Fungal infections are some of the most stubborn health problems you can face. It can seem like they’ll never clear up, no matter what you try. Even worse, many medications designed to address a yeast infection, or other types of fungal infection, are extremely harsh, with troubling side effects.
There are, however, safe, natural alternatives that have been proven to be effective. Several antifungal essential oils may be worth a try.
But first, to better understand how essential oils can help, let’s take a closer look at some different kinds of fungal infections.
Types of Fungal Infections
There are several types of fungal infections, with symptoms ranging from relatively mild to extremely serious.
- One of the most common fungal infections is a yeast infection, which can lead to itching, burning, pain, and a rash.
- Athlete’s foot is another common fungal infection. Signs of athlete’s foot include blisters and redness, cracking and peeling of skin, and stinging and itching in the affected area.2
Antifungal Essential Oils
An essential oil is a concentrated version of the natural oils found in plants. The process of extracting the oil is known as distillation.3 There are many different types of essential oils.
Here are some of the essential oils known for their ability to help fight fungal infections:
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is typically used for fungal infections such as ringworm or athlete’s foot. However, tea tree oil can also be used topically to help address yeast and ear infections.4
In addition, a mixture of tea tree oil and lavender oil has been proven effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a particularly potent bacterium known as a “superbug.”5
This is known for its strong fragrance, as well as for being one of the more effective antifungal essential oils. According to one study, eucalyptus oil inhibits the development of 22 strains of harmful bacteria and 12 fungus strains.6 There is even evidence that eucalyptus oil could help reduce symptoms associated with serious respiratory ailments.7
Citronella candles are often used to dissuade mosquitoes and other insects from invading your patio during the spring and summer months. But citronella is also a powerful ally in the fight against harmful fungi.
According to one study, citronella shows promise as an environmentally-friendly, safe fungicide.8 A component in citronella, known as geraniol, also appears to have antioxidant properties, helping protect the body from cellular damage due to inflammation.9
A study suggests that lavender oil is just as effective as a medication typically prescribed to address yeast infections.10 Lavender oil has also been shown to help alleviate issues such as depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.11
When combined with other antifungal essential oils, such as clove oil and tea tree oil, lavender may help inhibit the development of the Candida albicans yeast and the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. These two harmful microbes cause infections that can ultimately lead to severe health problems.12
Researchers found that cinnamon oil was very potent antifungal in destroying Candida yeast cells. They then looked at 60 people suffering from digestive problems associated with Candida. After receiving capsules containing both the Asian herb pogostemon oil (better known as patchouli oil), as well as cinnamon oil, the researchers found that more than 70 percent of the study participants no longer had any traces of Candida after two weeks.13
Peppermint is one of the most potent antifungal essential oils.14 It is so strong, in fact, it is considered to be a more effective fungicide than a commercially available product.15
Peppermint oil has also been shown to be of substantial help to people suffering from digestive problems.16
Clove oil has been shown to be effective in killing types of fungi that have become resistant to pharmaceutical medications.17 Clove oil has also shown promise in helping to enhance the response of the immune system. This helps the body fight off potentially severe infections.18
This fragrant herb, often used in cooking, may also be a potent ally in the fight against fungal infections. One study shows that thyme oil is particularly effective in killing mold spores – which, if inhaled, can lead to serious respiratory issues.19
Thyme is also effective against several harmful strains of bacteria. Researchers tested thyme oil on 120 bacterial strains taken from people suffering from urinary, respiratory, and oral infections. According to the results, thyme oil was shown to have extremely strong antibacterial properties.20
Oil from the otherwise humble black pepper you probably have on your dinner table also contains potent antifungal properties. The active component in black pepper, piperine, has been shown to kill the Aspergillus flavus fungus.21This often causes fungal infections that can be serious for people with lung issues or compromised immune systems.22
Another essential oil that can help with fungus is geranium oil. In one study, Pelargonium graveolens (the genus species of geraniums) was shown to inhibit the growth of 12 different strains of fungus.23
Is there anything coconut oil can’t do? Studies show that coconut oil may be effective against a fungus called Candida albicans, which is one of the most common causes of fungal infections.24, 25
A Final Word on Essential Oils
Certain essential oils may prove helpful in either reducing the symptoms of mild fungal infections, or eliminating them entirely. However, proceed with caution. Talk with your doctor before you add any antifungal essential oils to your arsenal to combat fungal infections.