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Tea Tree Oil for Athlete's Foot? -- Bottle of Tea Tree Oil


Applying tea tree oil (diluted to 25% or 50% with ethanol and polyethylene glycol) topically to the feet (typically twice daily) has been shown to be somewhat effective (about 60% cure rate) in treating foot fungus (known as athlete's foot, tinea pedis, or "ringworm" due to the lesion that can occur) (Satchell, Australas J Dermatol 2002).

Tea tree oil can be as effective as some of the older over-the-counter antifungal treatments such clotrimazole (Lotrimin). However, it is unlikely to be as effective as the newer antifungal terbinafine (Lamisil), which has >80% efficacy and is also available over-the-counter (Patel, Australas J Dermatol).  

Be aware some people may experience allergic inflammation of the skin from tea tree oil.

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May 19, 2021

I found that tea tree oil helped me with toenail fungus. But even more effective is thyme oil. And if you can tolerate the smell of oil of oregano, that is the nuclear nail fungus bomb.

January 9, 2020

I once applied tea tree oil to a toenail that appeared to have a fungus. Over a several day period, the toenail started to loosen from the end back and I stopped using the tea tree oil. Needless to say, the toenail came off back to where I stopped using the oil. A few months ago, a friend applied tea tree oil to a thumbnail that had a black area under it. The whole thumbnail came off; I do not know whether or not it ever grew back. I will never again use tea tree oil for anything!
January 9, 2020

Thanks for sharing your experience, but you may not want to write-off tea tree oil just yet: The nails you describe may have been very compromised (such as by trauma in the case of the black nail) and would have fallen off on their own. Tea tree oil would not be expected to help in such a situations.

September 22, 2018

I used tea tree oil to treat a nail fungus and it worked great. The nail turned yellow but the fungus was gone. Once the nail grew back it was the normal color. I used the Vitamin Shoppe brand but there more brands available at the local Health Food Store.

T Allen
April 25, 2018

You might want to try grapefruit seed extract orally in combination with external treatments if the external treatments don't work. I have used a tea tree and oregano oil combination successfully on many skin irritations. Don't know for sure they were ring worm but they had similar appearance(s),
April 25, 2018

Hi Tracey - Thank you for sharing your experience with this. There is some evidence from laboratory studies that grapefruit seed extract may have antibacterial and antifungal properties. However, there has been concern with adulteration in grapefruit seed extract supplements, and it has the potential to interact with a number of medications. See the CL Answer about grapefruit seed extract for details:

April 18, 2018

I am have always had frequent cases of athletes foot. Tried many treatments with limited success until started using pure tree tea oil about 8 years ago. I dab a small amount on the affected area after a shower, 100% success after 3-4 treatments. Must be pure tea tree oil to work.

April 18, 2018

Is there an AF, either OTC or by prescription, that is 100% effective? Has there been any studies to suggest that Tea Tree Oil, when combined with an OTC anti-fungal, is either synergistic or antagonistic in its effectiveness?
April 18, 2018

Hi Keith - We are not aware of trials combining tea tree oil with an antifungal drug, although there could be synergy. We are also not aware of any product being 100% effective, i.e., always working -- that's pretty rare with any type of clinical study.

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