Essential Oils Anti-fungal Properties
Over recent times essential oils have become very well-known for their safe and natural healing qualities. While their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties are widely known, their anti-fungal abilities are often overlooked.
Many essential oils have been scientifically proven to contain anti-fungal properties which can help to fight off a number of common fungal complaints.
We all have a certain amount of fungus and yeast in our bodies and by and large they cause no serious issues. They are typically kept in check by our body’s bacteria; however, problems may arise if certain conditions are present such as a weakened immune system.
Common types of fungal infection include
- Athlete’s foot
- Jock itch
- Onychomycosis (a fungal infection which affects the nail and the nail bed)
- Yeast Infection–Candida Albicans (a fungus which infects the vagina, mouth, stomach or urinary tract)
Note: Yeasts are a type of fungi–they are all part of the same kingdom. So Anti-fungal oils are effective against yeasts as well.
Unsurprisingly, there is an ever-growing demand for safe, natural treatment for a number of complaints and fungal infections are no exception. Essential oils can be used safely to treat fungal infections in the knowledge that you are highly unlikely to develop any side effects and that your body will not build up any sort of immunity against them.
The Antifungal Qualities of Essential Oils
The antifungal properties of essential oils have been thoroughly researched. Studies prove conclusively that certain essential oils work as powerful antifungals.
A study carried out in 2006 into the potential antifungal capabilities of 75 essential oils revealed that some oils were more effective than the popular prescription drug –Hexaconazole. The study revealed the best and most potent anti-fungal essential oils which included lemongrass, clove, thyme and geranium.
Best Anti-fungal Essential Oils
Many essential oils are now known to contain powerful anti-fungal properties and the following list is not exhaustive but representative of those commonly believed to be the best treatment for fungal infections and scientifically proven to possess antifungal qualities.
1. Clove Essential Oil
Clove essential oil is certainly one of the best essential oils that you can use in the treatment of fungal infection. Scientific research has found it to be effective in treating at least 15 different forms of fungi which include the common complaint-candida albicans.
A study carried out in 2010 (Nozaki) found that the main constituent of clove essential oil, eugenol had especially powerful effects in combating candida. Clove essential oil should be diluted in equal amounts with a carrier oil before applying it topically.
Clove oil is also good for many oral health issues such as tooth infection or a toothache.
2. Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass essential oil has many healing properties and is used for a variety of complaints as well as to treat fungal infection. Lemongrass essential oil helps destroy internal fungal infections like ringworm and is also used for external infections such as athlete’s foot and jock itch.
Research conducted in 2008 by Weber State University, Utah found that lemongrass ranked best of 91 essential oils in the treatment of MRSA , an infection caused by a staph bacterial strain.
More recent research published in 2014 evaluated both the anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects of lemongrass essential oil. Its anti-fungal effects were examined against a number of pathogenic fungi and yeasts by the diffusion method. The results were extremely positive with lemongrass essential oil showing excellent effects against Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger and Candida tropicalis fungal strains.
Lemongrass essential oil proved to be an effective anti-inflammatory agent in the same study and the authors concluded that lemongrass essential oil had excellent development potential for future anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory medication. The abstract can be read here
Lemongrass oil is considered safe but should be diluted with a carrier oil before it is applied topically.
3. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil has more medicinal benefits than you can mention and scientific research has discovered that it is potentially lethal to a variety of fungal strains including candida and dermatophytes which are responsible for common nail and skin infections. The research carried out at the University of Coimbra; Portugal demonstrates that lavender essential oils damage the cell membrane which destroys the fungal cells.
If you plan to use lavender oil topically, it is best diluted first with a suitable carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oil.
4. Tea Tree Essential Oil
This essential oil is derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca plant native to Australia. Tea tree essential oil has a variety of health benefits and has been used by aboriginal Australians for centuries. According to research published in 2008, tea tree essential oil has potential to treat candida infections including vaginal candidiasis by inhibiting the replication of candida cells.
5. Cassia Essential Oil
Cassia essential oil offers a number of health benefits and contains antibacterial, antiviral as well as antifungal properties. When applied topically, cassia essential oil should first be diluted to at least 3 drops of carrier oil for one drop of cassia oil.
6. Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
Cinnamon essential oil is related closely to cassia oil and possesses anti-fungal properties as well as anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antimicrobial qualities. It is most often used to treat immune system complaints but it also has antifungal applications including the treatment of a variety of Staphylococcus strains.
Cinnamon bark essential oil should be diluted before topical application and care should be taken when diffusing it because it is a potent oil that may cause irritation to the nasal passage.
For the same reason, cinnamon bark oil should not be inhaled directly from the bottle.
7. Thyme Essential Oil
According to the same study, thyme essential oil could be used to effectively disinfect moldy surfaces and walls. Thyme essential oil has also been found to be effective against a range of Staphylococcus bacteria including the MRSA strain.
Despite its many merits, thyme essential oil is powerful and care should be taken when using it. Thyme oil definitely needs to be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the skin. Even in its diluted form, thyme oil might still cause an allergic reaction so it is important to do a spot check on a small area of the skin before going any further.
8. Geranium Essential Oil
The delightfully aromatic geranium essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy and is valued for its antibacterial, antioxidant and antifungal qualities. Studies have found that geranium essential oil is one of the most effective oils in treating a range of fungal infections and it is known to inhibit several fungal species. It can be used to treat athlete’s foot by adding 4 or 5 drops to a foot bath or it can be massaged into your feet twice daily but be sure to dilute it first with a carrier oil.
Geranium essential oil is a useful addition to your arsenal as it is also known to inhibit a variety of bacterial strains.
9. Oregano Essential Oil
Similarly to thyme, oregano is probably best known for its use as a kitchen ingredient, but like thyme, it is so much more than a simple cooking herb or a popular pizza topping. Along with its many other health applications, oregano essential oil possesses powerful anti fungal properties which are deadly to many fungal infections.
Research carried out by scientists in 2008 found that oregano essential oil was useful in the treatment of certain strains of candida. As well as its ability to treat yeast infections like candida, oregano essential oil can be used in the treatment of skin infections like athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections.
To treat athlete’s foot, prepare a foot bath with 4 or 5 drops of oregano essential oil. Oregano essential oil can also be massaged into the affected area after diluting with a suitable carrier oil.
10. Manuka essential Oil
Although it is a relatively recent addition to the essential oils lists, manuka essential oil is without doubt one of the most impressive natural antimicrobial essential oils. Manuka oil also known by its scientific name Leptospermum scoparium is derived from the manuka tree indigenous to the East Cape of New Zealand.
Research has proven that manuka essential oil has powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that give it so many practical uses. A British study published in the year 2000 comparing the antimicrobial properties of manuka, tea tree and kanuka essential oils found that manuka had an excellent antifungal effect though not quite as strong as tea tree oil.
On the other hand, the same research found that manuka had by far the strongest antioxidant and antibacterial ability of the 3 oils tested. The abstract is available to read here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11114000
Manuka essential oil can be used to treat a variety of conditions caused by varying strains of fungus including athlete’s foot, dandruff, toenail fungus and candida. Be sure to dilute it in your shampoo, water or a carrier oil before applying it to the skin.
11. Rose Geranium Essential Oil
Rose geranium essential oil is known for its uplifting aroma and its ability to treat a range of emotional disorders but recent research indicates that it also possesses powerful anti-fungal properties.
The research which was published in 2014 examined both the antibacterial and anti-fungal effects of rose geranium essential oil and found that it was very active against all of the bacteria and fungi tested comparably with prescription medications.
Indeed when it came to its ability against candida albicans, researchers observed a complete inhibition of fungal growth and development. The abstract is available here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25671182
Antifungal Essential Oils for Specific Conditions
Fungal Keratitis and Cinnamon (Leaf) Essential Oil
Fungal keratitis is an eye infection caused by a fungus that affects the cornea. Fungal species that can cause keratitis include fusarium, candida, and Aspergillus. Symptoms include redness and pain in the eye, blurred vision, sensitivity to light as well as excessive tearing and discharge from the eyes.
It is more common in tropical and warmer climates and can be the result of eye trauma, underlying disease, poor immune function or contact lenses. In 2006 a brand of contact lenses was withdrawn following an investigation by the CDC into a fusarium keratitis outbreak.In a very recent piece of scientific research published in 2015, a number of essential oils were tested for their ability against the Fusarium strain of fungus.
The oils tested included lemon, tea tree, oregano, thyme, and juniper. While all of these oils exhibited some effects, cinnamon leaf essential oil was by far the most effective against the Fusarium fungi. Tests revealed that cinnamon leaf essential oil significantly inhibited the fungal growth and was a promising safe and natural candidate for future treatments of the disease. You can read the abstract here… http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26227503
Essential Oils for Yeast Infection
We have mentioned candida a lot with regard to the antifungal properties of the essential oils listed above. In fact, vaginal yeast infection is so prevalent that we will devote another section to it. Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus called candida.
The vagina usually contains a natural balance of yeast and bacteria and this is rarely a problem. Your body contains lactobacillus bacteria which retains the balance by preventing the yeast from overgrowing. When this balance is disrupted for some reason, a yeast infection is possible.
Vaginal itching or burning is familiar and classic symptoms that indicate a yeast infection. Yeast overgrowth may stem from a pregnancy, diabetes or an immune system that is impaired. Fortunately, essential oils offer a natural and safe remedy for a yeast infection like candida and many of the oils that we have already mentioned can treat candida symptoms very effectively.
Bio-film is why Candida is such a problem
Candida is a particularly stealthy form of yeast infection because it is able to build a strong and slimy substance to protect itself called a biofilm. Biofilm is an especially tough slime which is the perfect home for candida and other parasites and microbes.
When candida colonies form they produce even more biofilm which protects the fungus and nourishes it enabling it to grow further. Within the body, the candida biofilms can actually even prevent the most powerful anti-fungal medicines from reaching the fungus which makes candida very tricky to treat by conventional means.
The good news is that certain essential oils can effectively break through this tough bio-film and help treat the candida yeast infection. A study which was published in 2012 found that lemongrass essential oil and clove essential oil were particularly effective. (1)
As well as lemongrass and clove essential oils, there are several other essential oils that are extremely effective against candida yeast infections. They include the following essential oils
- Tea tree essential oil which is a very potent oil which is effective against various yeast infections. Ample evidence exists that this native Australian oil is especially effective against candida. Be careful with tea tree oil as it is especially potent and must not be used internally.
- Thyme Essential oil is one of the very best essential oils when it comes to treating stubborn yeast infections. Studies put it among the 3 best essential oils when dealing with yeast conditions.
- Oregano essential oil was actually found to be the most effective of all the essential oils tested against candida. If you can only afford a single oil then this is probably your best choice.
- Cinnamon essential oil is yet another essential oil with the ability to treat your candida yeast infection.
How to use Essential Oils for Vaginal Yeast Infections
If you want to try some of these yeast busting essential oils to treat your yeast infection there are several recommended methods.
According to experts, you can use a small amount of diluted essential oil to make a douche. Add between 5 and 10 drops of essential oil to a liter or so of water or try adding it to apple cider vinegar which is a renowned yeast killer in its own right. Shake your water and apple cider vinegar mix and ad the essential oil then use it as you would use a normal douche once each morning and then again before going to bed.
Essential Oil Bath
If you want to make a bath with sufficient concentrations of essential oil to kill your yeast infection, you will need to make a shallow bath which allows the water (and oil) to directly contact the area of your infection. You can, of course, ad your oils to a regular bath but which might help with yeast infections of the skin but might not be strong enough to clear up vaginal yeast.
Direct Topical application
If you are going to apply your essential oil directly to your vagina, make sure that it is diluted well first with a suitable base oil like virgin coconut oil which can itself help with a yeast infection. Start off with a weaker concentration until you know that you are not going to suffer any allergic reaction or sensitivity.
Essential Oils for Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is a very common fungal infection that can be quite stubborn and difficult to treat. Fortunately, a number of essential oils appear to be very effective against toenail fungus. The best choices include :
- Tea tree essential oil
- Thyme essential oil
- Manuka essential oil
- Oregano essential oil
- Clove essential oil.
For a detailed article about the best essential oils for toenail fungus and how to use them, click on the following link. 11 Science Based Essential Oils for Toenail Fungus.
Precautions When Using Essential Oils
There is no doubt that essential oils can help treat a wide range of conditions including fungal and yeast infections. Having said that, they still need to be treated with respect. Essential oils are extremely powerful plant extracts and when used incorrectly can cause unwanted side effects.
- Never ingest essential oils unless you are under the supervision of an expert. Ingestion of essential oils can cause toxicity.
- Most essential oils can be applied topically as long as they are diluted before you use them. You should either dilute them in water or in a suitable carrier oil. Potential carrier oils include jojoba, coconut oil and sweet almond oil but there are plenty of others to choose from. Applying essential oils ‘neat’ to the skin can cause an allergic reaction.
- Even after diluting your essential oil, you should [perform a patch test on a discrete area of skin before going ahead and applying a larger dose.
- Not all antifungal essential oils will be effective against all types of yeast and fungus. Your choice of oil will depend on the fungus you are trying to treat. Do your research carefully and consult an expert before making your choice.
- If the fungal infection does not clear up after treatment with essential oils, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which essential oils kill fungus?
Studies have found that a number of essential oils can kill fungus and yeast. Some of the most effective include clove essential oil, lemongrass, tea tree, lavender, cinnamon bark and thyme essential oils.
Does peppermint oil kill fungus?
A study published in 1998 looked at the effects of essential oil on 12 different types of fungus. The researchers found that peppermint oil was effective against 11 of the 12 types of fungus it was tested against. Moreover, the same study found that peppermint oil was effective against a number of bacterial strains. (2)
What essential oils kill toenail fungus?
A variety of essential oils have a proven ability to kill toenail fungus. Some of the very best include tea tree oil, lemon oil, oregano oil, thyme oil and cinnamon essential oil. Simply apply your chosen oil to the affected area several times a day and you should start to see positive results.
Does apple cider vinegar kill fungus?
Apple cider vinegar is often touted as some sort of ‘cure all’ with uses ranging from weight loss to treating acne. It is often recommended as a treatment for skin and nail fungus but there is no evidence that it is effective.
What is the best over the counter nail fungus treatment?
Antifungal medication is available in both oral and topical forms. Oral antifungal medications are regarded as the best choice since they help clear the fungal infection faster than topical drugs. There are several different options including itraconazole (Sporanox) and terbinafine (Lamisil).
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the list above is far from exhaustive and other essential oils possessed of antifungal properties include Lemon, Frankincense, Chamomile, Peppermint, Blue Cypress, Clary sage and Rosemary.
If you are going to try essential oil to treat your fungal infection, remember that the quality of oil is very important (in both brands and if it is organic) and that not all essential oils labeled as therapeutic or high quality are necessarily what they claim to be.
(1) Mohd Sajjad Ahmad Khan, Iqbal Ahmad. Biofilm inhibition by Cymbopogon citratus and Syzygium aromaticum essential oils in the strains of Candida albicans. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 27 Mar 2012; 140 (2): 416-423. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.01.045.