The Facts on Natural Yeast Infection Cures
Grab a yogurt, eat some extra garlic, or put tea tree oil in your vagina? Most of these natural yeast infection "cures" don't have the blessing of science.
By Marijke Vroomen-Durning, RN
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Vaginal yeast infections
are so common among women all over the world � up to three out of every four women will experience at least one � that it�s no wonder many women have tried, and may swear by, natural yeast infection treatments.
Are There Really Any Natural Yeast Infection Treatments?
These are just some of the natural remedies touted as yeast infection cures:
- Probiotics (beneficial bacteria)
- Tea tree oil
- Boric acid suppositories
- Douching with vinegar
While some of these treatments sound like they ought to restore the natural balance of yeast, none has been definitively found to be effective in clinical trials, and some may actually make symptoms worse. Arming yourself with accurate information on each of these options will help you decide if one of them is the right treatment for you.
Natural Yeast Infection Treatments: Yogurt
Some studies have looked at the usefulness of eating yogurt to prevent chronic yeast infections
and the results were conflicting. However, eating yogurt every day won't cause you any harm and it's an easy step to take for potentially large gains, if it works.
Most yogurts contain probiotics, also referred to as �good� bacteria. At least one university Web site suggests that eating probiotic-containing yogurt while you're taking antibiotics could help prevent the overgrowth of Candida, the bacteria that cause yeast infections.
But some women also use yogurt to treat yeast infections by inserting it directly into the vagina. The Web is full of articles that promote this as a yeast infection treatment. It's a concern for doctors because this practice could make yeast infections more difficult to treat in the long run. Rosanna Gray-Swain, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in St. Louis, Mo., cautions that yogurt should not be used in this way, as the bacteria in most yogurts are bio-engineered and can cause additional problems down the road, including infections that are treatment-resistant.
Natural Yeast Infection Treatments: Probiotics
The probiotics found in many yogurts can also be taken in pill form. One such probiotic in particular, lactobacillus, has received favorable press both to treat and prevent yeast
and other vaginal infections. Lactobacillus is one of those "good" bacteria typically found within the vagina that helps keep vaginal tissues balanced and healthy. Low levels of these good bacteria can set the stage for vaginal infections, including yeast infections. Repopulating the vagina with probiotics, by eating yogurt or taking capsules, has shown promise as a natural yeast infection cure while also displaying little to no risk.
Natural Yeast Infection Treatments: Boric Acid
Boric acid, used as a vaginal suppository, is another popular natural yeast infection treatment. Some studies have found that when it's used in the right concentrations for the right reasons, boric acid does have potential in helping to treat a yeast infection. But a note of caution: Boric acid is toxic when taken by mouth, and frequent use of boric acid to treat yeast infections could lead to chronic boric acid poisoning.
And while Dr. Gray-Swain disagrees with regular use of boric acid, she is not against its use altogether. As she explains, �Boric acid is used for specific infections with rare [bacterial] species and should be compounded by a pharmacist to make sure it�s safe and not going to damage the vagina." She emphasizes that you shouldn't use this treatment without consulting a physician, who can ensure that it's administered safely.
Natural Yeast Infection Treatments: Garlic and Tea Tree Oil
When inserted into the vagina, garlic and tea tree oil may potentially be natural yeast infection cures. Garlic is a natural fungicide, and tea tree oil also has demonstrated healing properties in anecdotal reports. But while there doesn�t seem to be any indication that they are dangerous, there also isn�t much definitive science in place to say that they work effectively. Another important note of caution: tea tree oil must be diluted before application to the vagina to avoid further irritation to the vaginal skin.
Natural Yeast Infection Treatments: Vinegar
Vinegar is considered a tried-and-true natural vaginal cleanser by many, and for this reason, some women douche with vinegar to treat yeast infections. But vinegar is not a recommended home treatment for yeast infections
because doctors are concerned about the harm it may do to the vaginal walls, says Gray-Swain.
Other Natural Options for Yeast Infections
Beyond probiotics and garlic, nutritional supplements purported to have anti-fungal properties, include caprylic acid (a fatty acid), propolis (created by bees from pine resin), and a variety of herbs, including:
- Pau d'arco bark (Tabebuia Avellanedae) used as a tea or a vaginal douche
- Echinacea purpurea liquid
- Pomegranate (Punica granatum) gel
Any of these may work, provided you have no underlying allergy or medical condition that would suggest otherwise, and they are unlikely to cause any harm. However, you should always let your doctor know about any supplement or herb you plan to take, just as you should let him or her know about any over-the-counter and prescription meds you're using.
Ask Your Doctor What's Best for Your Yeast Infection
Yes, yeast infections are a nuisance. And yes, it may be much quicker � and possibly cheaper and easier � to reach for a natural yeast infection remedy rather than go for the more costly over-the-counter or prescription treatment. And you may just want to take a more natural route. All these reasons make natural yeast infection treatments attractive and, in some cases � for example, making a daily yogurt part of your diet � there is very little risk involved. Just remember to use caution, and when in doubt, get an opinion from your doctor about what's best for you.