Yeast infections are caused by bacteria that alter the natural state of the human body. Having a yeast infection means dealing with symptoms that range from itching and irritation to mental stress.
There are many ways to deal with vaginal yeast infections from medicated creams toe natural remedies. Here, we’ll go over some of the home remedies for yeast infection that you can use to ease symptoms and prevent recurring infections.
What Is A Yeast Infection?
A vaginal yeast infection occurs when naturally occurring fungus levels in the vagina become too high. Candida albicans is a naturally occurring fungus in the human body that can cause problems such as yeast infections and oral thrush when too much of it is present. Taking birth control may increase the likelihood of developing a yeast infection, but it is not a direct cause of the infection.
Yeast infection symptoms include a painful vaginal discharge that may look similar to cottage cheese. Other symptoms include redness, irritation, and intense itching in the vaginal area.
Millions of women suffer from yeast infections each year. Yeast infections are generally treated with over-the-counter medications (OTC) and antifungal medications such as Monistat. The most common treatments are antifungal creams and vaginal suppositories which are applied directly to the genital area.
Many women experience recurrent yeast infections — known as recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis — and choose to treat them using natural remedies. Here, we’ll go over some of the more popular home remedies and address whether or not they actually work.
6 Natural Remedies For Yeast Infections
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree essential oil boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties that may help to clear up or prevent yeast infections. Tea tree oil may also help alleviate symptoms of a yeast infection by reducing pain and inflammation.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research found examined the effects of tea tree oil as a vaginal suppository in treating fungal infections. Researchers tested tea tree oil on 20 different candida strains and found that the essential oil demonstrated fungicidal properties against Bifidobacterium strains of infection (1).
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar makes an appearance on most health lists when it comes to treating infections. This elixir may help to clear up vaginal infections caused by fungi. Most holistic practitioners recommend taking a bath in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Research on its effectiveness is limited, but the idea is that the acidity of the apple cider vinegar helps to kill fungal infections caused by bacteria.
A study published in the Journal of Prosthodontics investigated the effects of apple cider vinegar on different candida strains. Researchers found that apple cider vinegar demonstrated antifungal properties with few side effects (2).
3. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is a natural probiotic that contains healthy bacteria that keep your gut in check. This healthy food may also help to prevent or treat yeast infections. Yogurt contains a bacteria known as Lactobacillus acidophilus that may help to prevent the colonization of infectious diseases. One review published in the Journal; of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy showed that these healthy bacteria may inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause yeast infections or create an environment that is not hospitable to the fungus (3).
4. Garlic Cloves
Garlic is a healthy food that may boost the immune system and be an effective treatment against certain strains of candida that cause yeast infections. A study published in 2005 found that garlic extract was effective in killing infection-causing bacteria thanks to high concentrations of a chemical known as allicin (4).
Some people recommend placing garlic cloves directly into the vagina to treat yeast infections. This is not advisable as the garlic can cause burning and intense discomfort. Instead, aim to increase your daily intake of garlic by taking a supplement or adding more garlic to your food.
5. Oregano Oil
Oil of oregano may help to treat vaginal infections thanks to its chemical makeup. Oregano oil contains antifungal ingredients including carvacrol and thymol, which may help to eliminate the fungus that causes yeast infections. Research published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry found that 0.25mg/ml of oregano oil completely inhibited the growth of Candida albicans in lab tests (5).
Oregano oil should be applied topically using a carrier oil — such as coconut oil — or inhaled as part of aromatherapy. Do not apply the oil directly to the vagina. Do not consume oregano oil without the supervision of a physician or qualified aromatherapist.
6. Boric Acid
Boric acid is a powerful chemical compound that is known for its antiseptic and insecticide properties. The compound is often used to eliminate unwanted pests such as ants and bedbugs. The antiseptic qualities of boric acid may also make it useful for treating yeast infections.
A study published in Sexually Transmitted Disease in 2009 examined the effects of boric acid as part of antimicrobial treatment for vaginal infections. The trial consisted of 58 women who had recurrent bacterial vaginosis. Researchers found that a combination of boric acid and nitroimidazole resulted in a cure rate of 92 percent after 12 weeks. The cure rate diminished to 50 percent after 36 weeks of follow-up (6).
Prevent Yeast Infections In The First Place
Whether it’s your first time experiencing a yeast infection or you suffer from recurring infections, there are several things you can do to prevent yeast infections from occurring.
Wear Cotton Underwear
Cotton underwear helps to prevent bacteria from setting up shop. Avoid underwear that is satin or made from other materials. Alternatively, you can opt for microbial fabrics such as hemp or merino wool.
Your underwear should fit loosely to prevent harmful bacteria from becoming trapped and entering the vagina. Underwear that is too tight may also cause other health issues including urinary tract infections.
Limit use of douches as these can eliminate good bacteria that protect your vaginal health. You should only use a vaginal douche at the direction of a physician. It’s also a good idea to avoid using scented lotions and other products around the vagina. These may interfere with healthy bacteria levels, making it easier for harmful bacteria to cause infections.
Change After Workouts
Yeast thrives in environments that are wet and warm. Make sure to change your clothes, including your underwear after a hard workout. Shower and clean the genital area carefully on hot summer days and after enjoying a long bike ride. For overall sexual health, practice safe sex and proper hygiene after sexual intercourse to prevent fungal infections and sexually transmitted infections.
As with most ailments, eating a healthy diet can help to prevent infections and illness. Limit your sugar intake as sugar can promote the growth of yeast bacteria. Make sure your diet consists of a blend of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein.
Fighting Yeast Infections
As with other women’s health and general health concerns, it’s best to talk to a qualified healthcare practitioner before incorporating any natural remedies into a treatment plan. It’s especially important for pregnant women and people with existing medical conditions to seek medical advice before starting new treatments.
Home remedies may help to boost your body’s chances of fending off the bacteria. They can also help you feel better while medications work to take care of the root problem.