Skin fungal infections are one of the most common skin diseases. Fungi that can potentially infect people are lurking in many common places. Fungi thrive in warm and humid areas. So swimming pools, saunas and public showers are common places to get a fungal infection. Since fungi are contagious, body contact can also cause skin infections.
What is a fungus
A fungus is an organism that lives in the air, in the soil and in the water. Many live on plants and some in the human body. About half of all types of fungi are harmful to people. Examples of fungi are yeast, mildew, mold and mushrooms.
How do you get skin fungal infections
Fungi usually reproduce through spores. These spores float in the air and end up on people’s skin and lungs. You are at risk of developing skin fungal infections if you:
- have a weak immune system due to stress or immune suppressing diseases like AIDS or cancer
- have been taking antibiotics
- are taking medicines to suppress the immune system
- are diabetic
- are pregnant
- walk bare feet in public shower and swimming pool areas
- wear tight clothing that doesn’t allow sweat to evaporate
- don’t dry your skin (particularly between your toes) fully after a bath or shower
- touch contaminated clothing, towels, bed sheets
- eat a lot of sugary foods
Because fungi are very resilient, fungal infections are usually difficult to cure.
Types of skin fungus
There are several types of fungus that infect the skin. The largest group is the dermatophyte which infect skin, hair and nails. They feed on keratin tissues causing inflammation. Ringworm and tinea are examples of these skin infections.
Toenail and fingernail infections are called onychomycosis. Hair and hair follicle infections are called trichomycosis.
Often the offender is a fungus called trychophyton. But yeast (Candida and Pityriasis) and mold can also infect the skin.
A skin fungal infection rarely goes away on its own. Often it spreads to other parts of the skin and it can pave the way to bacterial infections. So a therapy is necessary to treat the skin fungal infection. The good news is, you can treat it naturally.
There are many very interesting medicinal plants that are anti-fungal. But since there are only few good studies on this subject, herbalists tend to treat this condition using the most important therapy to cure skin fungal infections which is aromatherapy.
The best essential oils to treat skin fungal infections are those that have monoterpenol, linalool or menthol. Monoterpenol is a compound found in most essential oils. It is a strong fungus killer capable of destroying a large spectrum of germs. Linalool is another compound present in some essential oils and abundantly found in thyme (Thymus vulgaris) with chemotype linalool. Menthol is found in peppermint (Mentha piperita).
Tea tree essential oil
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil contains 45% monoterpenol and is used in aromatherapy to treat nail fungal infection. Tea tree oil oxidizes quickly and has, therefore, a low shelf life of 12 to 18 months. The more often you open the bottle, the sooner the oil will oxidize. Make sure you’re getting a high quality tea tree oil. High quality oils smell balsamic and low quality ones, strong like medicine.
Dosage to treat athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis): 50% strength. One part tea tree oil, one part olive oil. Apply it to the affected area twice a day until it heals, about four weeks. If you have severe athlete’s foot, this strength may cause pain in the cracked skin area. Dilute the oil further to reduce the pain. Just remember that if you dilute the oil to less than 50% strength, it will take longer to cure.
Dosage to treat toenail infection (Onchomycosis) : Apply the oil undiluted to the affected toenail twice a day. Keep in mind that toenail fungal infection is the most difficult fungal infection to cure. It can take one year of treatment for a cure. In some cases, you’ll have to apply the tea tree oil with a prescription anti fungal medication for a complete cure.
Never ingest tea tree oil. Avoid it on small children, pregnant and lactating women.
Oregano essential oil
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) oil is strong anti fungal and a powerful and effective treatment to cure folliculitis (Pityrosporum folliculitis).
Dosage to treat folliculitis: Oregano oil is a skin irritant and it is a good idea to dilute it in jojoba or coconut oil before applying it to the skin. Add two drops to 5 ml jojoba or coconut oil and apply it to the affected area. If you have severe yeast folliculitis, apply it pure with a cotton swab to the infected area. Additionally, take one drop internally one to three times per day until symptoms disappear.
Don’t use it on small children, pregnant and lactating women.
Myrrh tincture is often used to treat fungal infections of the mouth such as Candida. You can use this tincture undiluted or diluted (1:1) with chamomile tea.
The sulfur compound called “allicin” is an anti-fungal abundantly found in Garlic (Allium sativum). To treat a fungal infection with garlic, take a thin slice and place it on the infected area. The strong smell of garlic is, of course, a big disadvantage of this treatment.