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How to Cure Toenail Fungus

24 August 2016

This article is from an actual toenail fungus survivor, and is my current recommendation for how to cure long-term toenail fungus. Lots of information on the internet seem to be from people that haven’t actually had toenail fungus.  So they just write theoretically how to get rid of it, and assume it works because whatever product  is antifungal.  But anyone who has had it knows toenail fungus is very resilient.  And even more so if the toenail has separated from the nail bed. This “kitchen sink” approach gets to the underlying cause of the issue.  If you can handle it, my pictures of progress are at the bottom.

“I don’t care about your story – just give me the cure.”  Here is the recipe for the “kitchen sink” approach to wiping out toenail fungus.

Soak recipe  – some ingredients may be unnecessary, but for completeness sake, I used them all.

  • 3 tbsp Copper sulfate
  • 3 tbsp Borax
  • 2 Cups Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Distilled Water (I’m sure tap works as well).
  • Soak for at least 25 minutes daily.
  • Put this in a plastic tupperware tray with a lid to keep it from evaporating.  Your significant other will appreciate if you do this outside on the porch as it does kind of smell.  You can shower immediately after and rinse it off.  Unlike some of the other cures out there, this wasn’t caustic to my skin.

Internal recipe – some ingredients may be unnecessary, but for completeness sake, I used them all.

Lifestyle – Prevent reinfection

  • Get your feet out in the sunlight.  Light and dryness protect from fungus.
  • Wear loose fitting shoes like boat shoes
  • Wear 100% cotton athletic soaks
  • Put your shoes in the freezer for at least 12 hours at least once a week.  I did mine on the weekends.  Put them in plastic grocery bags to protect the material from freezer damage.  This will help prevent reinfection.
  • Don’t let your toes soak in the tub or the shower.  Not even to “cut back” the nails as so many people suggest.  Fungus loves moisture.  Other than soaking in the mixture above, keep your nails as dry as possible otherwise.  If you happen to soak your toes in the pool, or the shower, be sure to dip back in the above mixture afterwards.

You might be wondering – How did a Health “Guru” get Toenail Fungus?  Good question.  

Having toenail fungus really bothered me because here I was pretending to be a health guru while having something that most normal people don’t have.  Someone who really knows what they’re talking about should have as few health problems as possible – and especially not problems that most non-health-obsessed people don’t have.  But on top of trying to maintain integrity as a genuine authority, toenail fungus made me worry that I might have systemic fungus which actually is very detrimental to overall health, and has been implicated in cancer (1).

Fungus is a big deal because it produces cancer causing mycotoxins in the body (2). These suppress liver and thyroid function to keep body temperature suppressed so the fungus can live on (2, 3).

I tried  all kinds of stuff before I found  my current method: Pau D arco, diluted bleach water soak, vinegar soak, methylene blue topically, methylene blue internally, tea tree oil (my god the smell), potassium iodide, potassium hydroxide (does appear to work but is VERY caustic on the skin), hydrogen peroxide soak, other essential oils,  water soak plus cutting back nails, and various items from Amazon that claim to kill fungus such as NonYx or Kerasal.

But in my recent bout with C diff, I learned a lot about yeast and bacteria. I got to thinking about how more diabetics have toenail fungus than the rest of the population.  What are diabetics deficient in? See below for the answer.   I got to thinking that my cells didn’t really need tea tree oil, pau d’arco, or some magic gel.  My cells needed something else. I was deficient in some basic core nutrient.  And likely because experiments with other nutrients that threw off my body’s balance.

I had toenail fungus since playing football 10 years ago. Sports are a common cause of toenail fungus due to the moist and warm environment.  The military also didn’t help as boots are the absolute worst for letting your feet breathe.  I also damaged my toenails by accidentally kicking things like curbs when walking.  Sharing common showers never helped either.  Men also seem to have fungus more often than women.

Why these ingredients?

Copper / Sodium Copper Chlorophyll / Copper Sulfate

I learned that selenium quickly caused my nails to brittle and hair to thin and fall. What helps reduce selenium toxicity ? Copper. What is one of the most antidiabetic  minerals? Copper (4). What would  someone that supplemented Zinc likely be deficient in? Copper. What would someone that ate a diet low in animal products for years likely be deficient in? Copper.  What would a person who’s consumed a lot of vitamin C be deficient in? Copper. What would someone that easily experiences selenium toxicity likely be deficient in?  Copper.  Copper helps form connective tissue with vitamin C. This keeps nailbed healthy, and copper seems to help force cells into an oxidative state which is not preferred by cells containing fungus as fungus predominantly uses glycolysis in the cytosol.

Copper sulfate, specifically, provides a cheap source of copper and sulfur for the soak.  Both of which are toxic to fungus.  Copper sulfate is a common plant fungicide that did not irritate my skin (5).  Your toenails, especially the fungus infected areas, will turn blue. This can be removed with a scrubber brush, and the problem goes away as your infected parts grow out.  If you prefer fungus-fighting without the soak, you can safely leave your nails blue without scrubbing them.  Copper chlorophyll is just another way to get copper.  This is a manufactured product so impurity may be an issue, and you should seek out quality brands.  Chlorophyll itself helps mitigate the absorption of aflatoxins (6).


Borax (sodium borate)  is a potent cleanser and antifungal. Boron inhibits the growth of fungi at fairly low PPM concentrations  “Fifty and 4000 mg B/liter, respectively, significantly (5% level) reduced the growth of the latter 2 (fungus) species (7). Boron is only slightly antimicrobial but very antifungal.   In another study, boric acid (which is formed by metabolism of sodium borate), was more effective (92%) at killing vaginal candidiasis than the prescription drug Nystatin (64%) (8).  If you put three tablespoons of sodium tetraborate into four cups of liquid as this recipe recommends, you’re reaching a concentration of about 1650 mg B / liter.  If you really believe in this, increase the above amount to about 7 tablespoons per liter to reach the 4000 mg B/liter.

Use of Borax is optional as copper sulfate should do the trick.  But it’s safe and cheap for external use so it’s not really worth trying the recipe without it.  You could also use it internally if you’re daring – I’d recommend 1/8 tsp three to four days a week similar to the dose plan for leading prescription antifungals for toenail fungus.


As most followers know, I have been a long time user of supplemental magnesium.  Because I never supplemented potassium, food sources likely were not able to keep up with my magnesium intake. While magnesium is important, potassium is just as important.  Supplemental magnesium drives available potassium into cells.  With long term use of supplemental magnesium, and only food sources of potassium, I may have depleted my source of available potassium.  After all, you need 4.7 grams of potassium a day as the minimum RDA.  Unless you’re eating tons of fruit, veggies, and dairy, chances are you’re not getting that much potassium. Potassium bicarbonate is commonly used as a fungicide in gardening (9).  Potassium supposedly alkalizes intracellular fluid which kills fungus that has infiltrated your cells.  Fungi prefers acidic environments and thrives in soils with pH less than 5.5 where the ratio of bacteria:fungus becomes less than 1 (10).

Most “normal” people without fungus likely never supplemented magnesium like I had.  Magnesium supports potassium use and maintenance in cells (11).  Your body manages potassium in the serum quite well so a serum test showing you’re in range may not mean anything.  “Extracellular fluid is only 2-3 % of total body K.  Each 1 mEq/L decrease of serum K reflects a total body deficit of <200-400 mEq. A serum K of <2 mEq/L may reflect a total deficit >1000 mEq (11).”

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar – Oh my gosh!  Why would consuming something that has bacteria and acid help prevent fungi?  Well bacteria can antagonize yeast eachother.  The bacteria in apple cider vinegar, acetobacter, is a kind of bacteria which converts alcohol into acetic acid which is the major component in vinegar (12).  That’s right, fermentation creates acetic acid which then kills off most bacteria and yeast present.  I suspect the bacteria and acetic acid make it impossible for the toenail fungus to survive.  In addition, the acidity helps soften the nails for the other remedies (borax, copper sulfate) to infiltrate.

Some also claim success in getting rid of general yeast infections using apple cider vinegar orally.  Apple Cider vinegar has been successful against the common boogeyman Candida yeast species in a few studies (13, 14). The common dose is two tablespoons a day.  A side benefit is improved digestion of meals, vitamins and minerals due to the acidity.  This is not a Ray Peat-endorsed option, but I haven’t noticed huge negatives to my metabolic rate using it.

Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda)

Sodium bicarbonate, like potassium, is an alkalizing mineral.  Alkaline environments make it difficult for fungus to survive.  While potassium and magnesium support alkalization of intracellular fluid, sodium helps alkalize extracellular fluid along with calcium.  Sodium bicarbonate is also antibacterial.  It’s cheap, easy to use, and can support the metabolism and reduce stress.  I like to use mine before sleep with some water.  The sodium helps reduce night time urination, and the bicarbonate may help the body form CO2 which helps the body respirate, sleep and repair.  Sodium bicarbonate is also one of major buffers for intracellular fluid to maintain pH homeostasis.  Sodium bicarbonate has also been proven to have antifungal properties (15).

Some have written that the acid / alkaline fads are all myths.  While they are slightly right in that you can’t really affect pH easily with diet because the body fights to maintain homeostasis, building up reserves of alkalizing mineral reserves, such as bicarbonate, to help maintain that homeostasis makes sense to me.


Silica is widely known as the crap that is included with supplements, computers or shoes.  You will find silica in many products that you don’t want to get wet.  No, I’m not telling you to eat those packets.  A natural source is preferred as a lot of those are mined, can be jagged and can irritate the gut.  Bamboo is a great natural source.  As is horsetail.  Bamboo has much more.  Making bamboo leaf tea is an easy option if you have the time or you can buy a supplement labeled “bamboo silica.”  Silica will help reduce excess moisture in / on the body, and help re-attach a stronger toenail to the injured nailbed.  Silica deficiency has also been implicated in several connective tissue disorders such as “deformities in skull and peripheral bones, poorly formed joints, reduced contents of cartilage, collagen, and disruption of mineral balance in the femur and vertebrae (16).”  It also has a pretty impressive safety profile with a lack of reports of toxicity from aqueous silica (16).  Soluble silica, unlike silicon dioxide, are generally safe.  These forms are typically silicic acid (or ortho, meta, di, and tri-silicates) which is formed by stomach acid and plant based silicas.  There are also a few supplements of stabilized Orthosilicic Acid which I have not used.

Silica nano particles are used to protect corn from fungus.  “The results indicate that nanosilica-treated plant shows a higher expression of phenolic compounds (2056 and 743 mg/ml) and a lower expression of stress-responsive enzymes against both the fungi (17).

Progress Photos

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Before I started – March 2016


June 2016


July 2016


August 2016

Late August, Brushed off

Late August, Brushed off


  1. Toxigenic fungi and mycotoxins http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/1/184.full.pdf
  2. Liver Cancer and Aflatoxin: New Information from the Kenyan Outbreak  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1314947/
  3. Global Burden of Aflatoxin-Induced Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Risk Assessment  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898859/
  4. Antidiabetic copper(II)-picolinate: impact of the first transition metal in the metallopicolinate complexes.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17531495
  5. How Copper Sprays Work and Avoiding Phytotoxicity http://cvp.cce.cornell.edu/submission.php?id=140
  6. Effects of Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin on Low-Dose Aflatoxin B1 Pharmacokinetics in Human Volunteers  http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/2/12/1015.full
  7. Nonessentiality of Boron in Fungi and the Nature of its Toxicity http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1086339/
  8. Treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis with boric acid powder  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7282789
  9. Use of potassium bicarbonate as a fungicide in organic farming  http://www.betriebsmittelliste.ch/fileadmin/documents/de/hifu/stellungnahmen/potassium_bicarbonate_organic.pdf
  10. Effects of pH on the comparative culturability of fungi and bacteria from acidic and less acidic forest soils http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jobm.3620370506/abstract
  11. Magnesium and Potassium Interaction http://barttersite.org/magnesium-and-potassium-interaction/
  12. Apple cider vinegar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_cider_vinegar
  13. Antifungal Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar on Candida Species Involved in Denture Stomatitis.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25219289
  14. Use of alcohol vinegar in the inhibition of Candida spp. and its effect on the physical properties of acrylic resins  http://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-015-0035-5
  15. Antifungal activity of sodium bicarbonate against fungal agents causing superficial infections http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22991095
  16. The chemistry of silica and its potential health benefits http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17435951
  17. Application of silica nanoparticles in maize to enhance fungal resistance. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25082220






Share your opinion by posting or replying to others comments.


Alan – Reply

September 4, 2016 at 4:15 am - 9 months ago

Hi Scott,
thanks for your honesty.
I also have nail fungus at some toes.

Have you tried soaking in salt water or soaking with bar soap?

    Scott SchlegelReply

    September 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm - 9 months ago

    Hi Alan, no I never tried those, but I could see them working as both are typically basic substances if I recall my chemistry correctly.

    Scott SchlegelReply

    October 3, 2016 at 6:52 pm - 8 months ago

    Alan, I haven’t tried either of those, but I don’t see why those wouldn’t work provided they are alkaline enough and can penetrate the nails/tissue.


Nicole – Reply

October 1, 2016 at 8:10 am - 8 months ago

Thanks so much for this – I don’t have toenail fungus, – some other skin infection which covers the skin of the soles of both feet – I’ve had worsening for about 2 years.
my dr says is tinea. It’s only been a.few days but seems hopeful.
I wanted to know if you did the soak daily for all those months?
Also, how often did you change the solution?

    Scott SchlegelReply

    October 3, 2016 at 6:47 pm - 8 months ago

    Hey Nicole. It should work for tinea, but I can’t say for certain as I’ve never had it. You should probably be able to tell within a week or so. There are some decent OTC drugs for some forms of Tinea as well albeit they are likely more toxic than this soak.

    I did the soak daily for probably the first month. Then did it as I had time – roughly once every two or three days. If I missed a few during the week, I made sure to get it done both Saturday and Sunday.

    I changed the solution once a week.


jahed – Reply

April 6, 2017 at 11:36 am - 2 months ago

peat suggested woundaid, which contains tea tree oil, when I asked him once. I haven’t kept up with it, but I tried tea tree oil diluted in MCT oil as a topical for the nail. He said it would take a long time, 4-8 weeks, of constant application in his experience.

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