Wooden nails - causes and treatment

Wooden nails - a somewhat unusual term that does not suggest pretty toenails. They are actually toenails that are thickened and reminiscent of the look of wood. This uncomfortable nail disease can have different causes. In the following lines you will find out how to recognize this disease and how to receive medical treatment, and what you can do yourself.

Detected quickly - handled quickly

The faster thickened toenails are recognized as such, the faster they can be treated. What does a wooden nail look like? This is a nail, the nail plate of which is getting thicker and brittle, no longer grows in length but grows in height, has yellowish edges and splinters easily. Such a changed nail not only looks ugly. Pain may also occasionally occur, especially when wearing shoes. This affects mainly the nails of the big and the small toes, since these are most likely to be constricted in shoes.


Those who discover or suspect a wooden nail in their should best seek medical advice. Doing it yourself is not recommended for such a nail condition. Mainly because one of the most common causes is a fungal infection that needs to be treated properly. Other reasons for wooden nails are:

  • Rheumatism,
  • Diabetes,
  • Circulatory disorders,
  • older age,
  • Injuries to the nail,
  • constant wearing of shoes that are too tight
  • and skin diseases (for example psoriasis).

Fungal infection

A medical examination will determine whether the cause of the thickened toenails is a fungal infection using a special fungal test. If this is positive, a fungus culture in the laboratory can determine the exact pathogen. This facilitates and improves therapy.

Such a fungal infection can lead to pus and wetting of the nail. At the latest, those affected like to seek medical help. Fungal infections of the nails or feet primarily affect people who suffer from diabetes mellitus. But athletes and immunocompromised people also belong to the groups at risk. At first, the fungus is barely noticeable and is therefore easily overlooked, although early detection would be particularly important. The fungus can attack the whole nail and destroy it. Here are the first signs to look out for:

  • Loss of nail gloss,
  • yellowish or brownish discolouration,
  • Brittleness,
  • Thickening,
  • Cracks in the nail,
  • whitish spots and stripes,
  • the nail stands out from the nail bed
  • or individual nail layers crumble off.

All of the above symptoms can indicate a nail fungus associated with a wooden nail. But chemicals or the existence of psoriasis often cause such nail changes. Medical help should therefore be sought so that the correct diagnosis can be made.

If a fungus is the cause of the thickened nail, it is treated with antifungal ointments, varnishes or creams. This treatment is usually quite lengthy - so patience is required here. The wooden nail is not created overnight.


The formation of wooden nails can be prevented. Constant wear of shoes that are too tight or have a high heel constricts the toes. This also affects the nails. Therefore, comfortable footwear in which the toes have enough space is recommended. If you like to wear high shoes, you should at least always take breaks in which flat, comfortable shoes are worn.

Always keep your feet dry. Change your shoes every day and powder your feet with a suitable powder. Special sprays for the shoes have a germicidal effect. Daily changing of socks is mandatory. Regularly walking barefoot is good for your feet, but not if you have a fungal infection because there is a risk of infection.

Foot baths care for the feet. Make sure you have the right pedicure. The nails are cut straight or, what is even gentler, filed. If the nail plate is already slightly thickened, carefully file it thinly. After that, your feet and nails are happy with some cream.

Benefit for feet and nails

The feet carry us all day and are mostly locked in shoes. Regular care on the one hand protects against nail thickening and on the other hand enables early detection of a nail change. Make a regular appointment for your foot care. You will thank you for this.

Start with a foot bath that softens the skin and cornea. A tablespoon of honey or a little cream or milk added to the water nourishes the skin. A few drops of tea tree oil or a tablespoon of vinegar are anti-inflammatory. Soak your feet in it for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then the gentle pedicure, as described under prevention, is your turn.


If there is a fungal infection as the cause of wooden nails, as already mentioned, an antifungal treatment is carried out. If an injury to the nail plate or the nail bed, for example due to incorrectly applied pedicure, is the cause, the affected nail must recover. As a rule, this grows out completely and a new, healthy nail follows it. This takes approximately 12 months. During this time, it is essential to ensure that you have comfortable footwear to give the nail concerned enough space.

If the reason for the occurrence is an internal illness, such as rheumatism or diabetes mellitus, you must first check whether the person concerned has the right medication. Nutrition must also be taken into account here. A rheumatism patient should absolutely eat a basic diet and largely avoid animal foods. A basic diet is of course also useful for diabetics, but here the focus is also on the intake of suitable carbohydrates in appropriate amounts.

Professional foot care is important for both diseases. Older patients are often affected by wooden nails. The blood circulation in old age gets worse, the care of the feet decreases with many, because this is sometimes more and more difficult. Therefore regular medical pedicure should be aimed for.

Unfortunately, wooden nails do not always heal completely. The cause plays a major role here. Drugs that inhibit the growth of nail cells may be prescribed. If the thickening of the nail is already well advanced, special ointments can be used to soften the nail substance so that the nail can be removed more easily.

Home remedies

If there is a fungal infection, it can be treated with tea tree oil. For this purpose, a few drops of high-quality essential tea tree oil are mixed with a teaspoon of cold-pressed olive oil and applied to the affected areas twice a day. A high quality, pure aloe vera gel is also worth trying. Garlic juice is another home remedy that is helpful for a fungal infection. They squeeze out several cloves of garlic and catch the juice. This is applied undiluted - ideally overnight. Another option is dabbing with grapefruit seed extract, just as pure. If all of this does not help, it is essential to follow an antifungal therapy, as mentioned above.
During an anti-fungal therapy, whether natural, conventional medicine or both, you should not visit a public sauna and swimming pool. The diet should not contain white bread or sugar.

Important: A fungal infection is contagious. So the rule is: no barefoot walking at home and no shared towels. It is best not to wash the socks together with those of the other family members.

Tips from naturopathy

If there is a fungal infection, taking the nasturtium mother tincture, Latin Tropaeolum majus called. Bathing in oak bark helps.

Furthermore, creaming the affected areas with marigold ointment (calendula ointment) or marigold oil (calendula oil) supports the healing.

Homeopathic remedies

Homeopathy also offers remedies that can be used for treatment. Depending on the symptoms, these are the following preparations:

  • Antimonium crudum for brittle, thickened toenails,
  • Conium when the nails are yellow
  • and Silicea and Thuja in a fungal infection.

More options

In order to get the nail plate a little thinner again, we recommend taking Schüßler Salt No. 1 Calcium fluoratum D12. At the same time, the appropriate Schüßler Salt Cream No. 1 Calcium fluoratum is applied twice a day, very thin in the morning and as a thick envelope in the evening. To improve the moisture balance of the nail, No. 8 from Schüßler Salzen, sodium chloratum D6 is recommended, as well internally and externally. It is best to mix the two creams - No. 1 and No. 8 together.


Thickened nails are not only unsightly, they also have to be treated. A visit to the doctor is therefore essential. Regardless of whether it is conventional medicine or naturopathic therapy, or both at the same time - it is important that the treatment is carried out exactly according to the instructions. Especially if there is a fungal infection, a consistently carried out therapy is essential. (Sw)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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