Last updated September 12, 2019 by Lisa Richards, CNC   Reviewed by Dr Eric Wood, ND.

Natural Antifungals: Supplements & Herbs For Killing Candida

Oregano leaf is an antifungal to kill Candida

Along with a low-sugar diet and probiotic supplements or foods, antifungals are one of the crucial elements of any successful Candida treatment plan.

Candida is a virulent pathogen that is particularly difficult to dislodge from your intestinal walls. Antifungals help to break down the biofilms that it creates and give your immune system the best chance possible to eliminate it.

There are only a handful of prescription antifungals that can help with a Candida overgrowth, and they tend to come with some nasty side effects. This is because yeast and fungal cells are quite similar to human cells, which makes it difficult to create a treatment that targets the ‘bad guys’ and not the ‘good guys’. For this reason, natural antifungals are often the best option for Candida sufferers.

There are a number of natural antifungals that you can take in supplement form or even add into your diet. These antifungals work by breaking down the cell walls of the Candida yeast, and they are an important part of your recovery.

Popular antifungal supplements include caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract, and oregano oil. You can add antifungal foods into your diet too. For example, coconut oil is a potent source of caprylic acid, and it also makes an excellent oil for cooking. Garlic is another food with some potent antifungal properties. You can find more in our list of foods that kill Candida.

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When it comes to natural antifungals, there are lots of different options to choose from. You can follow the links below to read about a few of them. Many people benefit from taking two or three antifungals at the same time, as this prevents the Candida from adapting. Some of them need to be taken at least an hour apart from your probiotics, as they have some mild antibacterial properties too.

If you are not sure which antifungals to take, or when, our Ultimate Candida Diet program contains lots more information. Dr Eric Wood and I also talk about the importance of Candida biofilms, and how antifungals can be used to break them down.

Should You Use Natural Antifungals or Prescription Drugs?

If you visit a doctor for a Candida infection, he or she will often prescribe an antifungal medication. The most common antifungal drugs include Diflucan (fluconazole) and Nystatin. Diflucan is a ‘fungicidal’ agent which kills the yeast, while Nystatin is a ‘fungistatic’, which means it helps to stop the yeast from growing.

Although antifungal drugs are well-absorbed and have a strong antifungal effect, they have a number of unpleasant side-effects. What’s even worse is that the fungi tend to adapt to the drug and become resistant to it, which means the effect is significantly reduced.

Side Effects of Prescription Antifungals

Nearly 1 in 7 people who take antifungal medications suffer from reactions such as rashes, itching, skin inflammation, nausea and abdominal pain, dizziness, jaundice, and liver problems.

Diflucan is known to elevate liver enzymes and can even lead to cholestasis or hepatic failure in patients who have weakened livers.

Nystatin can also cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, itching and swelling, and complications for those with kidney disease or diabetes. These symptoms tend to worsen the longer you take the medication.

Resistance to Prescription Antifungals

Antifungal resistance makes infections harder to treat, and is now a major problem for those with Candida infections. (1)

Several types of Candida yeast are becoming increasingly resistant to commonly prescribed antifungal medications, such as Diflucan. One study showed that around 7% of all Candida blood samples are resistant to fluconazole.

That’s where natural antifungals may be the optimal solution.

The Top Antifungal Herbs To Kill Candida

The good news is that prescription drugs are not the only solution! There are a huge range of natural antifungal herbs and foods that are equally effective in treating Candida infections, and in many cases even better. Natural antifungals don’t tend to lead to resistance and they generally have far fewer side-effects.

Plants have their own immune systems, just like we do. In their case, they generate antifungal compounds that prevent molds from attacking them. These natural antifungal properties can be useful for us too, both in supplement form and when incorporated into our diets. Here are a few good examples of natural antifungals.

Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid is one of the active ingredients in coconut oil. It works by interfering with the cell walls of the Candida yeast. Its short chain fatty acids are able to easily penetrate the cell wall of the yeast and then inhibit its growth by causing it to rupture. This effectively destroys the yeast cell.

Repeated studies have shown Caprylic acid is an effective treatment against Candida. A study conducted in Japan found that the fungicidal effect of caprylic acid on Candida albicans was “exceedingly powerful”. (2)

More recent studies have found that oral supplementation with caprylic acid reduces the symptoms of Candida more quickly and efficiently than Diflucan. (3)

Oregano Oil

Studies have shown that oregano oil can not only inhibit the growth of Candida albicans but is also a powerful preventative if taken daily.

Further research has shown that oregano oil contains two naturally occurring antimicrobial agents, carvacrol and thymol. These agents work by reacting with the water in your bloodstream, which effectively dehydrates and kills Candida yeast cells. (4)

Other studies report that the major terpenoids in oregano – carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol – have important antifungal activity. These important phenols are effective in not only killing planktonic cells but also the biofilms of Candida albicans, which are often resistant to many pharmaceutical antifungal drugs. (5)

Of these, carvacrol appears to be the strongest; studies show it continues to be effective regardless of the maturity of the biofilm (6).

Garlic

Garlic contains the powerful antifungal agent ajoene, an organosulfur compound that has been found to kill off a variety of fungal infections. Ajoene is formed from another compound called allicin and an enzyme, alliinase. When garlic is chopped or crushed, allicin and alliinase come together to form ajoene (7).

Various studies have found ajoene to have the strongest activity of all garlic compounds in inhibiting the growth of Candida albicans. (8)

Another study showed that garlic has potent anticandidal activity and can halt the growth and spread of Candida Albicans. (9)

However, ajoene’s exact mechanism of action are not so clear. As with other antifungals, scientists hypothesize that ajoene works by disrupting the cells walls of the Candida yeast cells, preventing them from functioning properly.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit seed extract is highly effective against a variety of yeasts and molds including Candida, Geotrichum, Aspergillus and PeniciIlium sp.

A 2001 Polish study found that grapefruit seed extract had a strong antifungal effect against Candida albicans overgrowth. The researchers concluded that the extract is able to fight Candida by attacking yeast cells directly, effectively destroying those that have already taken hold in the body. (10)

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Another study in 2002 showed that grapefruit seed extract is useful as an all-round antimicrobial, thanks to its inhibition of a wide range of harmful bacteria. Amazingly, it appears to do this within just 15 minutes of contact, even when diluted. (11)

The American Research Institute also reports that grapefruit seed extract can kill over 800 bacterial and viral strains and 100 strains of fungi. It’s believed that the extract interferes with the membrane of the bacteria, destroying the cell by breaking it apart. (12)

Berberine

Berberine is often used for treating gastrointestinal infections and boosting the immune system. It’s been shown to help kill pathogens that may cause gut infections and diarrhea such as candidiasis and giardia. Even better, berberine helps to heal the lining of the gut and improves the gut microbiota when cells have been damaged by bacteria. (13)

Research shows that berberine’s antifungal effect is most potent in mucous membrane tissues, particularly the genitals, mouth, and especially the digestive system. Berberine also has powerful antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of harmful yeasts and pathogens in the body, including Candida albicans, e coli, staph aureus and many others.

Berberine can be taken in supplement form. Goldenseal and Barberry are excellent sources of berberine, and can help to boost the immune system.

Four Antifungal Foods To Fight Candida

There are lots of foods that have antifungal properties too. This forms a part of their natural defenses against fungi, and those same properties can help us with fungal infections too.

The following are just a few of the antifungal foods that you can introduce into your diet. They are particularly useful for fighting an intestinal Candida overgrowth. Others include ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon.

Onion

Popular around the world as a savory addition to many dishes, onions are also known for their strong medicinal properties.

They have antifungal, antibacterial and anti-parasitic activity against a wide range of microorganisms including bacteria and yeasts. (14)

Studies have shown that onion essential oil contains 21 compounds, the major components of which are dimethyl‐trisulfide and methyl‐propyl‐trisulfide. These can delay or kill fungal growth by intervening with the ability of the organisms to replicate and spread. (15)

Onions work well in almost any savory recipe, enhancing flavor and taste. You can even add them to your omelets in the morning for a high-protein, low carbohydrate, gluten free start to the day!

Rutabaga

Although not a well-known food, rutabaga (also known in some countries as Swede or Swedish turnip) is one of the most potent antifungal vegetables around. It’s a root vegetable – a cross between a cabbage and a turnip – and a member of the mustard family.

One study showed that rutabaga produces phytoalexins, a type of chemical defenses produced by plants in response to certain forms of stress, such as microbial attack. According to researchers, these phytoalexins can ward off harmful fungi and yeasts such as Candida, as well as several other microbes. The chemical structures of these phytoalexins appear to have important biological activity against at least four plant pathogens.  (16)

Rutabaga is a versatile vegetable that works well in many dishes. It’s recommended that you try it in small amounts first, as it can cause die-off symptoms. You may even prefer to try a milder antifungal food like turnip instead.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the most versatile and readily-available condiments in the world – and it’s also great for helping you to beat fungal infections like Candida.

Olive oil contains a powerful chemical called Oleuropein which has valuable antifungal properties. It’s been shown to help stimulate your immune system’s own response to effectively fight off Candida albicans overgrowth. (17)

Oleuropein has also been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels, which is an important benefit for Candida sufferers as elevated blood sugar levels can increase the yeast’s ability to spread. (18)

Oleuropein is also found in olive leaf extract and can be taken in concentrated doses in the form of supplements. Olive oil is not the most appropriate oil to be used in high temperature cooking as it can destroy its nutritional properties. Instead, drizzle over salads, stir-fries, and vegetables. Be sure to choose a high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil (not a cheap one!)

Fermented Foods

When it comes to improving the health of your gut and reducing fungal growth, fermented or probiotic foods are a must. These are foods that have been prepared in a way that allows beneficial bacteria to grow, creating live nutrients within the food itself. When you eat them, the live bacteria are established in your gut – like an instant dose of probiotics.

When you eat fermented foods, these healthy bacteria promote a variety of health benefits and improve the microbial balance of your gut, which is essential for warding off harmful yeasts. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process is a natural preservative that prevents harmful bacteria from growing. And the fermentation process leaves the food rich in nutrients that your body and immune system need.

The best sources of probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kefir. Eating these fermented foods regularly can support the immune system and prevent the invasion and spread of yeasts or fungal infection. (6)

A good strategy is to combine fermented foods with probiotic supplements. When buying a probiotic supplement, make sure that you choose one that uses time-release tablets. Otherwise, the probiotic bacteria will simply be destroyed by your stomach acid. Here is our recommended time-release probiotic.

Natural Antifungals Can Help You Beat Candida

While it’s tempting to believe that prescription medication is the ‘quick fix’ for Candida overgrowth, this is rarely the case. Prescription medications may cause the yeast or fungi to retreat for a time, but they are quick to adapt. They also come with nasty side-effects.

Natural antifungals are quite literally the natural solution to yeast overgrowth. They cause fewer side effects and your infection is less likely to develop a resistance to their antifungal properties. Even better, they’re available in their whole form as food or herbs: forms that your body recognizes and can break down easily.

Using Antifungals In Your Candida Treatment

These articles provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about antifungals. Why are they useful, can you taken them with probiotics, and which foods have the strongest antifungal properties?

Natural Antifungal Treatments

Plants have their own immune systems, just like we do. In their case, they generate antifungal compounds that prevent molds from attacking them. These natural antifungal properties can be useful for us too, both in supplement form and when incorporated into our diets. Here are a few good examples of natural antifungals (there are more listed in our program).

  • Aloe Vera
    Aloe is gentle on the body, yet has powerful properties to get your Candida under control and stimulate your immune system. It acts as an antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory.
  • Black Walnut
    In at least one study, Black Walnut husks were shown to combat Candida as effectively as several commercial antifungal drugs. Black Walnut is now found in many over the counter Candida cures, but is also available in concentrated form.
  • Caprylic Acid
    Caprylic Acid is one of the three fatty acids (along with capric acid and lauric acid) that are found in coconut oil. It is a potent antifungal that kills Candida cells, as well as restoring your stomach acidity to its normal levels.
  • Cinnamon
    Research studies have shown that cinnamon has powerful antifungal properties, as well as being an anti-inflammatory and having a regulating effect on blood sugar levels.
  • Cloves
    Along with their other medical benefits, cloves are also a powerful anti-fungal agent often used to treat athletes foot and other fungal infections. Clove oil’s use as an antifungal is well supported by research.
  • Coconut Oil (and some other health benefits of coconut oil)
    Coconut oil is a really multi-tasker when it comes to your health. Most importantly for Candida sufferers, coconut oil is an excellent antifungal food. If you are unsure how to use coconut oil, we incorporate it into many of the recipes in our treatment plan. And for those who love to bake, coconut flour is an excellent, low carbohydrate, gluten-free option.
  • Garlic
    Research studies have shown that garlic is effective against pathogens like Candida. In addition to its use as an antifungal, garlic can support your immune system, reduce cholesterol, and help control blood sugar levels.
  • Ginger As An Antifungal
    Ginger root contains several ingredients which have antifungal properties, with shagelol and gingerol being the most active. Several studies have suggested that ginger can be used as an antifungal medication.
  • Ginger In Traditional And Modern Medicine
    Ginger’s uses are not limited to antifungal treatment. It can be effective against osteoarthritis, motion sickness and morning sickness. It has long been used to improve digestion, treat nausea, and reduce inflammation too.
  • Goldenseal
    Goldenseal was originally used for skin disorders, digestive complaints and even as a cancer remedy. In more modern times, Goldenseal has gained in popularity and has been used for wound healing and many types of infection, as well as an antifungal agent for ailments like Candida overgrowth.
  • Grapefruit Seed
    GSE is a useful antimicrobial to incorporate into your treatment for Candida overgrowth. It also boosts your immune system and helps to repair liver cells that may be damaged by the release of toxins in a Die-Off reaction.
  • Olive Leaf Extract
    This powerful herbal remedy is a natural and effective antifungal, in addition to having anti-parasitic, antiviral and bactericidal properties. Research has shown that Olive Tree Extract contains almost double the antioxidant capacity than that of green tea
  • Oregano Oil
    Wild Oregano is one of the most powerful natural antifungals, so oregano oil is an excellent choice of antifungal to start your Candida treatment. Oregano oil is not only an antifungal, but also has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. One study has even shown it to have cancer-preventative properties too.
  • Oregon Grape
    Oregon Grape is a fairly mild antifungal that can be used in combination other antifungals like caprylic acid, coconut oil and oregano oil. For medicinal uses, herbalists use the root of the plant, which you can buy in a powder or extract form, as well as a tea.
  • Pau d’Arco
    Pau D’Arco’s effects are two-fold when it comes to Candida. Firstly the herb helps to loosen the bowels. Not enough to cause diarrhea, but enough to wash out Candida-related toxins and expose the Candida colonies. Secondly, Pau D’Arco acts as a powerful antifungal agent.
  • Radish Is A Natural Antifungal Food
    There has been an increasing amount of research into radish as an antifungal, particularly over the last 10 years or so. Some of this research has focused on a plant defensin known as RsAFP2, which is found in radishes.
  • Turmeric
    You might know turmeric best as a spice in South Asian or Persian cuisine. Frequently used in curry powders or as a coloring agent, ground turmeric root has an earthy taste, slightly mustardy smell and a distinctive bright yellow color. It also has a number of properties that are really beneficial for your health.

Prescription Antifungal Treatments

There are times when prescription antifungals are useful, particularly in more serious cases of Candida infection. For most milder and superficial cases, a combination of natural antifungals and dietary changes tends to be enough. Here is some more information on three of the antifungal compounds used by doctors.

  • The Pros And Cons Of Using Prescription Medications For Candida
    Are you unsure whether to use a prescription antifungal? They are effective, but they tend to come with lots of side effects. In many cases, natural antifungals might be a better choice. In this article, I examine the efficacy of prescription antifungals and look at a few of the best alternatives.
  • Diflucan
    Diflucan is an antifungal antibiotic that is used to treat fungal infections. Although often used by sufferers of Candidiasis, Diflucan can be used to combat any kind of fungal infections, affecting parts of the body like the mouth, throat, lungs and even the blood.
  • Eraxis
    Eraxis, otherwise known as anidulafungin, is an antifungal antibiotic that is used to treat serious fungal infections. It has been specifically marketed towards sufferers of Candidiasis but may be used to treat other fungal infections.
  • Nystatin
    Nystatin is one of the drugs most often prescribed for Candida outbreaks. It is effective against particular yeasts, but has little effect on other microorganisms in the body. It is well suited to treatment of Candidiasis, and will not kill off the good bacteria in your gut like other prescription drugs can.
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