Overview of the most powerful natural antifungals and how to use internally and externally to resolve common, non-serious fungal and yeast infections.
Fungal infections are an increasingly common problem today with a high sugar, refined carbohydrate diet a primary culprit. The modern diet serves as a perpetual disruption to beneficial gut bacteria which make up the bulk of human immunity.
The overuse of antibiotics can also be a contributing factor as it gives the normally harmless strains of Candida that live inside the gut and on the skin the opportunity to grow out of control and invade deep into body tissues.
Common Candidiasis Symptoms
When this situation occurs, a person is said to have Candidiasis. Overgrowth of Candida can occur just about anywhere. Some of the most commonly affected areas include: (1)
- Scalp (dandruff)
- Feet (Athlete’s foot)
- Nails (toenail or fingernail fungus)
- Recurring sinus infections
- Recurrent urinary tract or itchy genital infections
- Bloating and even serious digestive issues such as Crohns’ disease and ulcerative colitis
- Arthritis (yeast invades the joints)
While strong antifungal drugs are likely necessary to treat these types of infections if they get serious, oftentimes, more natural methods can be of benefit when things are caught early.
If you are prone to recurrent fungal infections that are annoying and not life-threatening, consider the use of these natural foods and herbs that pack a powerful antifungal punch.
It’s important to get minor fungal infections under control quickly and without meds if possible since super yeasts such as Candida auris are becoming more common that are resistant to even the strongest antifungal drugs.
Like natural antibiotics, many substances in our environment can serve as a check on the growth of yeasts and fungus. Some are more powerful than others.
If you are seeking a nontoxic way to resolve an internal or external issue with yeast, the list below details the top 6 natural antifungal foods and herbs with suggestions for use and optimal sourcing.
Garlic possesses very strong anti-yeast properties. But, don’t use that semi-dried out head in the back of the spice drawer.
It is very important to use the freshest cloves possible when using garlic as an antifungal.
Once crushed and left on the counter for about 15 minutes, the powerful substance allicin is synthesized which is one of the most potent Candida killers Mother Nature has to offer.
Use orally several times a day as a natural antifungal or apply allicin-infused oil to the skin for external benefits.
Alternatively, allicin activated garlic pills are helpful for those that are otherwise sensitive to garlic in whole food form.
Buffered garlic in supplement form also works well for preventing the digestive distress that can sometimes accompany taking large doses of garlic.
Allicin supplements can also be used to make your own anti-dandruff shampoo.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is about 42% lauric acid, which is an extremely potent antifungal fatty acid.
Note that MCT oil, aka “liquid coconut oil” contains little to no lauric acid.
Even though lauric acid is extremely heat resistant, I would still recommend only using raw, virgin coconut oil for antifungal purposes (I use this brand).
The reason is that co-factors that synergize with lauric acid are potentially destroyed by processing and/or heat treatment.
Anecdotally, expeller pressed or refined versions of coconut oil do not seem to work as well as virgin coconut oil when beating back a fungal infection. For example, oil pulling with virgin coconut oil, is the most effective form for resolving oral thrush.
VCO as Antifungal for Dandruff
Virgin coconut oil works especially well as a natural remedy for dandruff. Simply slather a few tablespoons into the scalp and massage in for a minute or two. Leave on for as long as possible, but a minimum of 20-30 minutes. If you are able to wrap your head in a towel and leave overnight, so much the better.
Shampoo out and notice how your dandruff problems are significantly improved! Repeat as often as necessary. This approach is certainly preferable to harsh, chemical-laden anti-dandruff shampoos!
Note also that some cases of Candida-triggered acne on the face (particularly the forehead), neck and back resolve when you get dandruff under control.
24-Hour Homemade Kefir
Many people know that properly made, 24-hour kefir contains dozens of probiotic strains.
Store kefir is of little to no use as an antifungal agent, nor is homemade kefir cultured from powdered starter. Live kefir grains only can produce a fermented food that is antifungal.
Why is this? Properly made kefir from live grains contains many beneficial yeasts (as well as friendly bacteria) that serve as a powerful remedy to candida overgrowth when consumed.
These “good yeast” strains include:
- Candida humilis
- Kazachstania unispora
- Kazachstania exigua
- Kluyveromyces siamensis
- Kluyveromyces lactis
- Kluyveromyces marxianus
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae
- Saccharomyces martiniae
- Saccharomyces unisporus
If you are Candida-prone, adding kefir to your diet is a very good idea. Note that, in comparison, yogurt contains no beneficial yeasts and only a few probiotic strains.
All raw honey possesses antifungal properties. However, if you are looking for the strongest variety, try manuka!
Note that many brands of honey labeled “manuka” are either heat-treated or mixed with other less potent types of honey.
Using heat-treated manuka as an antifungal can actually backfire for two reasons. First, the yeast inhibiting properties have been destroyed, and secondly, the heat-treated honey is now just sugar which feeds Candida!
It is worth the effort to source raw, 100% manuka honey to utilize as a therapeutic antifungal (I use this brand).
Like garlic, you can use manuka either internally or externally as an antifungal.
Antifungal Cream using Manuka
Manuka works amazingly well to treat skin-based fungal issues such as Athlete’s foot.
Slather some on the affected areas, cover with a sock and leave overnight before washing off in the morning. Repeat for as many nights as necessary to resolve the infection. You can also use it during the day if the itching is particularly bad.
Thymol is a natural fungicide in oregano oil with antiseptic properties. It improves immunity by shielding cells against toxins, prevents tissue damage and facilitates more rapid healing. (2)
In research, this phenol demonstrates excellent performance as an antifungal for the feet, nails, mouth and other areas of the body.
A number of hospital approved disinfectants, such as Benefact, are thymol based!
When it comes to antifungal herbs, pau d’arco is one of the strongest and most readily available to the public. It is also quite inexpensive (I use this brand).
To use internally to inhibit Candida growth in the digestive tract, make an herbal infusion and sip 1-3 cups per day as tolerated.
Warning: the taste of pau d’arco is quite bitter! However, I don’t recommend sweetening or even diluting as this seems to reduce the beneficial effects. This herb is also not recommended during pregnancy or nursing.
You can try adding a pinch of monkfruit powder or a few drops of stevia extract if the taste is too off-putting for you.
Boron is arguably the most potent antifungal element on the periodic table. People who are deficient in this nutrient are known to be more prone to fungal infections of all kinds.
Kind of coincidental, then, that there is no RDA for this nutrient, isn’t it? Hmmmm.
An ionic boron supplement can be useful to help resolve a boron deficiency if chronic fungal infections are experienced.
For external use (only), an antifungal foot soak using small amounts of boric acid or plain borax powder can be very helpful as a natural remedy for Athlete’s foot. It can also help resolve toenail or nail fungus from toxic manicures/pedicures.
(1) 7 Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
(2) Help Ward Off Infections with Oregano Oil
Could this also help eczema?
I have had toenail fungus for many years (over 30). I have tried everything & nothing worked. I just started to take kefir everyday. I read somewhere that a woman dialed her feet in a kefir bath & it cured the fungus. Do you know how you do this? Thanks
Can Pau de’ Arco be used externally? Would it help as a toenail fungus soak? Thank you!
Sarah Pope MGA
Yes, it can be used externally, but I don’t think it would be strong enough for toenail fungus. Here are some options for that. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/nail-toenail-fungus-cures/
What about intertrigo? I’ve this under one of my breasts for 4 years. I’ve tried many natural suggestions as well as different medicines my dermatologist prescribed. So far nothing has helped. I’ve tried apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, baking soda, tea tree oil in almond oil, and others I don’t remember now.
Appreciate your suggestions.
Sarah Pope MGA
Have you tried garlic? Seems you’ve only tried VCO and not the other 5 on this list. That said, if the fungal issue is entrenched and widespread, anti-fungal drugs may be in order. Best to consult with a functional physician who can give you a recommendation on how to proceed.
We also used boron to kill a bad candida rash…
Sarah Pope MGA
You mean boric acid? Yes, that will kill fungus too, but it does have some toxic side effects you have to be very careful about.
My favorite for external fungal issues (yeast, athletes foot, et al) is borax. I used boric acid ointment on my dog’s itchy, inflamed chin and it worked like a charm. I had a hard time finding it – had to order from another country. Borax is very safe – it is about as toxic as table salt. I dipped her feet in a solution of borax dissolved in water (once or twice a day for a few days) – no more inflammation on her feet and no more biting and licking.
I use coconut oil for cooking and MCT oil when I need a liquid oil for salads or recipes.
Since it is solid, I’m just not sure how to use the Coconut Oil as an antifungal medicine. (Do I eat it?, Do I spread it on my arms?, etc.)
Sarah Pope MGA
Coconut oil is most effective on the skin as an antifungal. Yes, you spread it on your skin/scalp … see how it is described in the article above for use resolving problems with dandruff.
I cured toenail fungus by keeping it dry for 4 months in a row and only washing my foot (morning and evening) with pure raw apple cider vinegar. I cut the toenail down as far as the fungus was and didn’t allow a speck of water to drop on my toe. I used a lot of determination.
I did this extreme method because I had tried everything else for 2.5 years and the fungus would not go away. My toenail kept on getting worse.
I also got a bottle of Australian emu oil and put it on the toenail every night. I am sure this helped however I didn’t start doing it until 2 months into my ACV treatment.
I think ACV should be added to your list!!
Every year I am getting more tiny little moles on my neck. Is this yeast related? I started applying coconut oil. Will this help? Any recommendations? I also found some discoloration of skin. It might be sun damage too. Thanks
Aloha Sarah, I look forward to your emails, the articles often address questions I have. with regard to Kefir, I have made it for years just innoculating next batch from the last one. Will that develop the ‘good’ strains, or is there a source you can recommend. And, after starting with that source, can I then use my grains as a starter? Thank you. Vida
Sarah Pope MGA
The method you are using is probably fine if the kefir firms up nicely after a 24 hour ferment. You can buy live grains and use those … this way you can be sure that the dozens of beneficial bacteria and yeasts are all in there. And yes, you can start using the live grains at any time.