Completely eliminating athlete’s foot can be a challenge because the fungus that causes this itchy, painful condition thrives in damp, warm, dark environment – exactly the habitat inside your shoes and socks!
Recent research shows that a hot water bath (42 C, which is 107.6 F) for 20 minutes can kill 99.7% of the fungus. Adding essential oils dramatically increases the fungicidal effects.
Dropping the foot bath temperature to 27 C (80 F) significantly reduced the effectiveness of the essential oils. The essential oils had to be increased 4 to 8 times to have the same effect when the temperature dropped from 107.6 F to 80 F.
Adding salt to create a 10% solution further increased the effectiveness of the essential oils. The saline solution reduced the the fungii by 1/2 to 1/8.
To make a 10% salt solution, add 3/4 cup (210 grams) of salt to 2 quarts of water.
The most effective essential oils tested , with the most effective one first, were oregano followed by thyme thymol, cinnamon bark, lemongrass, clove, palmarose, peppermint, lavender, geranium Bourbon, tea tree, thyme geraniol oils.
To make a 0.1% dilution of essential oil, add 13 drops of essential oil to 2 quarts of water.
NOTE: for most people clove and thyme oils are too caustic to use on the skin, even diluted in a foot bath. Some react to Oregano as well. Never use these oils undiluted on the skin; they simply are too caustic and can cause a chemical burn. If your feet react to one of the essential oils, reduce the number of drops added, and/or try a different oil.
You likely will require repeating the foot bath several nights in a row to completely eradicate the fungus. Remember to dry your feet thoroughly after the foot bath (a hair dryer can be very helpful), wash your socks thoroughly, and leave your shoes out in the sunlight to kill the fungus lingering inside the shoes.
In summary, combining hot water, salt, and essential oils have a synergistic effect for treating athlete’s foot. The combination is more effective than using one of those ingredients by itself.
Inouye S, Uchida, K et al. Combined effect of heat, essential oils and salt on fungicidal activity against Trichophyton mentagrophytes in a foot bath. Nihon Ishinkin Gakkai Zasshi. 2007;48(1):27-36.
For more information about essential oils, refer to The Green Medicine Chest Training.