Natural treatments for nail fungus need to be considered with a truly scientific mindset, one that balances open-mindedness with skepticism. People often use the term “natural” as if it were a synonym for “harmless,” especially if they can profit from such an association. In reality, Mother Nature’s creations range from beneficial to harmless to deadly. It’s best to remember this whenever you’re tempted to embrace any therapeutic plan that relies entirely on natural approaches.
When you’re contemplating the use of these treatments, be sure to do your homework. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements and herbal medicines in the same stringent manner they use when assessing prescription pharmaceuticals.
This leaves you with the responsibility of investigating claims about certain ingredients and products. Don’t automatically dismiss these remedies as useless snake oil, because the natural world offers us countless sources for effective disease management, but don’t blindly accept them either.
The purity, strength, safety, or efficacy of vitamins, minerals, oils, herbs, and the like is not guaranteed, and the fact that they are classified as natural or alternative treatments does not mean that they are harmless.
It’s also true that earning a “natural” designation does not ensure that the product will not cause an allergic reaction, interact with prescription drugs in dangerous ways, or produce undesirable side effects.
Natural treatments pose the same hazards in these areas as prescription drugs, but because they are not strictly regulated there is usually less reliable research available about them. This means that you can’t make as informed a decision about alternative approaches as you can about more widely used prescription drugs.
Always consult with a health care professional before starting any new course of treatment, even if it’s being touted as a natural one.
One of the most talked-about natural treatments for nail fungus is tea tree oil, which comes from the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia. It has been used as a remedy for a multitude of physical complaints, and there is some evidence that it may kill certain cases of nail fungus when applied full strength twice daily for six months.
Some people cannot tolerate its use because of allergies, and those who are allergic to balsam of Peru, benzoin resin, or plants of the Myrtle family should avoid using tea tree oil, as they may be more susceptible to an allergic reaction. There simply isn’t enough reliable research on the use of tea tree oil to make any conclusions, but without more information pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised not to use it. It should only be applied topically, as it is toxic when ingested.
A long list of other natural ingredients advertised as being effective in treating nail fungus includes essential plant oils from sources such as lemon grass, lavender, jojoba, panaz ginseng, and clove. Topical remedies may offer relief, but because nail fungus often is associated with a weakened immune system, oral treatments may provide more lasting benefits by attacking fungus from the inside out—or so their advertisers claim.
Among the weapons in the natural arsenal is copper ionotophoresis, which uses electric current to transport ionic molecules into tissue via an electrolyte solution. The process is costly, and long-term effects of copper introduction are not known.
This lack of information is the crux of the natural-treatment issue. No one can make intelligent choices about health care without having pertinent facts, so it’s up to you to explore every resource for acquiring that knowledge. Then you can decide if you want to give Mother Nature a shot at curing your nail fungus problem.