while making things bloom is a wonderful talent, there are certain areas that just shouldn't become garden sites. Like, for example, your skin.
Certain primitive plants like moulds, mildews and yeasts are just waiting to sink roots into your moist, hot cutaneous regions. We're talking about fungi like ringworm, jock itch, vaginal yeast, athlete's foot and other itchy, scaly invasions.
"Stay clean, warm and dry" are your watchwords here. Wear cotton undies and socks, not sweat-provoking synthetics. Wash, yes, but replace your anti-bacterial soap with the regular variety so you don't kill the friendly flora on your skin that keep fungi in check.
Wear shower sandals to protect your feet in public baths. And when you dry your tootsies, mop up between your toes.
If you have jock itch or vaginal discharge, get it treated before you snuggle up to someone; a genital fungal infection (indeed, any external fungal infection) is contagious. Finally, keep in mind that antibiotics, corticosteroids and the pill increase your chances of having unwanted mouldy visitors.
Holistic types feel that mushrooming skin indicates you've probably got yeast growing wild inside your body, too. For them, treatment has to include cutting the prime fungus foods -- refined sugars, carbs and alcohol -- out of your diet, taking a supplement of yeast-inhibiting acidophilus and bifidus bacteria and maybe a fungus killer like caprylic acid.
Allopathic types discount this theory but do recognize that some types of fungal infection (such as those you may pick up when digging in the ground, for instance) can invade your internal organs and cause serious illness.
If you've got a persistent cough, fever, weight loss, chest pains or chills that aren't responding to treatment, check out the possibility of internal fungal infection.
what the experts say
"There's always something else going on that's allowing this to occur, though that something may not be an (internal) fungal infection. As a preventative, make sure the immune system is in good order. Minimize sugary and refined foods. I would suggest Astragalus, ginseng if the person is stressed, vitamins C and A and zinc; and topically, garlic, tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract. People should see a professional. It may not be just a fungal infection -- it could be something much more serious.
LINDA BROWN, naturopath
"The (systemic yeast infection) hypothesis has not been proven. The majority of people I see have only a superficial infection. Poorly controlled diabetes patients tend to have more skin infections, fungal included. Their immune system has been attacked. I wouldn't put echinacea on a squeaky door. Vitamin C at high doses can cause as much trouble as it does good. There's no proof that any of those ingredients does a damn thing to the immune system. For treatment (of fungus) on nails and hair, you're talking pills. Vagina, groin, feet, hands, face, you're talking cream. The pills are pretty safe. They can cause liver damage, which is very rare but serious.'
MARVIN LESTER, dermatologist
"The first thing a person should do is take probiotics, acidophilus and bifidus. One billion to 10 billion bacteria daily is the recommended amount. Take the kind kept in the fridge. Take garlic, grapefruit seed extract and oil of oregano to kill internal yeast. For vaginitis, I often recommend a boric acid douche made with 1 cup of distilled water, 2 tablespoons boric acid powder and 5 to 10 drops tea tree oil. Do that twice a day. Also insert an acidophilus capsule into the vagina at night. For jock itch, I would wash with a tea tree solution, dry well and apply calendula cream. If that doesn't work, apply diluted tea tree oil."
LINDA WOOLVEN, master herbalist, certified acupuncturist
"For toenails I would use 20 ml of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of dark honey, 1 drop of clove essential oil, 5 drops of tea tree and 5 drops of spike lavender oil. Put these in a brown 30ml dropper bottle, buff your toenails (three times weekly) and rub the oil into your toes every evening. It might take up to three months to fully heal. For vaginal infections, a wonderful thing is a bath immersion with 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and 5 drops of geranium, 5 drops of lavender and five drops of tea tree. It will also work for jock itch. Bicarbonate of soda helps that, too. You have to work on the situation internally as well."
DANIELLE SADE, aromatherapist