Fungi are a form of vegetation that does not contain chlorophyll and, therefore, they do not rely on photosynthesis.  Instead they depend on the tissue in which they exist for their growth. 

Of the many hundreds of fungus-types, only a few are capable of producing disease.  These are divided into the ‘superficial’ and the ‘deep’ species, depending on whether the resulting condition is associated, or not, with a systemic disease (e.g. candidiasis).

In this article reference will only be made to the ‘superficial’ type, i.e. those, the dermatophytes, that live only on the uppermost dead, horny skin layer.

The most common superficial fungi are the Tinea, or ringworm fungi, which attack the skin, nails, and hair.  In ringworm of the scalp the light of a mercury-vapour lamp usually makes the hair fluoresce with a remarkable greenish colour, which may be used for the diagnosis and control of ringworm of the scalp.

In orthodox medical treatment griseofulvin (Grisovin) or terbinafine (Lamisil) are generally used, but both can have marked side-effects.  There is not very much in the scientific literature covering non-orthodox medicine, but there are many common-sense, home-remedies available.

In Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) potassium permanganate warm foot baths, 1 in 8000 solution, two or three times daily often help.  Once the oozing has ceased and the skin has become dry an ointment of Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree oil) should be applied, and continued to be applied for two weeks after the disappearance of all symptoms. 

Care must be taken that bath mats, towels, socks, etc are washed at a high temperature to avoid re-infection.   An ‘Athlete’s Foot Powder’ (like Mycil) should be used to liberally dust the interior of footwear every day.

Where there is extremely evil-smelling perspiration (smelling of garlic) from the affected feet, Tellurium 6D is homoeopathically indicated for Tinea pedis.

For the chronic dry type of Tinea pedis Whitfield’s ointment should be applied [Original formula, Brit Pharmacopoeia, 1934: Boric acid 5%, Salicylic acid 3%, white soft paraffin (‘vaseline’) 27,6%, and Coconut oil 64,4%].
Tinea manum (ringworm of the palm or hand) can be treated in a similar fashion, except that in herbal medicine a cream containing a 50% maceration of Solanum nigrescens might also be applied daily to the affected area.  An ‘Athlete’s Foot Powder’ (like Mycil) should be used to dust the interior of gloves every day.

Tinea unguium (fungal infection of nails and toe-nails):  Daily lathering with, or making a 20-minute warm foot-bath from, providone-iodine solution (Betadine surgical scrub) for three weeks, and then waiting for two months for the affected nail to grow out, has proved successful in a number of resistant cases in my practice.  It should be remembered that cure of established toe-nail infection is difficult and rare.

Tinea circinata (ringworm of the body) comes in four varieties:
1: the annular type, which produces red-ringed lesions, with tiny peripheral vesicles and a clear, slightly scaly, centre;
2: the plaque type, which is less inflammatory than 1/, but can occasionally produce large plaques;
3: the follicular type, which presents as pustular folliculitis, usually of the neck, shoulders and arms, which may be quite painful (pet white mice, that have been allowed to run up and down the patient’s arms, are a common source of this type);
4: the granulomatous type, which is characterized by lesions that look like suppurating carbuncles (this type is also cattle ringworm and can be transmitted from animal to patient).

This condition must be distinguished from: pityriasis rosea, which is not fungus-related, and in which the development is much more rapid; psoriasis, which has heaped-up scales, nearly always on extensor surfaces, and vesicles are absent;  eczema, which has no central clearing;  and seborrhoeic dermatitis, which has greasy scales involving the seborrhoeic areas, and the lesion is not clear in the centre.

Whitfield’s ointment [see above] should be applied daily in all types of Tinea circinata.

Tinea cruris (Dhobie itch) occurs predominantly in the groins of males and is usually spread by bath towels, transferred from co-existent foot infections.  It must be distinguished from erythrasma, a mildly inflammatory condition caused by a diphtheroid, C. minutissimum, which is a gram-positive bacterium, not a fungus.   Erythrasma presents with dry, slightly scaly, well-defined, macular lesions in the genito-crural area; occasionally also in the axillary, infra-mammary, or inter-digital areas of the feet.

Whitfield’s ointment [see above] should be applied daily for Tinea cruris.

Pityriasis versicolor (Tinea versicolor) is gradual and symptomless in onset.  The lesions are fawn or café-au-lait, and well defined areas of fine branny scales, which are found on the back, chest and the axillary areas.  This is quickly treated by a 2,5 selenium sulphide solution (‘Selsun’ shampoo can be used) applied generously after a bath or shower and left on overnight, daily for about ten days.

In Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) Whitfield’s ointment should be applied daily to the affected parts.  This is easier if the hair is really short.  When the lesions are pustular, starch poultices (cataplasma amyli) may well be required.  

This is one of the safest remedies to apply to an inflamed, weeping or crusted surface.  Antibiotics are of no avail in pustular cases, as the purulent element is due to the toxic effects of the fungus and not to bacteria. 

Starch consists of a fine powder of polysaccharide granules obtained from maize (zea mays), rice (oryza sativa), wheat (triticum aestivum), and potato (solanum tuberosum).  A soft mush is prepared from starch 10% with boiled water, that is then applied, when still very warm, to the affected scalp.  It exerts an emollient, relaxing, counter-irritant effect upon the lesions.
About the Author:
Dr Harald Gaier is a naturopathic physician based on Harley Street. Dr Gaier has nearly four decades of clinical experience and writes for several of today’s leading alternative medicine publications. For more information see:

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