Some of the most tenacious and common dermatological conditions afflicting humans are yeast and fungal infections. These infections are created by parasitic organisms that thrive on the skin of susceptible people. They especially like moist body parts such as the groin and feet. If the person has not had the infection before and if the infection is recent, it can be cured easily with minimal price and effort using tree tea oil preparations or conventional drug store creams.
If the infection has persisted for years, or if they keep on recurring, then a more intensive or complex treatment is needed in order to treat the patient’s internal environment. The pH of the skin becomes an ideal place for the fungal pathogens to live in if the internal environment is excessively damp and moist. These organisms can be reduced if you optimize digestion, cleanse the colon, and detoxify and dry up the skin.
Fungal infections are generally categorized as tineas. These include nail fungus (Tinea unguium), jock itch (Tinea cruris), athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis), and ringworm (Tinea corporis).
Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection which now more than ever thrives in the age of hot yoga, sauna, and steam rooms. Men are more prone to this condition than women – children rarely develop it. Athlete’s foot being contagious as it is, people suffering from it should always wear flip-flops when going to pools or gyms and need to thoroughly dry off. One good way to prevent the rise of athlete’s foot is to immerse your feet in plain white vinegar once a week.
The Three Distinct Manifestations of Athlete’s Foot and Their Corresponding Treatments
1. Initial signs of athlete’s foot are seen when the skin between the 4th and 5th toes turns grayish white and soggy, and splits or peels open. The affected region becomes itchy and painful – an issue that further degrades when sweating or wearing tight shoes. A mineral powder and herb made up of strong anti-fungals such as indigo powder and rhubarb root sprinkled right on the affected skin can effectively close the skin and restore the tissues to health. But to ensure that the fungus is totally eliminated, we need to follow the treatment up by soaking the foot for a couple of weeks with white vinegar and herb. Strong anti-fungals like plain white vinegar can be an ideal home remedy; however, if the infection persists, you may want to add with herbs such as gleditisia vine and schizonepeta leaf to the treatment. These herbs and similar ingredients need to be soaked for a week in the vinegar, and the solution can then be used as a foot bath every day.
2. Other manifestations of athlete’s foot can involve secondary eczematous infection and large blisters developing over the sole and occasionally on the top of the foot. Walking may be difficult due to the crusting and oozing developing in the infection. These symptoms require soaking the foot into a solution filled with a mineral salt known as alum, such as the one found in crystal deodorant stones. This formula magically dries up blisters and the oozing within a day or two. But since we also need to prevent blisters from recurring, this needs to be followed up with herbs taken internally to clear out the toxins and infection. Phellodendron, gentian, dandelion and other herbs that have strong anti-toxin qualities can be used. They are boiled and drank as herbal soup.
3. Lastly, for a condition that has lasted for several years, the infection can turn into a tender, fissured, flaky, red, and itchy affliction on the soles of the feet. Soggy cracks and blisters can also develop especially when the person engages in work that require standing for long periods of time, such as postal workers or cooks or during humid weather.
Internal therapy as well as the vinegar foot soak is needed if the infection has lasted for years since it means that the fungus loves the environment of your body and has decided to make it its home. The skin is stripped of its beneficial hydrating components by this chronic condition. Moisturizing herbs taken internally like rehmannia root and dictamnus bark, with has powerful anti-itch properties combined together can serve as an ideal treatment for this problem.
One of the most stubborn infections to cure that necessitates dedication and patience on the part of the sufferer is nail fungus. The vinegar and herb soak needs to be used every night for six months to a year or even longer while filing away and cutting the thickened, yellow affected regions. Those long periods of time are what it takes for normal nails to grow completely. Prematurely halting the treatment causes the remaining fungi to grow abundantly once more.
Oregano and tree tea oils and other antifungal plants can be good alternatives to the vinegar soak, although dedication and perseverance is also needed to completely eradicate the infection.
Yeast infections generally develop on the genitals, scalp, or body. One of the most common forms of this type of infection is Tinea versicolor (Malasezzia furfur/(Pytiriasis versicolor) which usually develops on the back and trunk. It is a scaly, multi-hued infection. Other forms of yeast infections include Candida albicans, a recurring infection that strikes women more than men and often affects the genitals; and Pityosporum ovale, usually developing on the scalp of persons with dandruff. All these infections are longstanding and hard to get rid of. You may need to invest several weeks of your time to completely cure yourself of these infections.
Yeast infections also need a combo of external and internal washes and teas to completely kill the fungi and also to stop the itch, and clear inflammation (dampness) and heat.
Candida Albicans: This fungal disease can be treated effectively with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). If the patient has a sexual partner, the partner may be treated (at least, topically), as well, to prevent the passing of the infection back to the partner and perhaps to other people. A lot of women may strive to treat themselves of their infections through diet therapy (garlic and acidophilus) but the infection may be transmitted to them by their male partner who may not know they are infected due an absence of symptoms. A white vinegar solution or a simple herbal wash can help rid his infection.
For TCM practitioners Candida infection is an internal problem caused by an excessive dampening diet, dysfunctional or weak digestion, and excessive damp heat. This jibes with Western medicine’s notion that candida overgrowth starts in the intestine. The overgrowth can then infect the adjacent vaginal canal. Practitioners do not think that avoiding alcohol, fruit juices, pastries, sweets and other foods that feed candida can completely cure the infection. They believe that the key to cure is to improve digestion and absorption in order for the person to tolerate more foods.
For this purpose, the use of internal herbal treatment for recurring or chronic candida is two-fold. Firstly, one needs to eliminate the damp heat (candida colonies) through the use of Gentiana scabra, Phellodendron amurense, Sophora flavescentis and other strong bitters. For really severe forms of Candidiasis, herbal tablet formulas can act as suppositories that usually contain a powerful ingredient for all types of genital itches and infections, the cnidium seed. The second phase of the treatment can begin once the discharges, burning, and itching have been alleviated. This phase involves strengthening the digestive function.
Anti -candida herbs such as the sour plum Mume, the Poria mushroom, aromatics such as orange peel and cardamom, and acrid herbs such as Atractylodis root can be used. Besides battling Candidiasis, these herbs, also normalize the intestinal membranes and boost the intestine’s assimilative function. Once the digestion is strong and healthy, the body stops producing too much mucus and inflammation that induces the Candida to thrive.
Tinea Versicolor: a slice of cucumber slightly immersed in a solution of typhonium root , sulphur, and others, and then applied on the affected region until it becomes slightly flushed is one unusual but effective treatment for this infection. It takes a few days for the skin to start returning to normal, which is quite fantastic if your infection has lasted for several years. Internal treatment is also needed to completely cure the infection and to prevent its recurrence in the future. TCM practitioners should use alum, typhonium, sulphur, and several other TCM topical medicines that should not be taken internally.
Individuals who are highly susceptible to yeast and fungal infections should not consume ‘dampening’ drinks and foods such as alcohol, fruit juices, sardines, salmons, other types of fatty fishes, shellfish, tropical fruits, sweets, and tofu. Instead of synthetic outfits such as spandex, wear cotton to keep your skin dry. To prevent excessive perspiration, use body powder such as cornstarch or rice powder.
Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.