Joe and Teresa Graedon answer readers’ questions. This week: using apple cider vinegar on feet fungus; herbal teas for coughs; the laxative effect of magnesium.

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Q: I have had trouble with fungal infections between my toes. I used clotrimazole, which seemed to help a bit.

What really cleared it up was apple cider vinegar. Once a week after bathing, I would use cotton wool with straight ACV applied to it. I wiped between my toes and the front part of my foot. My feet were better than ever after doing that.

I read that fungi have a protective coating around them that stops the immune system from killing them. ACV apparently breaks this protective coating down so your body can then kill the fungus.

A: Thanks for sharing your approach. Researchers have noted that acetic acid (vinegar) has antifungal properties (Mycoses, May 2016).

An intriguing recommendation was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Sept. 22, 2017). The authors suggest a “vinegar sock soak.” Here is their protocol:

“Each evening, patients go to a bathroom or other place with a vinegar-resistant floor, don old cotton socks, pour a few spoons of plain or apple-cider vinegar and a few spoons of water over the toes, and sit and read for 10-15 minutes. They then doff the socks, apply topical antifungals, and go to bed. In our experience, compliance, efficacy, and satisfaction are high, with most patients achieving complete clinical responses [for nail fungus] within a year.”

Q: I have listened to Dr. Tieraona Low Dog on your radio show describe the benefits of thyme and sage teas for colds and coughs. As a physician myself, I have found the results nothing short of amazing. Adding ginger for congestion also has worked for my friends and family. Please share the recipe with others.

A: Dr. Low Dog is one of the country’s foremost experts on the scientific evidence behind herbal therapies. In her book “Healthy at Home,” she notes that: “Thyme is definitely my go-to acute cough syrup because it works quickly, tastes great, is very safe, and costs so little to make.”

Here is her recipe: Add 2 tablespoons dried thyme to 1 cup near-boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and ½ cup organic honey. Take 1 tablespoon as needed. Store in the refrigerator.

You will find this recipe, along with advice on onion syrup for coughs, in our book “Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.” It is available at

Q: I have followed your advice about the benefits of magnesium, both as a dietary supplement and using topical milk of magnesia as a deodorant. This has worked very well, but lately I’m experiencing loose stools.

I stopped the 250-mg supplement while continuing to apply milk of magnesia under my arms. The stool issue hasn’t abated. The question now is: Can the topical application of milk of magnesia every other day, alone, produce over-absorption of magnesium and the lack of firm stools?

A: Scientists are not convinced that magnesium can be absorbed well through the skin (Nutrients, August 2017). That said, you might want to discontinue using milk of magnesia as a deodorant for a couple of weeks to see whether your loose stools resolve. Some people appear to be more sensitive to the laxative effect of magnesium than others.