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3 Natural Treatments For Ringworm

Medically reviewed by 
3 Natural Treatments For Ringworm

Ringworm is an extremely common skin condition caused by various fungi. It is called ringworm because the rash is usually circular in shape, like a ring. This article will discuss what ringworm is, how common it is, ringworm symptoms, and how you get ringworm. We’ll then discuss conventional medicine treatments for ringworm and herbal medicine treatments as well.


What is Ringworm

Ringworm is a contagious skin disease that is also referred to as “tinea” or “dermatophytosis.” While the name “ringworm” may imply the condition is caused by a worm, it isn’t; it's actually caused by fungi. Ringworm is typically diagnosed by observation, but skin samples can also be taken for microscopic evaluation to confirm the diagnosis.

How Common Is Ringworm

Ringworm is a common condition; at any given time, 20% to 25% of the world’s population has ringworm. Anyone can get ringworm, but it is more common in men than women. Those with a weakened immune system increase the risk of infection.

Ringworm Symptoms

Ringworm can be located on the skin in any part of the body. It may also be found on the fingernails and toenails. Symptoms start 4-14 days after contact with any fungi that cause ringworm. Symptoms generally include:

  • A rash in the shape of a circle
  • Scaly, cracked skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of hair

The above-mentioned symptoms occur in all types of ringworm, but additionally, symptoms may be present depending on the type of ringworm.

“Athletes Foot”, Tinea pedis (Feet)

Feet; between the toes, the heels, and/or the sole of the feet.

The skin appears red, swollen, and peeling. Skin will be itchy. In severe cases, the skin can blister.

Tinea capitis (Scalp)

Hair loss leading to a circular bald spot occurs; size of the circular bald spot can enlarge. It's also possible to have multiple bald spots. The skin in this area will be red and scaly and will itch.

“Jock Itch”, Tinea cruris (Groin)

Usually the inner sides of the skin folds of the thighs

The skin appears scaly and will have red spots. Skin will also be itchy.

Tinea barbae (Lower Face)

Beard area including the cheeks, chin, upper neck

The skin appears scaly and will have red spots that may fill with pus and/or crust over. Hair may fall out.

Tinea unguium or Onychomycosis (Toenails or fingernails)

Nails become deformed and thick

Tinea manuum (Hands)

The skin has ring-like patches, and dry, cracked palms

How Do You Get Ringworm

Ringworm is caused by the fungi Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton. Between these three types of fungi, there are 40 different species that can cause ringworm. These fungi typically live on skin in small amounts but certain environments, such as hot and damp conditions, can cause the fungi to overgrow. Ringworm is also contagious and spreads in three main ways. First, ringworm can spread by direct contact with someone who has ringworm. Those who have ringworm should take care not to share personal care items such as towels, razors, and hair brushes. Second, ringworm can spread from animals to humans. Animals that can pass ringworm to people include cats and dogs, cows, horses, goats, pigs, and other animals. Lastly, the fungi that cause ringworm-like damp environments such as shower and locker room floors. Because of this, it's wise never to be barefoot in these public showers and locker rooms.  

Conventional Ringworm Treatment

Treatment of ringworm will depend on how long the infection has occurred and where it is located in the body. Options for conventional treatment include over-the-counter creams, lotions, powders, and prescription antifungals. Generally speaking, ringworm found on the skin responds well to over-the-counter remedies that are applied for two to four weeks. However, in certain cases, prescriptions may be required. For tinea capitis, or ringworm on the head, oral prescription antifungal medications are often needed; treatment duration is between one and three months.

Ringworm Treatment With Herbal Medicine

Ringworm may be treated with an extract from garlic, coconut oil, or tea tree oil.

Garlic Extract

For thousands of years, garlic has been consumed for its medicinal properties. Garlic has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is also an antifungal. An extract from garlic, ajoene, was studied for its benefit against tinea pedis or athlete’s foot. The study included 47 participants that were split into three groups, each group receiving a topical solution containing either 0.6% ajoene, 1% ajoene, or the conventional treatment of 1% terbinafine. Study subjects applied the topical solution twice daily for one week, and results showed significant improvements in all three groups. Sixty days after treatment was completed, samples were taken and evaluated under a microscope. Elimination of tinea for the 0.6% ajoene group was 72%, 100% for the 1% ajoene group, and 94% for the 1% terbinafine group.

Coconut oil

The coconut fruit has been historically used medicinally in India. Evidence shows that coconut oil has various actions, including antioxidant, antibacterial, and, most pertinent to this article, antifungal properties. Because of its antifungal properties, coconut oil may be effective against ringworm. A study was done comparing virgin coconut oil to the conventional topical antifungal treatment clotrimazole (1%) in 100 participants with chronic ringworm who were also taking oral antifungal medications. The study duration was 12 weeks, and results showed that virgin coconut oil was as effective as the conventional antifungal clotrimazole in reducing symptoms of ringworm.

Tea Tree Oil

The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is a plant native to Australia. The oil from the tree has been historically used by the Aboriginal people in Australia. Tea tree oil may be effective for the treatment of ringworm of the foot, commonly known as athlete’s foot. A study done on 158 participants with tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot, assessed the effectiveness of tea tree oil compared to placebo. The study consisted of three groups: one group was given a 25% tea tree oil solution, another group was given a 50% tea tree oil solution, and a group was given a placebo. All solutions were applied twice daily for four weeks. Symptoms were checked after two weeks and again at four weeks. In the group given the 25% tea tree oil solution, 72% of participants saw a significant improvement in symptoms. In the group given the 50% solution, 68% saw significant improvements. In the placebo group, only 39% of participants had improvements.



Ringworm is a common skin condition worldwide. Ringworm can manifest in different areas of the body and may be referred to by different names, including athlete's foot, onychomycosis, jock itch, and more. The underlying fungal infection can be treated with conventional medicine, although complementary and integrative options are valid as well.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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