Fungal Infections (external)

Dr. Jim Duke points out quite correctly that mixtures of antifungal herbs work better than single herbs, and he cites research to back this up in his book, The Green Pharmacy.  He states that “After all, essential oils are complex combinations of chemicals that evolved to protect plants against fungi and other diseases and pests. Synergy is the rule in nature, so it makes sense that combinations would work better than a single, isolated essential oil constituent.” (Duke, 1997).

To treat simple external fungal infections, I mix some thyme or oregano oil, about 10-20%, into tea tree oil.  If this is too strong for the skin and causes irritation, dilute with vinegar (which also is anti-fungal) or olive oil (which is soothing and nourishing). Apply this twice daily to the affected area, for months if necessary.

For persistent toenail fungus, where it is difficult, add some iodine. DMSO will make it even stronger (penetrate deeper). Keep this up twice a day for 6 months, then stop and let the nail grow out.

Other potent antifungal herbal oils include garlic, turmeric, cinnamon bark, tulsi, clove (Syzygium aromaticum), and neem.

Combination treatments of topical Western antifungals with herbals has also been shown to be effective (Syed et. al., 1999, Buck et. al., 1994). See the safety sections on this website for cautions when dealing with these volatile oils.

Internally, we often find patients with persistent fungal infections are suffering from an internal condition of dampness, or heat and dampness.  Appropriate systemic treatment is thus indicated, primarily choosing herbs from the heat-removing and dampness-removing groups.

General Rules for Treating External Fungal Infections

• Keep area open to air as much as possible, and do not get wet

• Cover fingers (if affected by fungus) with rubber gloves during showers if possible

• Microwave all socks once in a while to kill toenail fungus, and always wash clothes with warm water and thoroughly dry. Leave socks in sunlight occasionally to kill fungus

•Apply extra dose of the herbal combinations mentioned above to affected area immediately if it gets wet or sweaty for any reason