Clinical Review

Over-the-counter and Natural Remedies for Onychomycosis: Do They Really Work?

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AP Extract


Ageratina pichinchensis, a member of the Asteraceae family, has been used historically in Mexico for fungal infections of the skin.51,52 Fresh or dried leaves were extracted with alcohol and the product was administered topically onto damaged skin without considerable skin irritation.53 Multiple studies have demonstrated that AP extract has in vitro antifungal activity along with other members of the Asteraceae family.54-56 There also is evidence from clinical trials that AP extract is effective against superficial dermatophyte infections such as tinea pedis.57 Given the positive antifungal in vitro data, the potential use of this agent was investigated for onychomycosis treatment.53,58

In Vitro Data

The antifungal properties of the Asteraceae family have been tested in several in vitro experiments. Eupatorium aschenbornianum, described as synonymous with A pichinchensis,59 was found to be most active against the dermatophytes T rubrum and T mentagrophytes with MICs of 0.3 and 0.03 mg/mL, respectively.54 It is thought that the primary antimycotic activity is due to encecalin, an acetylchromene compound that was identified in other plants from the Asteraceae family and has activity against dermatophytes.55 In another study, Ageratum houstanianum Mill, a comparable member of the Asteraceae family, had fungitoxic activity against T rubrum and C albicans isolated from nail infections.56

Clinical Trials

A double-blind controlled trial was performed on 110 patients with clinical and mycologic evidence of mild to moderate toenail onychomycosis randomized to treatment with AP lacquer or ciclopirox lacquer 8% (control).58 Primary end points were clinical effectiveness (completely normal nails) and mycologic cure. Patients were instructed to apply the lacquer once every third day during the first month, twice a week for the second month, and once a week for 16 weeks, with removal of the lacquer weekly. Demographics were similar between the AP lacquer and control groups, with mean ages of 44.6 and 46.5 years, respectively; women made up 74.5% and 67.2%, respectively, of each treatment group, with most patients having a 2- to 5-year history of disease (41.8% and 40.1%, respectively).58 A summary of the data is shown in Table 3. No severe side effects were documented, but minimal nail fold skin pain was reported in 3 patients in the control group in the first week, resolving later in the trial.58

A follow-up study was performed to determine the optimal concentration of AP lacquer for the treatment of onychomycosis.53 One hundred twenty-two patients aged 19 to 65 years with clinical and mycologic evidence of mild to moderate DLSO were randomized to receive 12.6% or 16.8% AP lacquer applied once daily to the affected nails for 6 months. The nails were graded as healthy, mild, or moderately affected before and after treatment. There were no significant differences in demographics between the 2 treatment groups, and 77% of patients were women with a median age of 47 years. There were no significant side effects from either concentration of AP lacquer.53

Ozonized Sunflower Oil


Ozonized sunflower oil is derived by reacting ozone (O3) with sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus) oil to form a petroleum jelly–like material.60 It was originally shown to have antibacterial properties in vitro,61 and further studies have confirmed these findings and demonstrated anti-inflammatory, wound healing, and antifungal properties.62-64 A formulation of ozonized sunflower oil used in Cuba is clinically indicated for the treatment of tinea pedis and impetigo.65 The clinical efficacy of this product has been evaluated in a clinical trial for the treatment of onychomycosis.65

In Vitro Data

A compound made up of 30% ozonized sunflower oil with 0.5% of α-lipoic acid was found to have antifungal activity against C albicans using the disk diffusion method, in addition to other bacterial organisms. The MIC values ranged from 2.0 to 3.5 mg/mL.62 Another study was designed to evaluate the in vitro antifungal activity of this formulation on samples cultured from patients with onychomycosis using the disk diffusion method. They found inhibition of growth of C albicans, C parapsilosis, and Candida tropicalis, which was inferior to amphotericin B, ketoconazole, fluconazole, and itraconazole.64

Clinical Trial

A single-blind, controlled, phase 3 study was performed on 400 patients with clinical and mycologic evidence of onychomycosis. Patients were randomized to treatment with an ozonized sunflower oil solution or ketoconazole cream 2% applied to affected nails twice daily for 3 months, with filing and massage of the affected nails upon application of treatment.65 Cured was defined as mycologic cure in addition to a healthy appearing nail, improved as an increase in healthy appearing nail in addition to a decrease in symptoms (ie, paresthesia, pain, itching) but positive mycological testing, same as no clinical change in appearance with positive mycological findings, and worse as increasing diseased nail involvement in the presence of positive mycological findings. Demographics were similar between groups with a mean age of 35 years. Men accounted for 80% of the study population, and 65% of the study population was white. The mean duration of disease was 30 months. They also reported on a 1-year follow-up, with 2.8% of patients in the ozonized sunflower oil solution group and 37.0% of patients in the ketoconazole group describing relapses. Trichophyton rubrum and C albicans were cultured from these patients.65


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