February 27, 2024/Primary Care

Do Home Remedies for Ringworm Actually Work?

Some natural home remedies may offer relief, but they lack scientific evidence and won’t typically cure the condition

Applying aloe vera to irritated skin

Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus, not a worm. And though it’s usually not serious, ringworm is a real pain — or rather, a real itch. Even a mild infection can be enough to send anyone into a scratching or hygiene frenzy.


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The internet is full of natural remedies for ringworm, but do any of them work? Family physician Simon Hodes, MD ChB, discusses ringworm home remedies and the best ways to treat this infection.

Is it ringworm?

Before you reach for a remedy, be sure you know what you’re dealing with. Ringworm is caused by the tinea fungus, and it commonly causes a ring-shaped rash, often with a paler center, but not always. Using the wrong remedies on the wrong condition will just prolong the infection.

“Know the bug, choose the drug,” says Dr. Hodes. “Lots of skin conditions can cause an itchy rash — from allergies to bug bites to eczema to psoriasis. Before you try to treat the problem at home, make sure you actually have ringworm. Some treatments, like steroid creams, can make ringworm worse. When in doubt, see a healthcare provider for a correct diagnosis.”

Popular home remedies for ringworm

Wondering if something natural could kick that ringworm to the curb?

If the infection is mild, you could try natural remedies — but be aware that none of them have science to prove they work. And because these remedies may not work quickly, they could increase the risk of your rash extending, or spreading the infection to others.

Dr. Hodes shares some of the most common potential ringworm home remedies and the likelihood that they’ll help you.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a well-known, natural itch soother, and it could bring you some ringworm relief. Some research also suggests that aloe has antifungal properties.

“Aloe can help with itching, it’s not likely to harm your skin,” Dr. Hodes explains. “However, it probably won’t clear up ringworm on its own, although it may work well in combination with an antifungal ringworm medication.”

Use aloe gel from a plant or purchase an aloe-based gel or cream. If you purchase an aloe product, choose one without added colors or fragrances, or you could end up even itchier.

“If in doubt try a test patch on a healthy area of skin to look for any reaction before trying it on the rash,” Dr. Hodes recommends.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial power and can kill fungus. Still, its ability to treat ringworm is unproven.

“Dabbing diluted vinegar on a ringworm infection probably won’t harm you,” Dr. Hodes advises. “But don’t use full-strength vinegar, which could be too harsh for your skin. And if the itching or redness gets worse, stop using it and see your provider.”

Coconut oil

The lipids (fats) in coconut oil can kill certain types of fungi by breaking down their cellular membrane (coating). If you’re dealing with a very mild case of ringworm, coconut oil could help clear it up.


“Coconut oil is moisturizing and can help skin heal,” Dr. Hodes says. “It’s worth a try if you have a small rash and you already have coconut oil at home. Just be sure to wash your hands well after applying it because the fungus could stick to the oil — and your hands.”

Licorice extract

Licorice (or liquorice in the United Kingdom) is a common herb in traditional Chinese medicine and has the ability to kill some types of fungi.

Some research suggests that licorice could help treat certain infections,” Dr. Hodes shares. “But we don’t have any studies that show licorice alone can clear up ringworm.”

If you decide to try licorice, purchase the powdered extract from a reputable source. Make a paste by mixing the powder with boiling water and allowing it to cool.

“Licorice may be a promising ingredient for future medical treatments,” Dr. Hodes says. “But we need more studies to determine if it’s a ringworm cure.”

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has antifungal and anti-inflammatory power. It may be your best bet if you’re seeking a natural remedy for ringworm.

“We know that tea tree oil can kill certain types of bacteria and fungi,” Dr. Hodes says. “But don’t use the full-strength oil on your skin because it can be irritating. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil to take advantage of both of these remedies together.”

The best way to treat ringworm at home

Many cases of ringworm simply don’t respond to natural remedies, and the infection usually won’t go away on its own. Not to worry. There are still safe, effective ways you can treat ringworm at home.

Here’s what to try.

Apply an OTC antifungal product

Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, powders or sprays are a proven way to clear up that itchy ringworm rash. You can purchase antifungals at most pharmacies without a prescription.

Many of these products are designed to target ringworm in specific areas of your body. For instance, ringworm that affects the groin area is jock itch. And athlete’s foot is ringworm that’s found your feet.

“If you have athlete’s feet, be sure to leave off your shoes and socks as much as possible to get the air between your toes. Dry carefully after bathing (a cool hairdryer can assist),” Dr. Hodes advises.

The best part of using antifungals? You’ll usually notice significant relief from itching within just a few days. Use the product as directed every day and keep using it for a few days after the rash is gone.


Look for a product that contains a proven antifungal as the active ingredient, like:

Be diligent about clean clothes and bedding

Wash all of your clothes after each wear, even if they don’t seem dirty. Wash (or change) bedding regularly and don’t share towels. The tinea fungus can live on surfaces for days, and you could reinfect yourself (or someone else) with contaminated fabrics.

Keep your skin clean and dry

Don’t give fungi what they love most — a warm, moist environment to thrive in. Wash the rash with soapy water at least twice a day. Rinse with clean water and pat it dry with a clean towel.

Shower as soon as possible after working out (and wear shower shoes in locker rooms to avoid athlete’s foot).

Stop the spread

Ringworm can spread to other people and even your pets, but you can reduce the odds of spreading if you:

  • Disinfect any items that come in contact with the rash.
  • Don’t share towels, combs, razors or other personal items with others.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the rash.

When to seek medical care for ringworm

Even with the best home care, you might need some extra help when it comes to clearing up ringworm. See a provider if the rash:

  • Affects your scalp or nails (these areas require prescription antifungal medicine).
  • Covers a large area of your skin.
  • Isn’t getting better after one week of treatment.
  • Looks very red and shiny or is leaking fluid (weeping).

You should also talk to your care team if you’re taking chemotherapy or immunosuppressive medications, such as steroid tablets. These weaken your immune response, and you may need additional treatment to clear up the infection.

Some people require oral antifungal tablets to help clear up a more extensive infection, too.

“It’s important to note that in some cases a severe or recurring fungal infection can represent an underlying medical condition,” Dr. Hodes cautions. “So, if in doubt please see a healthcare provider.”

Natural ringworm remedies: To try or not to try?

Natural home remedies may seem safer, but that’s often not true. And with ringworm, many of these remedies likely won’t work unless you have a very mild case.

“If you have good overall health, you can try a natural remedy for a few days,” Dr. Hodes notes. “But if the rash isn’t clearing up, don’t wait it out. Get rid of the itch and prevent the spread by using an antifungal. These ingredients may not be considered ‘natural,’ but they are proven to be safe — and they work.”

Again, if you have any doubt, see a healthcare provider for a correct diagnosis and treatment for you.

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