New study proves essential oils can stop nail fungus in its tracks. But which ones?

Anyone who’s suffered from a nail fungus infection knows that antifungal treatments simply don’t work. Now there’s a new study that shows what many in the integrative medicine community have known for years – essential oils can stop nail fungus in its tracks, and for the long term.

The study, conducted by scientists from University of the Witwatersrand and Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, was conducted to address a gap in formal clinical research into the use of essential oils in the treatment of fungal infections.

The study looked specifically at two kinds of parasitic fungi and how they reacted to different combinations of essential oils:

  • Trichophyton mentagrophyte, responsible for nail fungal infections, tinea, athlete’s foot, ringwormand similar infections of the beard, skin and scalp.
  • Candida albicans, responsible for candidiasis

Sandalwood, in combination with a range of other essential oils clearly emerged as the oil most effective at inhibiting trichophyton mentagrophyte. Rose geranium and German chamomile also received honourable mentions.

Following are the essential oil combinations that produced the most significant results in the trichophyton mentagrophyte study :

  • Sandalwood and tea tree
  • Sandalwood and frankincense
  • Sandalwood and bergamot
  • Sandalwood and myrrh
  • Sandalwood and palmarosa
  • Sandalwood and black pepper
  • Sandalwood and patchouli
  • Sandalwood and benzoin
  • Sandalwood and lavender
  • Rose geranium and neroli
  • Rose geranium and bergamot
  • Rose geranium and orange
  • German chamomile and lavender.
  • German chamomile and immortelle.

The researchers were clearly impressed with the effectiveness of Sandalwood, saying,

“This highlights the Santalum (sandalwood) essential oils as a commendable option to use against the dermatophyte (pathogenic fungus) and further studies are recommended as this is a species that clearly demonstrates potential for further development into antifungal preparations.”

The study also found that, unlike many common antifungal treatments, some essential oils were able to permeate into the lower levels of the skin and thereby attack the fungal infection at its base. This ability to act far below the surface where the infections is most concentrated is vital to treating a fungal infection and ensuring it doesn’t return. The authors made special mention of the high permeation of tea tree essential oil in this regard.

The antibacterial action of essential oils were also mentioned by the authors as being an additional benefit to this kind of potential therapy: “…they are also able to inhibit bacterial pathogens, thereby potentially preventing secondary bacterial infections,” the authors said.

For those interested, the essential oil combinations that proved most effective in combating candida albicans were:

  • Cinnamon bark oil and may chang
  • Cinnamon bark oil and orange
  • Cinnamon bark oil and frankincense
    Sandalwood and rose geranium
  • Sandalwood and vetiver
  • Garlic and palmarosa
  • Garlic and patchouli.
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