Nail fungus is an unsightly condition that is embarrassing and sometimes painful. Minute parasitic yeasts and molds cause these fungal infections. Most nail fungi are contagious but may lay dormant for months or years before manifesting the symptoms of infection. Once an individual contracts nail fungus (onychomycosis), the infection is difficult to eradicate. Oral medications such as terbinafine, griseofulvin, or ketoconazole can be taken; however, these medications have been linked to serious side effects such as liver damage, nausea, and headaches.
Mary Lynn Seton, an herbalist living in Gramercy, Wisconsin, often prescribes a combination of tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), garlic oil (Allium sativum) and calendula ointment (Calendula officinalis) as a topical treatment for nail fungus. Tea tree oil, in fact, was the subject of a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which sixty nail infection patients aged eighteen to eighty years old achieved an 80 percent cure rate after sixteen weeks. None of these patients experienced recurrence of infection. Tea tree oil is available at most health-food stores and can be applied to the entire nail and nail bed area without being diluted. Applying the oil twice per day is recommended.
“Most individuals that I see have contracted the fungus from a health club or beauty salon,” Seton says. “Nail fungus is very contagious and if you experience an unsanitized shower floor or unclean pedicure implements, chances are good that you can be exposed to the fungus.” She recommends keeping the nail bed cleaned and the nail tips cut short. “Wearing gloves when you are cleaning is also a good preventive measure. You can also wear waterproof flip-flop type sandals when you are exposed to public surfaces like shower tile and pools,” Seton says.
Jim Long, owner of Long Creek Herbs in Blue Eye, Missouri, claims that he has found the fungus cure to end all cures. “I had something like athlete’s foot that couldn’t be treated—it just kept coming back,” he says. “I discovered that shave grass (Equisetum arvense) was being used by botanists to treat black spot, which is a fungus, on roses.”
Long whipped up an herbal soak that he now sells on his website, www.longcreekherbs.com. The soak, which one mixes with apple cider vinegar, is to be used twice a day for one to two minutes. Long claims that clients see results in two weeks and experience no recurring fungal problems.
“My father had black nails and the doctor wanted to remove his nails,” Long says. “He tried my soak and began to experience healthy nail growth immediately. His nails are now completely cured.”
If you think that you might have a nail fungus, the best thing to do initially is seek the advice of a physician. Nail disorders can be the symptom of more serious internal health problems. Once the nail disorder is identified accurately, you can choose from the variety of herbal remedies on the market.
If you don’t currently have nail problems, proactively protect yourself from becoming infected. Only visit reputable spas and salons, and bring your own nail implements so you know that they have been properly disinfected. Forgo footbaths if there is any question that the bath might not be completely sanitized. And always wear protective footwear when you are in public places, such as locker rooms, especially where there is water involved.
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