the tea tree plant. It’s known for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, used to treat everything from acne to dandruff. Tea tree oil has a camphor-like odor. Visually, it ranges from pale yellow to clear in color. Today, it can be purchased in many drugstores without a prescription.
As an antifungal treatment, tea tree oil is comparable to clotrimazole, one of the medications used to treat toenail fungus. Thanks to its properties, it can kill and prevent the growth of infection-causing microorganisms in the toenail. It also has minimal side-effects. Therefore, tea tree oil is accessible, affordable, and actually works.
How to Prepare Your Nails
Preparing your nails for tea tree oil application is the best way to ensure fast results and a speedy recovery. The goal is to allow the oil to coat and penetrate the entire nail, so the nail must be clean and free of any dead nail tissue. Carefully follow these steps to prepare your nails:
Step 1: Trim Nails with Nail Clipper
Because infected nails tend to be very thick, you will likely need an extra large clipper for this task. Carefully trim off excess growth and any dead portions of the nail. This allows the oil to penetrate the nail faster, and it also promotes healthy growth.
Step 2: File with a Coarse Nail File
After clipping the nail, use a nail file to buff away any remaining dead areas on the nail. This is to ensure that the oil has an opportunity to cover as much of the infected nail as possible.
Step 3: Gently Cleanse with Soap and Water
Cleansing removes any remaining debris. It also kills bacteria that may interfere with the tea tree oil. Clean in the area between the toes, and rinse off all traces of soap. Make sure your feet are completely dry after cleansing to stop even further fungus growth.
How to Apply Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil can be harsh or irritating in its undiluted form. Before using it to treat a skin condition, it should first be diluted with a carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond, or olive oil. Once the oil has been diluted, it can be applied to the infected nail with a dropper or a cotton ball.
To treat a toenail fungus infection, coat the affected area liberally with oil. Then, gently scrub the area with a toothbrush to push the oil deep into the nail. Instead of using a towel, allow your feet to dry naturally. For best results, perform this treatment twice a day. You may also choose to soak your feet in warm water with a few drops of oil as part of your at-home treatment.
Preventing Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus can take several months to a year to clear. It may take some time before any changes are seen, especially when using a natural remedy like tea tree oil. Being consistent and applying your tea tree oil every day will help you see faster results.
Once an infection has cleared, taking preventative measures is the best way to defend yourself from repeat infections. Practicing good hygiene is the first step to healthy feet and lessening the chances of a fungal infection. Here are some other tips to keep your toenails safe from fungus:
- Always keep feet clean and dry
- Trim nails once a week
- Wear breathable socks
- Don’t go barefoot in public places
- Wear correct-sized shoes
- Change socks daily
- Use foot powder
Precautions While Using Tea Tree Oil
Although natural and safe, there are a few things to keep in mind while using tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is toxic if ingested and should be reserved for topical use only. It can also cause skin irritation in some people, so performing a skin patch test before using it is highly recommended. If an infection gets worse or doesn’t seem to improve after several months, you should consult a doctor. Finally, always make sure that your tea tree oil comes from a reputable source.
Other Uses for Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil isn’t just good for toenail fungus. Historically, tea tree oil has been used to treat a variety of other conditions, which include the following:
- Bad breath
- Minor cuts, wounds, and burns
- Contact dermatitis
- Head lice
- Dry skin
- Athlete’s foot
Toenail fungus is one of the most stubborn conditions that can strike our feet. Fortunately, most of us can access a powerful antidote to toenail fungus right in our medicine cabinets. Applying tea tree oil twice a day can relieve the symptoms of toenail fungus and prevent a new infection from taking hold. Tea tree oil’s benefits are enormous, which is why it’s one of the most popular essential oils today. Visit the Healthy Body Healthy Mind Blog for more information.