The 10 Best Antifungal Herbs

Fungal infections are extremely common around the world. These types of infections are likely to affect the skin, nails, and/or lung health. While antifungal drugs are commonly used, a variety …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Fungal infections are extremely common around the world. These types of infections are likely to affect the skin, nails, and/or lung health.

While antifungal drugs are commonly used, a variety of antifungal herbs have also proven to be highly effective. Herbs are also typically much more accessible for most individuals.

Using natural herbs for fungal infections may help reduce to reduce fungal growth and/or prevent infection altogether. 

This article summarizes some of the most significant scientific research behind the best herbs for fungal infections. 

best herbs for fighting fungal infections

Overview:

Fungal infection occurs when a fungal strain invades the outer layers of skin, hair, or nails. It is most commonly characterized by irritated and itchy skin, broken hair, and discolored and thickened nails. 

Fungal infections are most likely to grow in dark, warm, and moist areas of the body. 

These infections are most commonly caused by two fungi species, dermatophyte (i.e. ringworm) and Candida albicans

Dermatophytes, or ringworms, are considered “filamentous fungi” that thrive off of keratinized tissue of the skin, hair, and nails. This species of fungi are transmitted through animals, soil, or via other infected people. Types of infections that dermatophytes manifest include tinea corporis, tinea capitis, tinea unguium, tinea pedis, and tinea faciei.

Candida albicans is technically a species of yeast that is prevalent in the human microbiome, particularly the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts. These colonies provide beneficial support to healthy individuals, however, stress, compromised immune systems, and other factors can cause Candida overgrowth. Types of Candida infections include oral thrush, vaginal candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, paronychia, candidiasis, and chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis.

Approximately, 20% of the world population has reported having suffered a fungal infection, with tropical areas having the most prevalent cases. Common causes of fungal infections are poor hygiene, close proximity to animals, and living in a warm, humid climate. 

Herbs and natural antifungal remedies may have the ability to prevent the spread of fungal infections and reduce symptoms.

the 8 best antifungal herbs

The Best Antifungal Herbs:

Below are the best herbs for managing and treating fungal infections. These herbs have been known to prevent fungal infections and decrease symptoms of infection.

1. Garlic

Clinical data shows that garlic is a promising antifungal herb. 

In a comparative clinical trial observing participants with chronic oral candidiasis, researchers discovered that garlic has antifungal properties similar to antimicrobial drugs. Subjects noticed significant recoveries in both the garlic and drug groups, however, participants mentioned greater satisfaction when given the garlic therapy. 

Researchers found that an isolated constituent of garlic, ajoene, had a 100% efficacy rate for treating athlete’s foot, a fungal infection of the foot. Applied topically in a gel, the ajoene prevented recurrence of the fungal infection 60-days after treatment.    

Another comparison clinical trial observing 110 women with Candida vaginitis found that garlic tablets (Garcin®) were as effective in treating fungal infections as antifungal pharmaceutical drugs. After 7 days of therapy, the Garcin® group improved by 60%, and the pharmaceutical group improved by 73%.

Finally, a study found that ajoene is an effective short-term therapy for participants with tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot. Subjects achieved complete eradication of the fungal infection after 14 days of taking ajoene.

Summary:

Research indicates that garlic may be a beneficial herb for treating and preventing fungal infections, especailly athlete’s foot.

2. Turmeric 

Turmeric, along with its primary constituent curcumin, is thought to be one of the best antifungal herbs.

In a comparison trial involving 50 adults with oral candidiasis (an oral fungal infection), curcumin ointment was found to reduce fungal colony size. Topical treatment with curcumin was just as effective as the antifungal pharmaceutical, clotrimazole. 

An in vitro trial involving turmeric discovered that it has inhibiting effects on four different fungal strains. This study shows that turmeric has promising antifungal ability against various Candida albicans strains. It’s thought that turmeric may be one of the best herbs for Candida.

Another in vitro study observed turmeric to be highly effective against Candida fungal strains. It should be noted that the effects were in combination with common antifungal drugs, but that the combination of curcumin with azoles and polyenes was more effective in eliminating the fungal strains than the drugs alone. 

A comprehensive review of in vivo and in vitro trials found that turmeric juice has strong antifungal activity. Along with its antifungal effects, turmeric also specifically displayed an ability to eliminate dermatophytes. This might make turmeric an effective natural ringworm treatment.

Summary:

Several trials show evidence of turmeric’s ability to effectively fight fungal infections such as ringworm and Candida. Additional human research would be beneficial in further confirming these findings.

3. Cinnamon

Research, and traditional usage, show that cinnamon may be a strong antifungal herb.  

In a lab-based study, researchers found that cinnamon oil has an antifungal effect on the fungal species, Phytophthora colocasia. These results were significant for farmers looking for natural ways to protect their crops against microbes. 

Another study observed the combination of cinnamon oil and clove oil against varying organisms. The oil combination was significantly effective against Aspergillus flavus, Mucor plumbeus, as well as the bacteria species, Staphylococcus aureus. 

A comparison study found that cinnamaldehyde, an active constituent of cinnamon, has fungicidal effects against both Candida albicans and Candida glabrata. It should be noted that, although cinnamaldehyde was effective against these fungal strains, the common antimicrobial drug nystatin had more significant results.  

A combination in vitro study found that lemongrass and cinnamon oil shows promising antifungal action against Candida albicans. Researchers noted that the higher the concentration of the oil, the greater the inhibition of the strain. 

Summary:

Studies indicate that cinnamon may work to treat and inhibit a variety of fungal strains. Human trials are needed to confirm these findings.
the 8 best herbs for treating fungal infections

4. Ginger

Ginger, is a popular herb known for its ability as a natural antifungal.

In a plant-based in vitro study, ginger essential oil was used to prevent growth and eradicate the fungal species affecting agricultural commodities. The essential oil proved to be 100% effective in inhibiting fungal growth while preventing spore germination. 

Another in vitro study observing the antimicrobial effects of ginger discovered that ginger extract has the ability to prevent the growth of the species Candida albicans and Candida krusei. The extract also prevented bacteria biofilm growth. This makes ginger a potentially helpful herb for yeast infections.

Lastly, an in vitro study found that ginger oleoresin is effective for preventing the growth of, and eliminating, a fungal species that causes olives to rot. 

Summary:

Laboratory studies show evidence of ginger’s ability to prevent fungal growth. Human clinical research is required in order to confirm this finding.

5. Olive Leaf

Lab-based research has shown that olive leaf may be one of the most effective antifungal herbs. In particular, it’s thought to be an effective herb for yeast infections.

An in vitro study found that olive leaf extracts are effective against various Candida fungal strains such as C. albicans, C. glabrata, C. tropicalis, and C. krusei. The study went on to prove that along with Candida strains, olive leaf extract also shows potent antifungal action against three filamentous fungal species. 

Another in vitro study discovered that oleuropein, an active constituent present in olive leaf, has the ability to inhibit the growth of multiple fungal species. The oleuropein also showed promising anti-filamentation effects of the strain Candida albicans.  

One final in vitro study observed similar results from an olive leaf extract. Researchers discovered that the extract was significantly effective in preventing the spread of a fungal species that infects plants and mention that the active constituent, oleuropein, is most likely responsible for this effect. 

Summary:

In vitro research has found that oleuropein, an active constituent in olive leaf, may be useful in treating both fungal and yeast infections. Human trials are needed for verification.

6. Echinacea

Echinacea has been used in traditional and modern medicine as an antifungal plant. 

Research suggests that Echineacea purpurea may have an effective antimicrobial effect on varying types of bacteria and fungi species, including Candida albicans, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Streptococcus pyogenes.

An in vitro study observing an extract of echinacea, researchers discovered that the extract was significantly effective in preventing the growth of various fungal strains. This antifungal activity was attributed to the ketoalkenes and ketoalkynes present in echinacea’s roots. 

In another in vitro study, echinacea extract was able to prevent the growth of fungal infections by disrupting the fungal cell wall. This action led researchers to believe that echinacea extracts would be very supportive in clearing up fungal infections.  

Summary:

Research indicates that echinacea may be a beneficial herb in treating and preventing fungal overgrowth, although additional human studies are needed to confirm these findings.

7. Black Walnut

Black walnut, scientifically called Juglans nigra, is a popular antiparasitic herb. However, research indicates that it’s also a potentially helpful antifungal herb.

Black walnuts contain a variety of chemical constituents, including quinones, flavonoids, and tannins.

The primary phytochemical in black walnut is called juglone. Juglone is a phenolic compound that has been shown to have anti-fungal properties.

A study looking at the antifungal properties of juglone noted that juglone has moderate antifungal activity. The researchers also noted that juglone is as effective as other standard antifungal treatment protocols, including zinc undecylenate and selenium sulfide.

A lab-based study found that black walnut leaf extract has the ability to eliminate Candida.

Summary:

Lab research indicates that black walnut has antifungal properties.

8. Goldenseal

Goldenseal, also known as Hydrastis canadensis, has a long history of use due to its antimicrobial effects. Scientific research has discovered that the active ingredient found in goldenseal is berberine, a phytochemical that provides a variety of health benefits.

From a chemical perspective, berberine is an alkaloid. As an alkaloid, berberine is cytotoxic to fungus (i.e. it kills fungus cells). It’s thought that berberine’s antifungal activity is due to its ability to affect the cell membrane of fungus.

Berberine has been shown to have broad antifungal activity.

One lab-based study found that berberine is effective against Candida and Cryptococcus neoformans strains, as well as against the biofilm form of Candida spp.

The researchers noted that berberine caused alterations to the integrity of the plasma and mitochondrial membranes of the various fungal strains and caused DNA damage, which led to cell death.

Summary:

Research indicates that goldenseal is effective against a variety of fungal strains.

9. Yellow Dock

Lab-based research has shown that yellow dock may be an effective natural antifungal remedy. 

In a comparison lab study, two yellow dock extracts, created from both the root and leaves, were found to have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiparasitic effects of varying degrees. It should be noted that the root extract showed a more significant antimicrobial effect than the leaf extract.

In David Hoffmann’s, Medical Herbalism, he mentions that yellow dock contains constituents called saponins, which have been known to have antifungal properties.

Summary:

Yellow dock has been found to display antifungal effects, but further clinical research is required in order to confirm this.

 10. Osha Root

Research shows that osha root is a helpful natural herb for treating fungal infections.

An active constituent from osha root, Z-ligustilide, is shown to have antifungal activity. An in vitro study found that Z-ligustilide was one of the constituents responsible for inhibiting the growth of Candida

Well-renowned clinical herbalist, David Hoffmann (AHG), mentions osha root as an important antifungal herb. 

Summary:

Osha root is thought to have antifungal ability and may be useful for preventing Candida growth. Human research is needed to verify these findings.

Common Symptoms of Fungal Infections:

Fungal infections are very common, and if untreated, can last for a very long time and become increasingly contagious, passing from person to person. 

Typical symptoms of fungal infections include: 

  • Redness 
  • Itchiness 
  • Burning
  • Swelling
  • Scaly, dry skin 
  • Discolored, yellow nails
  • Thickening of the nail
  • Slightly odorous nail
  • Brittle nail
  • Hair loss

Fungal outbreaks can vary in severity with symptoms becoming harder to eradicate as the infection lingers. When managing fungal infection symptoms, consistent medicinal therapy is key. 

Causes of Fungal Infections:  

A fungal infection is caused and exacerbated by a number of different factors. Some of these factors include: 

  • High humidity
  • High temperatures
  • Poorly ventilated fabric and shoes
  • Tight clothes
  • Poor hygiene
  • Close contact with animals
  • Heavy sweating 

Environment is one of the most frequent causes of superficial fungal infections. Those who live in hot, high-humidity climates should take care to implement some of the avoidance techniques listed below. 

Some fungal avoidance techniques include: 

  • Washing clothes and socks after one use
  • Wearing breathable, loose clothes 
  • Wearing open-toed shoes
  • Washing feet after removing socks
  • Showering after excessive sweating

Both modern medical care and avoidance techniques can significantly impact superficial fungal infection symptoms and prevent infection.

Including the use of natural remedies and herbs for fungal infections may result in beneficial and progressive medicinal effects, as well as the prevention of any further infections. 

Conclusion:

Managing fungal infections is necessary for preventing further detriment to overall health and quality of life. 

As stated above, a variety of natural herbs have been scientifically shown to reduce and improve fungal infection symptoms and cases. 

Whether it’s through the management of symptoms or the elimination of the fungal strain, these herbs demonstrate promising results as a therapy for those dealing with fungal infections. 

Please note that it is important to consult a professional healthcare practitioner should you be considering making adjustments or adding natural antifungal herbs to your everyday regimen. 

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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