Natural Antifungals

GarlicCandida. Yeast infection. Jock itch. Athlete’s foot. Thrush. Ringworm. Different words for the same beast—fungus. We’ve all been affected. But what do we do about it? A quick search through that big superstore we all love to avoid shows products up to $18 a tube. But do they really work? And what are the possible side effects of using them? Not to worry. There are some herbal alternatives.


Studies have shown that the chemical constituent ajoene found in garlic (Allium sativum) is effective against several strains of fungi. Not only does it work to take garlic orally to treat systemic yeast infections such as Candida albicans, but it is even more effective when applied topically to skin and nail fungus.

I would suggest caution here and advice you to use the oil from a garlic capsule (which is diluted) rather than a garlic clove. Many years ago, as a young mother studying herbal medicine, I sent my babies to bed with smashed garlic cloves taped to the soles of their feet. It was supposed to be absorbed into their blood streams and fight their colds. It only caused blisters to form which made shoes impossible and walking painful—for days.

Teatree Oil

Teatree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has been shown to inhibit the growth of over 50 fungus strains. Applying a few drops of the oil, mixed with an equal amount of vegetable oil, directly to the affected area two to three times a day, has shown to eradicate infections better than some over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Taking Teatree oil internally can be fatal.

Black Walnut

Unripe hulls of the black walnut (Juglans nigra) have been used as a folk remedy for topical fungal infections, especially ringworm, for centuries. The active constituent in the hull that contains the antifungal properties is juglone. According to one study, juglone has “moderate antifungal activity” and is as effective as some commercially prepared products.

Black walnut hulls can be powdered and added to an antifungal powder mix. You can add them to your infused oils when making salves and ointments or you can make a black walnut tincture. To reap the antifungal properties, however, it is recommended for topical use.


The bark from a tree found in the Amazon rainforest, Pau-d’arco (Tabebuia ssp.) contains three anti-yeast compounds and is effective in treating Candida albicans and other fungi. You can purchase Pau’d-arco in capsules or loose. It makes a mild and tasty infusion so herbalists frequently recommend drinking several cups of the tea each day.

Of course, herbs working synergistically together in a formula are more effective than those used singly.  When I used to make a salve for diaper rash, I would add several of the anti-fungal herbs to the mix. James A. Duke, PhD supports this in his book The Green Pharmacy, “In one test of ten plant species whose oils were antifungal, researchers noted that ‘combinations of the antifungal essential oils increased their activity remarkably.’”


Duke, J. A.  (2000). The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. Rodale Books.

S Yoshida, S Kasuga, N Hayashi, T Ushiroguchi, H Matsuura and S Nakagawa, Antifungal activity of ajoene derived from garlic. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. March 1987 vol. 53 no. 3 615-617

Nenoff P, Haustein U-F, Brandt W:
Antifungal Activity of the Essential Oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil) against Pathogenic Fungi in vitro.
Skin Pharmacol 1996;9:388-394 (DOI: 10.1159/000211450)

Clark, A. M., Jurgens, T. M. and Hufford, C. D. (1990), Antimicrobial activity of juglone. Phytotherapy Research, 4: 11–14. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2650040104

Photo by LensAlive



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