Evidence of Turmeric's Benefit Against Fungal Skin Infections

Topical turmeric paste may help treat ringworm and athlete's foot.

Turmeric has been used in traditional medicine to treat skin conditions such as athlete's foot. Lab and clinical studies suggest that turmeric, turmeric oil, and its compounds could prevent and/or effectively treat some of these fungal skin infections, including: (v.73103104110118)

ringworm infection on the skin

Is Ringworm a Bug?

Ringworm sounds like it might be a parasitic insect, but it's actually a fungal skin infection called tinea. In fact, the condition is caused by dermatophyte types of fungi, and by more than one fungal species. Experiments show that topical creams containing different concentrations of turmeric oil are effective against four different species of dermatophytes that cause ringworm infections: (v.103112)

  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes
  • Trichophyton rubrum
  • Epidermophyton floccosum
  • Microsporum gypseum

Clinical Evidence of Benefit Against Ringworm Infections

In a nine month clinical study, an herbal combination therapy successfully resolved chronic athlete's foot and other recurrent ringworm infections. The regimen included: (v.103)

  • Calotropis procera (taken orally).
  • Freshly prepared turmeric paste combined with crushed leaves and juice extract from C. procera (applied topically).

Patients were both male and female and ranged in age from children to elderly. The time of infection in these patients averaged from a week to over 10 years. Results were significantly positive for both conditions in those that completed the trial, despite past treatment failures with other therapies: (v.103)

Human Clinical Trial
Clinical Results of Combination Therapy for Ringworm and Athlete's Foot
  # Patients with Athlete's Foot
(out of 10 patients)
# Patients with Ringworm
(out of 58 patients)
100% Symptom-Free 7 18
Good-Excellent Response
(50-75%+ improvement)
3 32
Poor-Fair Response
(less than 25 to less
than 50% response)
--- 8

Although it is difficult to know the exact impact of the turmeric due to the nature of the study, the author notes that using either the oral or the topical treatment by itself was unsuccessful. And in another clinical study using essential oil from turmeric leaves, two weeks of treatment completely cured 75% of patients with ringworm. The turmeric oil significantly improved symptoms in the majority of the remaining 25% of patients. (v.103120-122)

Turmeric Oil—A Potential Antifungal Ingredient

Lab research suggests that topical combination creams made with turmeric and tea tree oil could inhibit Candida albicans yeast better than the antifungal drug ketoconazole. (v.119)

Preclinical studies indicate that turmeric may also help pityriasis versicolor, a fungal yeast infection that causes patches of discolored skin:

Pityriasis versicolor
Prevalence and Symptoms (v.110111)
  • Also known as tinea versicolor.
  • Common, benign, superficial skin infection that may chronically recur.
  • Causes hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation (light or dark spots on skin).
Fungi (v.110111)
  • Malassezia species of yeast (primarily M. globosa and M. furfur).
  • Malassezia are organisms normally found on skin, but can turn into a disease-causing form.
Risk Factors (v.110111)
  • Most often occurs in hot, humid climates.
  • Usually presents between the ages of 15-24, when sweat glands are more active.
  • Genetic susceptibility.
  • Cushing's disease.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Suppressed immune system.
Effect of Turmeric Oil (v.110)
  • In the lab, turmeric oil inhibited M. furfur fungal growth about twice as well as the antibiotics gentamycin® and streptomycin.
  • Turmeric's antifungal effect was even stronger when combined with essential oil from ginger.
From the rhizome and leaf. (v.110118)
Athlete's foot. (v.113)
Ringworm infection on the scalp. (v.113)
Nail infection caused by dermatophyte types of fungi (as opposed to infections caused by Candida yeast). (v.113)
Commonly called giant milkweed or swallow-wort. (v.103)
71 total participants. (v.103)
Less than 5% (3 of 61) of those with ringworm, and none of those with athlete's foot, dropped out of the study. (v.103)

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