Athlete’s food generally causes mild scaling between the toes, but it can also cause more severe scaling, an itchy red rash, or blisters that cover the toes and the sides of the feet. Since the fungus may also cause the skin to crack, it can lead to bacterial infections, especially in older people or those with poor circulation in their feet.
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has a long traditional use in Australia for the treatment of skin and other infections. This use is supported by evidence that tea tree oil is an effective antiseptic, active against many bacteria and fungi. Three double-blind studies suggest it may be helpful for athlete’s foot.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 158 people with athlete’s foot were treated with placebo, 25% tea tree oil solution, or 50% tea tree oil solution, applied twice daily for 4 weeks. The results showed that the two tea tree oil solutions were more effective than placebo at eradicating infection. In the 50% tea tree oil group, 64% were cured; in the 25% tea tree oil group, 55% were cured; in the placebo group 31% were cured.
These differences were statistically significant. A few people developed dermatitis in response to the tea tree oil and had to drop out of the study, but most people did not experience any significant side effects.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial followed 104 people given either a 10% tea tree oil cream, the standard drug tolnaftate, or placebo. The results showed that tea tree oil reduced the symptoms of athlete’s foot more effectively than placebo, but less effectively than tolnaftate.
Besides tea tree oil, other essential oils may be helpful as well, but the evidence remains inconclusive. One open study hints that oil of bitter orange, a flavoring agent made from dried bitter orange peel, might have some effectiveness against athlete’s foot when applied topically. Test tube studies indicate that the aromatic constituents of other essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus also have antifungal activity.
Note: This article was encapsulated from a longer article in the iHerb Healthy Library; copyright EBSCO Publishing; Accessed Sept. 23, 2015. For the complete article including references, see: http://healthlibrary.epnet.com/GetContent.aspx?token=e0498803-7f62-4563-8d47-5fe33da65dd4&chunkiid=21524