Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the foot that can be caused by a number of different skin fungi.
Generally, athlete’s foot does not cause serious problems; however, the disruption of the skin barrier can be a source of significant infections in people with impaired blood flow to the feet (such as people with diabetes) or in those with impaired immune systems. Infections of the nails are more difficult to treat than those affecting only the skin.
What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?
Symptoms of athlete’s foot include a persistent, burning itch that often starts between the toes. The skin on the feet may be damp, soft, red, cracked, or peeling; the feet may also show patches of dead skin. The feet often have a strong or unusual smell, and sometimes small blisters occur on the feet.
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful for athlete’s foot
Keeping the feet dry is very important for preventing and fighting athlete’s foot. After showering or bathing, thorough drying or careful use of a hair dryer is recommended. Light is also an enemy of fungi. People with athlete’s foot should change socks daily to decrease contact with the fungus and should wear sandals occasionally to get sunlight exposure.
Herbs that may be helpful for athlete’s foot
Tea tree oil has been traditionally used to treat athlete’s foot. One trial reported that application of a 10% tea tree oil cream reduced symptoms of athlete’s foot just as effectively as drugs and better than placebo, although it did not eliminate the fungus.1
The compound known as ajoene, found in garlic, is an antifungal agent. In a group of 34 people using a 0.4% ajoene cream applied once per day, 79% of them saw complete clearing of athlete’s foot after one week; the rest saw complete clearing within two weeks.2 All participants remained cured three months later. One trial found a 1% ajoene cream to be more effective than the standard topical drug terbinafine for treating athlete’s foot.3 Ajoene cream is not yet available commercially, but topical application of crushed, raw garlic may be a potential alternative application.
Are there any side effects or interactions with athlete’s foot?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.