Classic Hacks: Thyme Extract In Vicks VapoRub Can Cure Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus may not be particularly dangerous, but it sure is ugly — and difficult to treat. Today we revisit a study that looked at why Vicks VapoRub or similar products can be so effective at treating it, even where traditional treatments fail. The study isolated an ingredient called thymol, which is naturally found in the herb thyme.

Thyme oil image via Shutterstock

If you find yourself faced with a case of toenail fungus, the treatments offered by the pharmacies can often be expensive and time-consuming. While Vicks has long been a folk remedy of sorts, a study we covered back in 2009 found that the useful ingredient in the chest rub was in fact thymol:

In one study, scientists tested the antifungal effects of the ingredients in a generic medicated chest rub. Of the seven ingredients, thymol was among the most effective at inhibiting the growth of dermatophytes that cause nail fungus. Other studies in animals have also shown thymol oil to be effective against dermatophytes. And studies have also shown that thymol oil destroys another cause of nail fungus, Candida, by disrupting its cell membranes and metabolism.

This means that instead of using Vicks on your nail fungus you can just cut out the middleman altogether and grab some thyme essential oil. This should be available at most health food stores.

If you do decide to use Vicks (or another chest rub containing thymol) then you'll have to apply it daily. eHow recommends the following process, which could also likely be used by those preferring to apply thyme oil directly:

To treat toenail fungus with Vicks VapoRub, clean and trim your toenails. Wash them well and make sure they are completely dry. Coat the toenail with the Vicks, and be sure to get the gel deep into the sides of the nail and as far underneath as possible. If you have any cracks in your nail, rub deeply into them. Once the nail is covered, then wrap a light gauze bandage or adhesive bandage around the nail to protect the Vicks from rubbing off on to socks or something else. Leave it on and let the gel absorb into the nail. Repeat daily. The time it takes to notice results can be anywhere from 10 days to six weeks, depending upon how deep your fungus is.

Lifehacker's Classic Hacks is a regular segment where we dig up the most popular, useful and offbeat advice from our archives and update it for your modern lifestyle.


    I remember seeing Loceryl in a chemist and it was over $100 for a tiny bottle, ridiculous considering sometimes it can take up to 6 months to treat a fungal nail infection.

      No wonder that pharmacies could paper the whole fa├žade of the shop with huge colourful ads with disgusting pictures of the stuff!

      Hi, I started drinking about 4 ounces of warm water with the juice of one whole lemon in it, and viola I noticed about two months later that my toenail fungus had disappeared. I had been using Vicks on it prior to this bout and the fungus disappeared, only to come back about a year later. After the lemon water it is gone, and I have been free of toenail fungus since then.

    Who the hell has ever had fungal nail infection? Surely it is a condition fabricated for the sole purpose of selling a solution, a-la Listerine?

      Athletes foot is a fungal infection and it's extremely common.

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