Some natural treatments are used to cure ringworm, a skin condition that's particularly common among children. A type of fungal infection, ringworm is typically spread through skin-to-skin contact, contact with contaminated items (including unwashed clothing and pool surfaces), or contact with pets that carry the fungus. Standard treatment for ringworm involves the use of over-the-counter antifungal medications, but some preliminary research suggests that certain natural remedies may also help cure ringworm.
What Is Ringworm?
There are several different types of ringworm, including infections that affect the skin on your body (known as "tinea corporis") and scalp (known as "tinea capitis"). Ringworm that affects the groin area is called "tinea cruris" (or "jock itch"), while ringworm that affects the feet is called "tinea pedis" (or "athlete's foot").
Although symptoms vary depending on the type of ringworm, common symptoms include itchy, red, raised, scaly patches that may blister and ooze. Often featuring sharply defined edges with normal skin tone in the center, these patches tend to resemble rings.
Natural Remedies For Ringworm
There's some evidence that certain natural remedies may help cure athlete's foot. However, few studies have tested the use of natural remedies in treatment of other types of ringworm. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:
1) Tea Tree Oil and Athlete's Foot
For instance, in a 2002 study from the Australasian Journal of Dermatology, researchers assigned 158 patients with athlete's foot to treatment with a placebo or a solution containing either 25 percent or 50 percent tea tree oil. Patients applied the solution to affected areas twice daily for four weeks. By the study's end, significant improvement was seen in 72 percent of the patients who received the 25-percent-tea-tree-oil solution (compared with 68 percent of patients in the 50-percent-tea-tree-oil group and 39 percent of patients in the placebo group).
In a 1992 study from the same journal, researchers assigned 104 patients with athlete's foot to treatment with a placebo, a cream containing 10 percent tea tree oil, or a cream containing 1 percent tolnaftate (a synthetic antifungal sold in over-the-counter medications). While tea tree oil significantly reduced ringworm symptoms, it was no more effective than placebo as a cure for the fungal infection.
2) Garlic Extract
Ajoene (a natural compound extracted from garlic) shows promise in the treatment of ringworm. For example, a 1999 study from the German journal Arzneimittel-Forschung found that a gel containing ajoene helped treat tinea cruris and tinea corporis. The study involved 60 adults with either condition, each of whom was assigned to receive a gel containing .6 percent ajoene or a cream containing 1 percent terbinafine (an antifungal agent). Sixty days after treatment, the healing rate was 73% and 71% for the groups treated with ajoene and terbinafine, respectively.
Several small studies also suggest that ajoene may help treat athlete's foot.
Self-Care for Ringworm Prevention and Treatment
For help in preventing ringworm, the National Institutes of Health recommend keeping your skin clean and dry, shampooing regularly, and avoiding the sharing of personal-care items. You should also wear sandals or shoes at gyms and pools, and avoid touching pets with bald spots.
When using any type of treatment to cure ringworm, make sure to keep your skin clean and dry and wash your sheets and nightclothes every day while infected. It's also crucial to treat infected pets.
Using Natural Remedies to Cure Ringworm
When not treated properly, ringworm can lead to a number of complications (including spread of the infection to other parts of the body, bacterial skin infections, and skin disorders such as contact dermatitis). In some cases, prescription antifungal medications may be needed to treat ringworm. While natural remedies may be of some benefit in treating ringworm, it's important to consult your physician before using natural ringworm treatments.
Ledezma E, DeSousa L, Jorquera A, Sanchez J, Lander A, Rodriguez E, Jain MK, Apitz-Castro R. "Efficacy of ajoene, an organosulphur derived from garlic, in the short-term therapy of tinea pedis." Mycoses. 1996 Sep-Oct;39(9-10):393-5.
Ledezma E, López JC, Marin P, Romero H, Ferrara G, De Sousa L, Jorquera A, Apitz Castro R. "Ajoene in the topical short-term treatment of tinea cruris and tinea corporis in humans. Randomized comparative study with terbinafine." Arzneimittelforschung. 1999 Jun;49(6):544-7.
Ledezma E, Marcano K, Jorquera A, De Sousa L, Padilla M, Pulgar M, Apitz-Castro R. "Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis: a double-blind and comparative study with terbinafine." J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 Nov;43(5 Pt 1):829-32.
National Institutes of Health. "Ringworm: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". August 2011.
Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. "Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study." Australas J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;43(3):175-8.
Tong MM, Altman PM, Barnetson RS. "Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis." Australas J Dermatol. 1992;33(3):145-9.