Essential Oils for Athlete’s Foot

hot-foot-bathCompletely 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


  1. Does this also apply to the kind of fungus that causes toenails to be discolored, white and irregular in color?Paul Chubbuck

    Does this also apply to the kind of fungus that causes toenails to be discolored, white and irregular in color?

    • drjudith

      Athlete’s foot is caused by Tinea pedis and definitely can cause toenails to be discolored and irregular. Other conditions, though, can also cause toenails to change, e.g. physical damage; changes in circulation (usually reduced blood flow); and age. One local podiatrist called this last condition “old toenails,” one of the vagaries of aging.

  2. Paul Allan Chubbuck

    Thanks, Judith!

  3. Spitzen Beitrag, gefällt mir echt gut.!

  4. Weiter so ! Netter Beitrag 🙂

  5. Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

  6. I’m using tea tree oil and something called Kerasal to try and get rid of my nail fungus. I started a blog where I take a picture every week to document whether it’s actually working.
    Good luck to all dealing with this annoying gross problem.

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