(NaturalHealth365) For a tiny, single-celled organism, Candida albicans can cause some big problems. This fungus exists normally – and harmlessly – in the eyes, mouth, intestines and genitals — unless an overgrowth occurs, toppling the body’s normal balance of microorganisms.
The resultant infections, which can include oral thrush, diaper rash, and vaginal yeast infections, can be uncomfortable and unpleasant; alarmingly, candida infections, medically known as candidiasis, are becoming increasingly resistant to conventional drugs. And, if the candida fungus makes its way into the bloodstream – a rare, but life-threatening, condition known as invasive candidiasis – the outcome can be fatal.
Conventional candida medications have significant drawbacks
Candida albicans is becoming so resistant to prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs that many natural health experts believe the fungus can be treated more effectively with natural remedies. In addition to becoming less effective, antifungal drugs such as fluconazole can feature serious side effects, including liver toxicity.
While research on natural treatments for candida is ongoing, five different herbs with particularly promising results have been identified.
What causes candida?
Anything that disturbs the normal balance of microorganisms can put you at risk for candida overgrowth. The use of antibiotics and steroids, emotional stress and environmental factors are common causes; being overweight also increases susceptibility.
But, the primary cause of candida seems to be a weakened immune system. Experts estimate that 90 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS will develop infections.
What is the danger of ‘invasive candidiasis’?
When candida remains in its normal yeast form, it is relatively easy to treat. However, it can progress to a hyphal form, in which it produces filaments and biofilms, then invades the bloodstream, tissues and organs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, invasive candidiasis is rare in people with normal immune systems. However, people with compromised immune systems – such as cancer patients, people with HIV, and people who have had organ transplants – are vulnerable to the condition.
Breakthrough herbal treatment for candida
The herb currently generating the most excitement among researchers is gymnema sylvestre – a tropical vine known as cowplant. In an animal study published in 2013 in the medical journal PLoS One, gymnema sylvestre not only was effective against candida, but stopped the transition to the hyphal form by converting the fungus back into simple yeast cells, thereby demonstrating it could prevent – and even reverse – invasive candidiasis.
Another plus for gymnema – it was effective against Aspergillus, another potentially dangerous fungal pathogen, while remaining completely nontoxic to human cells.
Olive leaf extract enlists the immune system’s help to fight candida
Olive leaf extract, from the subtropical tree scientifically known as Olea europaea, is recognized as a potent antimicrobial with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Its active ingredient, oleuropein, is converted in the body to elolenic acid, which enhances the immune system and allows it to fight against pathogens, including yeast fungi.
With 400 percent more antioxidant power than vitamin C, and 200 percent more than green tea, olive leaf extract can be a powerful ally against candida. Available in capsules standardized to contain 20 percent natural oleuropein, olive leaf extract is usually taken for candida in dosages starting at 2,000 to 6,000 milligrams a day.
Discover the antiseptic properties of garlic to kill candida
The secret to garlic’s antifungal powers is in its active ingredients: the sulfur-containing compounds aliin and allicin. In a test tube study published in 2005 in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, raw garlic cloves were found to be active against difficult-to-treat Candida albicans biofilms. Although the results were promising, researchers are still trying to determine the most effective ways to use garlic to combat candida in humans.
Many natural healers advise treating candida by simply eating one clove of garlic per day; you can also take it in the form of freeze-dried supplements standardized to 1.3 percent alliin or 0.6 percent allicin. 600 to 900 milligrams per day is the customary dosage for candida infection; maintenance dosages at 200 to 400 milligrams a day may help prevent recurrence.
Tea tree oil fights candida while sparing beneficial bacteria
Oil from the tea tree, or Melaleuca alternifolia, also has potent antifungal and antibacterial properties, with the added advantage of being harmless to the body’s stores of beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria, an important player in maintaining healthy microbial balance. University of Maryland Medical Center reports that tea tree oil has been effective in treating vaginal infections; it has also successfully been used as a mouthwash to treat oral thrush.
Life Extension Foundation concurs, noting that tea tree oil works on drug-resistant forms of vaginal candidiasis and oral thrush due to its content of a phytochemical called terpinen-4-ol.
Goldenseal proven to eliminate candida
Goldenseal – or Hydrastis canadensis – a small plant that can be found growing wild in the northern United States, contains berberine, which is widely used in Chinese Traditional Medicine to treat various infections. Goldenseal kills candida albicans in test tubes, and LEF notes that it may help antifungal drugs such as fluconazole work better.
Goldenseal interferes with the ability of the fungus to penetrate and adhere to host cells. It can also activate white blood cells, thereby strengthening the immune system – which is key for candida sufferers. It can be used as a topical skin rinse, a mouthwash, and a douche for vaginal candida; the powdered root is also available in capsules and tablets.
A word of caution: Proper guidance is essential
Naturally, before trying gymnema sylvestre, garlic, tea tree oil, goldenseal or olive leaf extract, you should consult an experienced medical professional to help you calibrate proper dosages for you.
You may need to ease into treatment slowly – wiping out the fungus too quickly can cause a reaction known as “die-off,” also called Herxheimer’s Reaction, with symptoms of “brain fog” and flu-like symptoms such as chills and headaches.
Simple dietary changes can help you cut your risk of candida
Sharply reduce or eliminate the use of sugar in your diet, and avoid processed foods and those with high concentrations of yeast – such as cheese, peanuts and alcohol. These steps can help you ensure that candida organisms in your body remain as nature intended: harmless and normal residents of your body’s microbiota.