Home Treatment for Onychomycosis: Can Vicks Vaporub Really Cure Toenail Fungus?

Blogger Olga Boyko recalls the story of the summer she used Vicks VapoRub to cure the toenail fungus that afflicted her big toe. She showered and scrubbed the nail, then applied the medication, put a cotton sock over it, and went to sleep. In the morning after her shower, she tried to apply the medication again, but the infected portion of the nail started to peel off. “To this day, it’s the nastiest thing that has ever happened to me,” she wrote.

She reportedly applied the VapoRub anyway and continued to do so — twice a day — for several months. Despite the malady, she wore open-toe shoes to prevent fungus from taking hold inside damp, dark shoes. After three or four months, a healthy nail grew back. The internet is full of interesting stories like this one, alleging that Vicks VapoRub is an effective home remedy for toenail fungus. But is there any evidence backing this solution for a medical condition that is notoriously chronic and hard-to-treat?

cure toenail fungus

Can this cheap, over-the-counter medication cure toenail fungus?

The History of Vicks as a Homeopathic Cure

According to Snopes.com, rumors about using Vicks VapoRub on toenail fungus began when an email circulating in 2007 claimed the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) discovered the cure. The NRC has since denied these rumors, but the home remedy picked up steam in 2002 when Joe and Teresa Graedon of The People’s Pharmacy — a syndicated news column and radio show — mentioned it in their “Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks.”

What Science Says About Vicks VapoRub Toenail Fungus Treatment

We managed to track down one scientific study published in the January/February 2011 edition of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. The pilot study tested eighteen individuals with toenail fungus and found that fifteen recruits (83%) showed a positive treatment effect. Nearly a third of the recruits had a clinical cure at 48 weeks. Ten people had partial clearance and three showed no change at all. All study participants said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the appearance of the nail at the end of the study — even the ones who were not “cured” on a mycological level. Researchers concluded that, “Vicks VapoRub seems to have a positive clinical effect in the treatment onychomycosis.”

vicks vaporub uses

Many unique off-label uses have been associated with Vicks VapoRub.

How Does Vicks VapoRub Work to Cure Toenail Fungus?

According to Livestrong, the main ingredients in VapoRub include: 4.8% concentration of Camphor (a known topical anesthetic), 2.6% concentration of Menthol (another anesthetic), and 1.2% concentration of Eucalyptus Oil. These ingredients have been shown to inhibit fungal growth in laboratory settings. A 2003 article published in Phytotherapy Research found that concentrations as low as 0.5% inhibited the growth of fungus in lab cultures. Thymol was another ingredient successfully tested in the study that is not present in Vicks VapoRub.

Does Vicks cure toenail fungus? One doctor discusses:

What Does the Company Say about Using Vicks for Onychomycosis?

The rumors surrounding Vicks VapoRub as a home treatment for toenail fungus are so pervasive that the manufacturer had to comment in their FAQ section. According to Proctor & Gamble, “Vicks VapoRub can be used for the treatment of cough associated with the common cold. It also can temporarily relieve minor aches and pains associated with aching muscles. We haven’t tested, nor has the FDA approved, Vicks VapoRub as a toenail fungus treatment. Therefore, we do not recommend it for treatment of toenail fungus.”

Going Beyond Vicks VapoRub for Toenail Fungus Treatment

If you really want to CURE your toenail fungus, rather than just treat it time and time again, then you will need to also treat your footwear. Adam Ullman, founder of the SteriShoe ultraviolet shoe sanitizer, learned that fungal spores in his shoes caused frequent recurrences of toenail fungus, despite trying every treatment in the book. It was only when he used ultraviolet light to eradicate living toenail fungus spores that he was finally able to be cured. Now you can buy this clinically-proven, podiatrist-recommended device to kill bacteria, fungus, viruses and other pathogens in your shoes. Try it risk-free for 30 days!