Vicks VapoRub for Toenail Fungus

Vicks Vaporub for toenail fungus

Use of Vicks VapoRub for toenail fungus is becoming popular these days. This popular over-the-counter medicine for providing relief from common cold symptoms contains various natural antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic natural ingredients which can treat toenail fungus without imposing any side effects. There are research studies available to support this claim.

In a case study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan-Feb 2011 issue- 18 people dealing with toenail fungus infection were administered to use Vicks VapoRub. 15 People experienced positive results and 3 people had no change in their condition.

Another research study published in the magazine Phytotherapy Research, April 2003 tested a medicated chest rub with ingredients very similar to Vicks VapoRub to neutralize the strains of fungi responsible for toenail fungus.

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Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is the infection of the nails and surrounding areas which affects more than 15% of the general population in the USA. It causes yellowing and thickening of the nails with occasional pain. With the passage of time, nail brittleness and deformation takes place and sometimes, it gets detached from the nail bed. If left untreated, it can spread to other nails as well. It is not a dangerous health concern, but, surely it makes your nails look ugly. Different kinds of fungi (and sometimes yeast) are responsible for this infection.

What causes Toenail Fungus

The fungi responsible for toenail fungus enjoy a warm, moist environment. Poor hygiene does make the matters worse. Generally, chances of getting toenail fungus increases with increasing age and males are more susceptible to toenail fungus than females. The exact reason is not clear, but, lesser sensitivity of men towards hygiene surely plays a role here.

Who suffer from toenail fungus?

  • People who sweat a lot
  • People who use public pools or takes communal showers such as at the gym
  • People who visit parlors regularly for nail work- manicure and pedicure
  • People who suffer from health issues such as diabetes, malnutrition, weak immune system and chronic smoking.

Why Vicks VapoRub for Toenail Fungus

Various topical and oral medicines are prescribed to treat toenail fungus. These steroidal medicines would be quite expensive, provide variable results and moreover, comes with obvious side effects if used in the long term.

On the other hand, Vicks is quite a safe and cheaper alternative.

Vicks VapoRub is a widely used topical ointment (cream) to provide immediate temporary relief from common cold and cough symptoms. Generally, it is applied to the chest, neck and back of the sufferer just before going to bed for a restful sleep. It provides relief from muscles aches and pains when applied to the joints and muscles.

Ingredients of Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub is a combination of various essential oils and camphor with petroleum jelly as base.

Active ingredients (approximate concentrations)

  1. Camphor – 4.8%
  2. Eucalyptus oil- 1.2%
  3. Menthol – 2.6%

Inactive ingredients (concentrations not defined)

  1. Essential oils (Turpentine oil, Cedar leaf oil and Nutmeg oil,)
  2. Thymol (a derivative of thyme oil)
  3. Petrolatum (also known as petroleum jelly)

It is available in the market in two varieties: Regular and Lemon flavor. All the ingredients are same for both the varieties. Lemon flavor has added lemon fragrance for improved aroma.

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How Vicks VapoRub treats Toenail Fungus

The exact mechanism by which Vicks VapoRub works on toenail fungus is not clear yet, but, a lot of health experts do believe that thymol (the derivative of thyme oil) is the one that does the trick here.

Thymol is an herb – a derivative of thyme essential oil. It has proven anti-microbial oil properties. It can inhibit the fungi responsible for toenail fungus. Its ability to kill Candida (yeast infection) are also well recognized. There are proven research studies to approve its effectiveness.

According to a research study published in the journal Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy, Dec 2008 issue – 1% concentration of Thyme essential oil can effectively inhibit the growth of fungi responsible for nail infection.

Another research study quoted in the journal Mycoses, Nov 2007 issue concludes that Thyme essential oil inhibit Candida (yeast infection) by destroying its cell membranes and metabolism.

Camphor is a white waxy material with a strong odor. It is readily absorbed by the skin and used to treat various skin infections when applied externally.  It should not be used on open wounds and cuts as it can enter your bloodstream which can prove toxic.

Eucalyptus essential oil is an anti-inflammatory oil with anti-oxidant properties. When applied locally, it improves the respiratory circulation to increase the blood flow.

Menthol stimulates the cold-sensitive nerves (receptors) of your skin to provide a cooling effect. It eases pain and itching to provide an analgesic (pain killer) effect.

Trim your toenail as short as possible and wash it clean. Then apply a good amount of Vicks VapoRub on the infected nail. Put on socks to avoid staining of the bedding. Leave it for overnight and wash it off in the morning. If the color changes from yellowish green to bluish black, it is a good news for you because the fungus is dying off. You may need to apply it on a daily basis for at least 2 to 4 weeks to get some visible improvement.

For fast results, some people use it twice a day- in the morning after bathing and at night, before sleep.

If you add a few drops- 3 to 4 drops- of tea tree oil to Vicks VapoRub and then apply this combo to the affected nail, it can further enhance the healing effect. Tea tree oil, a well acknowledged antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory essential oil makes a good pair with Vicks. Just make sure not to use too much tea tree oil because it can burn or irritate your skin.

How safe is Vicks VapoRub for long term use

As already explained, Vicks would take more than a few weeks to treat Toenail fungus. So, it is important to check if it would pose any side effects if used in the long term.

Among various ingredients, Camphor can be poisonous if ingested in large amount. External application is quite safe though. As a precautionary measure, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined a maximum limit of 11% for all camphor containing external topical solutions (ointments and oils). It means that no medicine designed for external treatment can have a camphor concentration more than 11%. Vicks contains only 4.8% camphor, hence, quite safe to use.

Safety measures and precautions

Vicks VapoRub is extensively used by parents to provide relief to their kids from cold symptoms. The outer labeling of Vicks has a few safety precautions to be followed to prevent any side effect. It is not recommended for young kids (2 years and below). Even for older kids and adults, Vicks should not be rubbed on or under the nostrils because it can create breathing difficulty.

As we would be using it on the toenails only, hence, chances of any undesired reaction are very rare. Still, we do need to remember below mentioned few rules:

  • It is strictly for external use. Don’t use it on open wounds or cuts. Otherwise, camphor can enter your bloodstream to create troubles.
  • If you have a young kid around, make sure that you have properly covered the toenail after applying Vicks. Otherwise the strong odor of Vicks can enter your kid’s lungs to make breathing difficult.
  • Don’t overuse. At max, use it twice a day. Overuse can cause a burning sensation and worsen the problem.
  • Camphor and other essential oils are volatile in nature. Hence, even in winters, don’t heat it before use.

Improve Your Personal Hygiene

Improved personal hygiene, particularly related to nails is of foremost importance to get long term healing. Hence, always visit saloons, parlors and gyms where proper hygiene standards are maintained.

Don’t walk barefooted in wet public areas such as gym shower, locker room and public pools. Choose your footwear and socks intelligently- they should have proper moisture management so that your nails don’t get too wet or humid because the fungi survive and proliferate in such an environment.

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From where to buy

You can grab a pack of Vicks Vaporub from a departmental/ chemist store near to you. Otherwise, get it from Amazon for some discounts:

If you are from USA, click here

If you are from UK, click here

If you are from India, click here


Use of Vicks VapoRub for toenail fungus seems a promising, safe and relatively cheaper option than other steroidal medicines. But, you would not to apply it for several weeks to see some improvement. Obviously, more research studies with a bigger sample size (number of patients)  are required to draw a concrete conclusion.



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