Why Does Vicks VapoRub Help Against Some Nail Fungus & Not Others?

Home remedies are rarely studied in double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. As a result, we don’t often have scientific research to show how well-or not-they may work. It is unusual for us to have a solid explanation for the success of certain popular home remedies. One example is the use of Vicks VapoRub for toenail fungus.

Fighting Toenail Fungus:

Q. I have lived with a fungus infection of one big toenail for several years. Various over-the-counter remedies I tried did not work.

I read the following article in the “CR Health” department of the March, 2006 issue of Consumer Reports magazine:

I purchased a tube of Vicks Greaseless Cream VapoRub in mid-February, and have applied it morning and evening to the affected toenail. I use only a small amount, enough to scrape off my finger under the front of the nail and around the cuticle.

To my immense gratification, IT WORKS! (At least for me.) After six weeks of use, the nail has lost most of its previous black color and is showing about a quarter of an inch of fresh, healthy-looking nail coming out of the cuticle as the nail grows. It’s worth trying – nowhere near as expensive as the ineffective stuff they sell for the purpose!

How Well Does Vicks VapoRub Work?

A. Over the years we have heard from many people who have had success with Vicks VapoRub in the treatment of nail fungus. You will read some of their stories below. Others tell us this remedy is totally worthless.

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That is not surprising. Many people report failure with pricey prescription anti-fungal products too. Some people spend quite a bit of money on oral antifungal medicine and take it for many months, only to have the fungus return after a temporary “cure.”

It seems as if nail fungus is surprisingly variable. This may be due both to the range of fungal pathogens that can affect nails and to differences among the hosts’ immune systems. Some people never get nail fungus even though they walk barefoot in the garden, in the shower or at a locker room. Others find all their toenails are thick, yellowish-brown and misshapen. Not only do they look ugly, but they are hard to clip. One treatment may work for awhile, but the fungus seems to come back relentlessly.

We often wonder whether there are different fungi at work or if the relationship between the immune system and the fungi have something to do with this problem.

The Research on Vicks VapoRub for Nail Fungus:

As for Vicks VapoRub, there actually have been a few studies showing benefit against nail fungus. In one, people with AIDS (whose immune systems do not function well) had their nail fungus treated with Vicks. The conclusion: safe and effective (Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Jan-Feb., 2016).

Previously, a pilot study had shown results in 15 out of 18 people using Vicks VapoRub on the nails daily for 48 weeks (Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan-Feb., 2011). Even before that, a study of some of the essential oils in Vicks VapoRub showed that they are active against five different species of fungus that infect nail tissue (Phytotherapy Research, April, 2003). Camphor, menthol, thymol and oil of eucalyptus are effective against these organisms. Moreover, fungi rarely develop resistance to them (Mycopathologia, Feb. 2016).

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Vicks VapoRub Stories and Experiences from Readers over the Years:

Tom N. touts the house brand at lower cost:

We have no opinion as to the quality of generic Vicks VapoRub. The relatively low cost of either the name brand or the house brand does not make this a big issue for us. Keep in mind that a jar will last a long time, even with daily applications.

Vagisil for Nail Fungus?

Jim P. offers a different option–a vaginal anti-itch product:

Resorcinol has been around for more than 150 years. It has been used topically as an antiseptic and to treat a variety of skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema and acne. Not surprisingly, it has antifungal activity, which might account for why it could be useful against nail fungus.

Amber Listerine & White Vinegar:

Jen says Listerine and vinegar are her go-to solution:

We have lost count of the number of people who insist that when all else fails, white vinegar and Listerine foot soaks do the job. We are not surprised. Listerine has a good dose of alcohol and other ingredients that attack fungi.

Vinegar also makes the environment inhospitable to fungi. It does take the kind of patience that Jen describes to work the magic.

Cornmeal Mush Foot Soaks:

K.B. offers one of the stranger home remedies we keep hearing about. His baggie trick is quite clever:

K.B.’s innovative approach is quite different from anything we have heard when it comes to cornmeal. The more typical remedy is to make a cornmeal batter. Here is one example:

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Larry loves cornmeal mush. We are still astonished that it could work SO fast. It kind of defies logic, but hey, there’s not much to lose giving it a try:

We make no promises about any nail fungus remedy. What works for Larry may not work for Sue or Henry or Mary. You will have to experiment to discover whether Vicks VapoRub or some other remedy is the best approach for you.

Please share your own experience in the fight against nail fungus in the comment section below.

References

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About the Author: Tung Chi