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The essential oil shows a potent antifungal effect against strains of fungi responsible for common skin and nail infections
Scientists from the University of Coimbra in Portugal distilled lavender oil from the Lavandula viridis L'Hér shrub that grows in southern Portugal. The oil was tested against a range of pathogenic fungi and was found to be lethal to a range of skin-pathogenic strains, known as dermatophytes, as well as various species of Candida.
Dermatophytes cause infections of the skin, hair and nails as they use the keratin within these tissues to obtain nutrients. They are responsible for conditions such as Athletes' foot, ringworm and can also lead to scalp and nail infections. Candida species coexist with most healthy individuals without causing problems but may cause mucocutaneous candidosis -- or thrush -- in some people. In immunocompromised patients, Candida species are able to cause serious infection if the fungal cells escape into the blood stream.
Currently, there are relatively few types of antifungal drugs to treat infections and those that are available often have side effects. Professor Lígia Salgueiro and Professor Eugénia Pinto who led this study explained why novel fungicides are urgently needed. "In the last few years there has been an increase in the incidence of fungal diseases, particularly among immunocompromised patients," they said. "Unfortunately there is also increasing resistance to antifungal drugs. Research by our group and others has shown that essential oils may be cheap, efficient alternatives that have minimal side effects."
by S. C.
07 march 2011, Technical Area > Science News