Natural Fungicide Research Report

stylized athlete's footTea Tree Oil and Natural Anti Fungal Medicine
Researched and Written by Karen MacKenzie

There are more than 100,000 different species of fungi known to man, and they come in many and varied forms such as; molds, mildew, mushrooms, yeasts, etc. Parasitic Fungi feed on living plants, animals and decaying organic matter. They also cause diseases such as: athlete's foot, jock itch, shaving rash, nail infections, ringworm, dandruff, and selected respiratory infections. Candida albicans, a yeast, causes thrush infections and vaginal yeast infections, and is part of the diverse fungi family. Our pets can become infected with fungal skin diseases too. Thank goodness that tea tree oil is an effective natural anti fungal medicine! The great thing about it is that it can be easily diluted and applied, whatever the infection, because it is a valuable broad-spectrum anti-microbial substance.
    Fungicide Technical Terms
  • Dermatophyte: Any of various fungi causing parasitic infections of the skin, hair, or nails.
  • Fungi: A plural of fungus.
  • Fungicide: Any agent that destroys or prevents the growth of fungi.
  • Mycosis: Any disease caused by a fungus.
  • Mycotic: Pertaining to a mycosis, caused by fungi.
  • Antimycotic: Inhibiting the growth of fungi; antifungal.
Tea Tree Oil as a Natural Fungicide

The components of melaleuca oil were individually tested for anti-fungal activity. It was found that most components were anti-fungal, working together, synergistically, to create a valuable anti-fungal product.
K.A. Hammer, C.F. Carson and T.V. Riley. Antifungal activity of the components of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil Journal of Applied Microbiology Volume 95 Issue 4 Page 853  - October 2003

Researchers in Italy have concluded that tea tree oil is a valuable anti-fungal substance, and suggest that other studies should be carried out so that it can become a therapeutic product in mainstream medical use.
Oliva B, Piccirilli E, Ceddia T, Pontieri E, Aureli P, Ferrini AM .Antimycotic activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil and its major components. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2003;37(2):185-7.

This paper, by the Tea Tree Oil Research Team in Australia, shows the range of tea tree oil as an effective fungicide. Melaleuca oil has been shown to kill fungal growth at just 0.03% in some cases.
Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. In vitro activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil against dermatophytes and other filamentous fungi. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (2002) 50, 195-199

It is well known that tea tree oil is an effective bactericide, but not so well known that it is also a good fungicide. NenoffP, Haustein UF, Brandt W.  Antifungal activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) against pathogenic fungi in vitro.  Skin Pharmacol 1996;9(6):388-94

Tea Tree Oil for Athlete's Foot

Tinea Pedis or athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the feet, characteristically growing between the toes. It is highly contagious and, if left untreated, can spread to the bottom of the foot and the toenails.

Whole Health MD recommends a tea tree oil foot bath for the treatment of athlete's foot.

About.com lists tea tree oil as the most common home remedy for athlete's foot, citing it as having a long history of traditional use.

Tea Tree Oil for Nail Infections

According to this clinical study, melaleuca oil is an appropriate initial strategy for fungal infection of the nail bed.
Buck, David S., David M. Nidorf, and John G. Addino. Comparison of Two Topical Preparations for the Treatment of Onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil and Clotrimazole.

Tea Tree Oil for Ringworm
Ringworm can affect both humans and animals, and is highly contagious. It is usually caused by the Tinea fungus, and can be treated quite successfully with melaleuca oil.
Dr. Weil prefers to suggest tea tree oil over oral antibiotics as a treatment for ringworm. Routing Ringworm.
(Dr. Andrew Weil is a leader in the integration of Western medicine and the exploding field of alternative medicine. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, he teaches at the University of Arizona in Tucson, specializing in alternative medicine, mind/body interactions and medical botany. He is the founder of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson, where he is training a new generation of physicians.)
Tea Tree Oil for Scalp Infections

Dr Weil recommends a tea tree oil (melaleuca oil) shampoo for folliculitis, which may be caused by bacteria or fungi. Frustrated by Folliculitis?

The anti-fungal activity of melaleuca oil was tested against 26 strains of various dermatophyte species, 54 yeasts, among them 32 strains of Candida albicans. Melaleuca oil was found to be able to inhibit growth of all clinical fungal isolates. The researchers suggest that the effectiveness of melaleuca oil in clearing skin infections and dandruff is due to its success as an anti-fungal agent!
Nenoff P, Haustein UF, Brandt W. Antifungal activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) against pathogenic fungi in vitro. Skin Pharmacol. 1996;9(6):388-94.

Candida Albicans; Vaginal and Oral Infections

In this study, the antifungal properties of melaleuca oil and fluconazole (mainstream Candida treatment) were compared against 99 strains of vaginal Candida. The conclusion showed promise for potential use of topical tea tree oil formulations in the treatment of candidiasis due to fluconazole-resistant strains .
Ergin A, Arikan S. Comparison of microdilution and disc diffusion methods in assessing the in vitro activity of fluconazole and Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil against vaginal Candida isolates. J Chemother. 2002 Oct;14(5):465-72.

In this study, tea tree oil was investigated for its anti-microbial effects against isolates of Candida albicans and other fungal organisms. The researchers conclude that tea tree may be useful for the topical treatment of Candida and Candida-type infections.
Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. Antifungal effects of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and its components on Candida albicans, Candida glabrata and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2004 Jun;53(6):1081-5. Epub 2004 May 12.

Patients with an impaired immune system are at risk from fungal infections. In this study, oral candidiasis was cured in 7 patients and improved in 8 patients after four weeks of treatment with both alcohol-based and alcohol-free tea tree oil mouth washes. It should be noted that the infection could not be managed by fluconazole, a mainstream treatment for oral candidiasis.
Vazquez JA, Zawawi AA. Efficacy of alcohol-based and alcohol-free melaleuca oral solution for the treatment of fluconazole-refractory oropharyngeal candidiasis in patients with AIDS. HIV Clin Trials. 2002 Sep-Oct;3(5):379-85.

Dr. Weil mentions at the bottom of this reference page that a solution of water and tea tree oil (melaleuca oil) may be used as a vaginal douche for yeast infections.

Fungal infections in animals
Melaleuca oil has some good results in treating a variety of fungal infections in animals.

Note: It should be noted that a small percentage of pets have a sensitivity to melaleuca oil. It should always be used diluted, over a small area, and a patch test should be carried out. If there are signs of an allergic reaction to the oil the treatment should be discontinued.

Researchers have isolated the fungal cause of skin disease in dogs and suggest that melaleuca oil is a promising topical agent for use in veterinary medicine.
Weseler A, Geiss HK, Saller R, Reichling J. Antifungal effect of Australian tea tree oil on Malassezia pachydermatis isolated from canines suffering from cutaneous skin disease. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. 2002 May;144(5):215-21.

Mainstream antifungal agents can cause adverse complications to health.

Antifungals may cause liver damage or liver failure.
Song JC, Deresinski S. Hepatotoxicity of antifungal agents. Curr Opin Investig Drugs. 2005 Feb;6(2):170-7.

This is a case of a patient with a fungal infection in both feet (toenails), who, after 6 weeks of starting terbinafine (250 mg a day), developed severe symptoms of toxic colostatic hepatitis, although she recovered after a few months the researchers suggest the need for less toxic antifungal treatments.
Burstein Z, Vildosola H, Lozano Z, Verona R, Vargas G. [Colestasic toxic hepatitis caused by terbinafine: case report] Rev Gastroenterol Peru. 2004 Oct-Dec;24(4):357-62.

A patient has acute liver toxicity (hepatitis) after taking ketoconazole 200mg for 60 days. Researchers state that there should be awareness of the fact that ketoconazole can cause liver injury in some people.
Chien RN, Sheen IS, Liaw YF. Unintentional rechallenge resulting in a causative relationship between ketoconazole and acute liver injury. Int J Clin Pract. 2003 Nov;57(9):829-30.

Contact Us

I would love to know what you think about this Natural Antifungal Infections report. You may contact us with any suggestions or comments about this report or about tea tree oil.

Karen MacKenzie
June 2005


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