9 Amazing Essential Oils for Toenail Fungus

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Zemira Barnes (MS)

Toenail fungus is a common group of conditions in which a fungal infection attacks the tissue and the nail of the toe, causing discoloration, unusual nail growth, dry skin, inflammation, pain, and various other symptoms. Fungi that can attack the toenail come in different forms, although one of the common and most difficult to cure toenail fungal infections is onychomycosis. Onychomycosis causes discoloration, thickening, and separation from the nail bed. Fungal infections can easily spread in warm, damp places, which is why places like public pools, locker rooms, and gyms are common places to catch these infections. The other risk factors for toenail fungus include poor circulation, wounds near the toe or toenail, diabetes, poor immunity, advanced age or the use of closed-toe shoes. Things like damp socks, poor hygiene, and the use of artificial nails and nail polish can all increase your risk of developing toenail fungus. We have incorporated the list of essential oils for the toenail fungus in this article. [1] [2]

These fungal infections often take quite a while to develop, and the symptoms are gradually but once they appear, it is important to seek treatment before they become more firmly entrenched or spread to other parts of your body. The most common side effects or symptoms of toenail fungus include scaling or streaking of the nail, cracks or soreness in the nail, yellow spots near the base of the nail, pitting on the surface of the nail or crumbling/flaking layers of the toenail. There are many formal treatments for toenail fungus, such as anti-fungal creams and medications, but many of these have unwanted side effects. On the other hand, using essential oils for the toenail fungus is an effective and proven strategy to clear up these unsightly and annoying infections. [3]

Best Essential Oils for Toenail Fungus

If you want the most effective and trusted essential oils for toenail fungus, use lemon, peppermint, cinnamon, tea tree, coconut, clove, thyme, lavender, snakeroot extract, oregano or manuka oil.

Cinnamon Oil

One of the oldest and most trusted remedies for fungal infections is cinnamon oil, thanks to its incredibly powerful active ingredients, which research has shown to be anti-fungal in nature. It can also boost immune protection against future infections. [4] [5]

How to Use: You should dilute the cinnamon oil in another carrier oil, such as coconut oil or jojoba oil, and then either topically apply the mixture directly to the toes using a spray bottle or use an eyedropper and apply it beneath the nail directly on the fungus for fast effects.

Close-up image of checking the left foot suffering from toenail fungus infection

Toenail fungus is a common infection that occurs in the nails of the toes or fingers. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Tea Tree Oil

As one of the most famous essential oils in the world, especially in Australia, tea tree oil boasts notable anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, and can quickly eliminate any toenail fungus that may have spread across your feet. Tea tree oil has been studied to be generally safe when administered topically. [6] [7]

How to Use: Always dilute tea tree oil with coconut oil or olive oil, and then apply 5-6 drops of the mixture to the toenails that are discolored, as well as any hard patches or calluses developing near the toenails.

Clove Oil

With high levels of eugenol, one of the strongest antifungal compounds that naturally occur in nature, this essential oil is ideal for clearing up toenail fungus and treating athlete’s foot, while also strengthening the immune system and improving the healing speed of the toenail. [8]

How to Use: You should dilute this oil with another carrier oil, and topically massage it on the toes and nail beds where you believe the fungal infection has taken root. Reapply 1-2 times per day until the symptoms improve.

Manuka Oil

Although many people don’t even know this oil exists, manuka oil has become very popular in recent years once its impressive antiviral and anti-fungal effects were discovered. It will eliminate the underlying infection, and help remove any permanent marks or damage on the skin. [9]

How to Use: You can regularly massage this oil into your toes and nails once per day or add 5-6 drops to a foot bath and then soak your feet for 20-30 minutes. Both of these strategies can quickly neutralize your toenail fungus!

Lemon Oil

With antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, lemon oil can help to eliminate many of the side effects of a fungal infection, while also soaking into the nail bed to address the root cause of the discomfort. [10]

How to Use: You can regularly apply this to your toenails until the discoloration and other symptoms disappear. Most people use an undiluted form, but if you have sensitive skin, mix 10 drops of lemon oil with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.

Peppermint Oil

As with so many other health conditions, peppermint oil can quickly soothe discomfort, relieve inflammation, and strengthen the immune system to combat fungal infections on and beneath the toenail. It will also eliminate swelling and soothe pain, in the case of advanced or severe infections. [11]

How to Use: You don’t need to dilute peppermint oil; instead, apply 4-5 drops of the oil directly to the discolored, flaking or streaked nails and allow the menthol in this oil to work its antioxidant and anti-fungal magic.

Coconut Oil

Although this isn’t technically an essential oil, it is rich in beneficial fatty acids and minerals that can stimulate the immune system in that extremity, while also delivering anti-fungal and antibacterial support to eliminate the infection. A compound present in coconut oil may break through the outer shell of the fungi causing the fungus to break down. [12]

How to Use: You can always use coconut oil as a carrier oil for other essential oils or simply apply extra virgin coconut oil to your toes 2-3 times per day until the symptoms diminish.

Thyme Oil

Thymol is the active ingredient in thyme oil, and this antioxidant also has impressive anti-fungal effects. It will not only slow the spread of a toenail fungus but will also stimulate the regrowth of healthy new cells to keep your feet looking their best. [13]

How to Use: You can mix thyme oil with jojoba oil or sweet almond oil and then gently massage it into the toenails and nail beds twice per day for best results.

Oregano Oil

While this essential oil is more famous for its antibacterial properties, it is also highly effective on fungal infections. Studies have shown that the diverse range of oregano oil’s active ingredients allow it to treat a large number of fungal strains that can infect the toenail. [14]

How to Use: For people with sensitive skin, mixing oregano oil with coconut oil is recommended, others may simply apply 3-4 drops of oregano oil to their toenails once per day until the condition improves.

Word of Caution: While the practice of using essential oils for toenail fungus is quite popular and effective, there are a number of potential side effects to using essential oils. First of all, these oils are highly concentrated chemical mixtures, and some of the active ingredients cause skin inflammation or irritation, particularly in people with sensitive skin. Allergic reactions are also not uncommon, particularly when the oils are used improperly or in excess. Toenail fungus may seem like a relatively harmless condition, but if left untreated, it can do permanent damage to your nail beds, toes, and even your ability to walk. If your condition isn’t relieved or improved with the help of essential oils for toenail fungus, it is best to speak with your doctor about other options for treatment.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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