Antifungal Essential Oils
Antifungal essential oils. Essential oils have a wide variety of therapeutic properties, but one thing that many of them have in common is that they are able to kill the nasty bugs that make you sick., bacteria, viruses, and fungi. While nearly all essential oils are antibacterial, fighting fungus with essential oils takes a little more research. Luckily, studies have found several common essential oils that can be helpful in fighting fungal infections.
Not surprisingly to anyone who has worked with tea tree oil, scientists have found that this potent antimicrobial has strong fungus-killing effects. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that several of the components of tea tree oil have anti-fungal effects, including terpinen-4-ol, ±-terpineol, terpinolene, and 1,8-cineole.
A study looked at the effects of various essential oils on a particular fungus, Fusarium, which causes eye infections. Cinnamon was the clear winner, showing strong activity against the infecting agent, and a synergistic effect with the standard pharmaceutical antifungal treatment.
Oregano essential oil has well-established antifungal properties. One study even found that a shampoo containing oregano oil was comparable to a prescription treatment for fungal skin infection in cats.
Several studies have identified thyme essential oil as a potent antifungal agent, including one in the Journal of Mycological Medicine which found it had the strongest effect of five oils tested in inhibiting fungal growth in food.
A study published in Food Microbiology found synergistic effects among the antifungal essential oils they tested. In their study, oregano and thyme essential oils had the strongest antifungal activity, while a mixture of the two formed an even more potent defense against fungus.
Using Essential Oils to Treat Fungal Infections
Although some research has involved the internal use of essential oils, this is not advised unless directed by a physician. However, since many fungal infections occur on the surface of the skin, it is possible to try essential oils in the home treatment of minor fungal conditions like athlete’s foot. Of course, serious fungal infections should be treated by a medical professional.
Before applying essential oils to the skin, it is important to dilute the essential oil to the proper concentration. While tea tree oil is considered mild and non-irritating, it can be effective even at low concentrations and is often best diluted before use. Cinnamon, oregano, and thyme essential oils, on the other hand, can be highly irritating to skin. Cinnamon should be used only in the form of the leaf extract (not the bark) and diluted to .05%. Oregano and thyme essential oils should be diluted to 1% or less prior to applying to skin (source: Tisserand and Young, Essential Oil Safety). It is best to first try the diluted oils only in a very small area at first to see how the skin will react.
About the Author
MJ Finucane has been studying essential oils for nearly 20 years, and is currently pursuing certification in aromatherapy. She blogs about aromatherapy and natural perfumery at Aromalist.com.
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