C. albicans is the most prevalent cause of fungal infections in humans. It is often associated with urinary tract infections (UTI), genital yeast infections and oral thrush. Oral anti-fungal medications serve as the primary treatment for yeast infections, but these drugs cause numerous side effects. Besides nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain and hair loss, oral antifungals may also cause irregular heartbeat, severe dizziness and even serious liver disease.
But in a recent study, Chinese researchers found a safe and natural alternative to conventional antifungals that doesn’t cause any of the above-mentioned side effects. Loureirin A, an active compound found in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) known as draconis sanguis (dragon's blood), showed great anti-fungal and anti-biofilm activities against C. albicans both in vitro and in vivo.
The researchers discussed their findings in an article published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines.
Dragon’s blood is a resin -- a mixture of organic compounds produced by plants for protection -- that can be obtained from various plants, such as those from the genus Dracaena (dragon tree). Known in TCM as xue jie, dragon’s blood is used to treat abrasions, cuts, scrapes, insect bites and skin ulcers. It is also effective against vaginitis and yeast infections and can stop diarrhea by inhibiting excess water flow to the intestines.
According to Chinese researchers, dragon’s blood contains a flavonoid called loureirin A that can stop yeasts from forming biofilms. Biofilms are communities of adherent cells (microbes) that provide microbial pathogens protection from the immune system. A common feature of bacterial and fungal infections, biofilms are associated with resistance to antimicrobials and host defenses.
To explore its properties, the researchers decided to test loureirin A’s fungicidal and biofilm-inhibiting activity in vitro and in vivo. Besides determining its effects on hyphal formation -- a morphological change undertaken by C. albicans that’s critical to its pathogenesis -- they also looked at its toxicity as well as the expression of relevant genes in two infection models, namely, Galleria mellonella (honeycomb moth)-C. albicans and Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode)-C. albicans.
The researchers reported that loureirin A significantly inhibited the formation of C. albicans biofilms. It also decreased cell surface hydrophobicity, which enables C. albicans to adhere to surfaces and form biofilms; suppressed hyphal formation; and down-regulated the expression of adhesion-related and hypha/biofilm-related genes.
In addition, loureirin A exhibited low toxicity and prolonged the survival of C. albicans-infected G. mellonella and C. elegans.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that loureirin A from dragon’s blood inhibits fungal biofilm formation, thanks to its ability to suppress the pathogenic traits of fungi like C. albicans.
Besides dragon’s blood, many natural products possess anti-fungal properties that have been tested and proven by scientific studies. In fact, most of the herbs and spices found in a modern pantry produce essential oils that can effectively fight fungal infections. Here are a few examples: (Related: Investigating the anti-fungal effects of fennel oil.)
Other essential oils that come from inedible herbs, such as citronella, geranium, eucalyptus and tea tree, are also effective natural antifungals. To address skin infections, choose two or three essential oils from the list above and mix two to three drops of each with 20 drops of a carrier oil like extra virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. Apply to the affected area twice or thrice a day for best results.
Find out more about natural treatments for fungal infections at Remedies.news.