Essential oils are the extracted and distilled oils of different plants. These oils contain the chemical compounds that characterize and support the life cycle of the plant. Essential oils are natural substances with powerful properties.
Many essential oils are antifungal or antimicrobial, meaning they can fight the growth of certain pathogens that could harm your health. Since essential oils don’t trigger the same side effects as some synthetic ingredients that are used to fight bacteria and fungus, they are becoming more and more popular for use for that purpose.
Fungus is the cause of health conditions like ringworm and athlete’s foot, among others.
Types of antifungal essential oils
The essential oils of herbs and spices are some of the most powerful antimicrobial essential oils. Thyme, cinnamon, oregano, clove, and mint are all examples of these kinds of oils.
Citronella, geranium, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and peppermint, among others, have been tested specifically against fungi and found to be effective antimicrobials for that purpose. Tea tree oil is another essential oil that has demonstrated antifungal capabilities.
Benefits of antifungal essential oils
Essential oils have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and fungicidal properties. Some can even stimulate new cell growth. These properties work together to form a potent treatment for fungal infections on your skin. These conditions include:
- Ringworm. This is a contagious, itchy skin condition that can be caused by several kinds of fungus. Sometimes ringworm can be found on the scalp.
- Athlete’s foot. This is a type of ringworm that is found on the feet. Athlete’s foot earns its name because it’s common in people who spend a lot of time in damp, warm socks after athletic activity.
- Tinea versicolor. This fungal infection causes small discolored patches to show up on your skin. The fungus can be found on anyone’s skin, and discoloration only happens when the fungus overgrows. Oily skin or hormonal changes can be risk factors for tinea versicolor.
- Toenail fungus. Also known as onychomycosis, toenail fungus affects up to 20 percent of the population. This type of fungi can be stubborn and hard to get rid of. Toenail fungus causes nails to become yellowed or otherwise discolored, with streaks or spots appearing in the nail.
- Jock itch. This is caused by fungus that can be spread from person to person. The fungus grows in warm areas of your body where sweat collects under your clothes, like your genitals and buttocks.
How to use antifungal essential oils
You can use antifungal essential oils topically to treat overgrowths of fungi on your skin. Choosing a mixture of two or three oils, along with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, gives you the best chance for results.
Don’t apply powerful essential oils directly to your skin without diluting with a carrier oil.
Mix 2 to 3 drops of each oil along with 20 drops of your carrier oil before using something clean and disposable, like a sterile cotton gauze pad, to coat the affected area of your skin.
Make sure that you are only touching the area of your skin that’s affected by the fungus so that you don’t spread the fungus over healthy skin. You may need to apply the oils two to three times per day over a period of several weeks to see results.
Antifungal essential oils can also improve the air quality in your home. Fungi sometimes grow in the air vents of your house and can be spread every time you turn on your air conditioning. By using a vapor diffuser and a few drops of an antifungal essential oil, you can make the air in your home healthier to breathe.
Side effects and risks of antifungal essential oils
Not every kind of essential oil can be used against every kind of fungi. Fungi differ in behavior, sometimes according to their host.
There’s a potential that even after treating fungus with essential oil, symptoms from the fungus will remain. In this case, seek advice from a doctor before complications develop.
There’s also the chance of an allergic reaction. Before using any essential oil as a home remedy on your skin, do a patch test with a small amount of the diluted essential oil on a small part of your skin that isn’t affected by the fungus.
Monitor that part of your skin for at least 24 hours to make sure that you can tolerate using the essential oil topically.
Essential oils are not for ingestion. Cases of essential oil toxicity have been reported when people have consumed essential oils. This holds true when essential oil is diluted with carrier oils — don’t use diluted essential oils internally.
Using essential oils to treat fungal skin infections is a promising home remedy. But it may take several applications, as well as some time, to see if the symptoms of your infection go away.
If you detect that your condition is getting worse, or if you have tried this remedy for over a week without any success, speak to your doctor. There are other treatments available to treat fungal skin infections that can be prescribed to you.