Ugly, unsightly, and embarrassing - that's how best to describe the condition of toenails infected with fungus. People with toenail fungus often avoid social situations that call for baring their feet, such as summer pool parties, strolling on the beach, or an evening out in your best dress and high-heeled sandals. Onychomycosis is caused by microorganisms called dermatophytes, which are similar to those that cause athlete's foot. These organisms are ever- present on your clothes and in your shoes, the gym, and even your organically fortified garden soil. They're practically unavoidable. Symptoms: One or more of your toenails will begin to look a bit abnormal. Color changes can appear, such as long, yellowish streaks or white patches that can be scraped off. The nail can lift and begin to separate from the nail bed, thicken, and become brittle and flaky. It can also become distorted in shape and begin to twist. This fungus can be transmitted easily to your fingernails, or to other members of your family for that matter, if you constantly pick at your toes without washing your hands afterward. It sounds disgusting, but lots of people do it unintentionally. Treatment: In order to treat toenail fungus, you have to get underneath the nail, which can be difficult. The fungus lives on the soft skin of the nail bed. The herbs and oils in the recipes that I will give to you in the next 2 blogs have traditionally been used by herbalists with much success if applied at least once a day. Twice is best, though. Prevention: Since toenail fungus is infectious, take the same precautions as you would with athlete's foot and wear the appropriate footwear when in public bathing places. Observe proper daily foot hygiene; keep feet fresh and dry with powder and clean changes of socks/hosiery; wear good-fitting, breathable shoes; and never trim toenails too close to the skin or cut the skin. See A Physician If: Toenail fungus is difficult to treat and eradicate. It can be a persistent, nasty bugger - so to speak. If the above measures fail and you've tried the herbal recipes that I'll list in the next two blogs, visit your foot specialist / podiatrist. He or she may want to prescribe a topical or oral medication to combat the fungus or perhaps remove the diseased nail, depending on the severity of the infection. Medications are not without side effects, and do not always work, either. Whichever treatment you choose - herbal or conventional medicine - remember that toenail fungus treatment takes time and consistency of treatment. Do not skip meds or herbal applications. NOTE: Portions of this article were adapated from the book, "Natural Foot Care", by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 1998. All recommendations are made without guarantee on my part and I disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. This article is for educational purposes only and I recommend that the readers use their common sense with all herbal knowledge.