If your feet or toenails are looking the worse for wear after winter, it may be due to a fungal infection common in both adults and children in New Zealand.
Known by many names – athlete’s foot, tinea and onchyomycosis- these infections are caused by an overgrowth or allergic reaction to a fungus called Trichophyton rubrum and it thrives in warm, humid conditions.
Some people are particularly prone to fungal foot infections. This can happen after taking antibiotics which destroy beneficial, as well as harmful, microorganisms in the body which help tackle the fungal spores.
Although antifungal drugs usually clear up the symptoms, large or long-term doses of this type of medication can cause stomach upset and, at times, diarrhoea. Natural antifungal herbs and essential oils can be effective and gentle in helping to restore balance to the body.
Horopito, also known as the New Zealand peppertree, has survived unchanged for centuries. One of the reasons for this hardiness is that its leaves contain compounds which discourage attack from fungi and other predators.
Care should be taken when using horopito internally. Although it is not as hot as cayenne pepper, using it medicinally requires professional prescription and is best avoided in cases of peptic ulcers.
Black walnut hulls are also effective in treating fungal infections. The hulls or husks of the black walnut contain several antifungal properties such as juglone, a compound which is also used as a colouring agent for food and as a dye for ink.
Not only do black walnut hulls fight fungal infections, they are also effective in ridding the body of intestinal worms and parasites.
Other natural ways to keep the body healthy is including plenty of fresh oregano and thyme in the diet. These herbs have powerful essential oils in their leaves and stem which have been shown to be effective in treating fungal infections.
Although fungal infections can be hard to treat, natural products which cleanse and detoxify while boosting the immune system can be effective and gentle on the body.