About 29 percent of women in the United States have bacterial vaginosis (BV). Although some women experience no symptoms, others may notice an unpleasant smell coming from their vagina.

Some women also experience itching and burning feelings and sometimes, an unusual gray discharge.

According to a 2016 study, about 75 percent of women have tried to treat BV with home remedies, such as:

  • vinegar baths
  • douching
  • yogurt (orally or vaginally)
  • probiotics
  • vitamin supplements
  • over-the-counter yeast infection treatment products
  • antiseptic creams

The same study indicated that data on the effectiveness of alternative treatments for BV are predominantly of poor quality. Most of the women reported their self-help remedies did not help, and, in some cases made the symptoms worse.

Natural healers suggest treating BV with apple cider vinegar. They justify their recommendation by drawing a correlation (that may or may not be medically sound) from the following research:

  • Vinegar has been used effectively for thousands of years as a disinfectant as well as a treatment for a variety of conditions from jellyfish stings to diabetes.
  • According to a 2018 study, ACV demonstrates antimicrobial effects directly on E-coli, S. aureus, and C. albicans.
  • ACV contains acetic acid which has been proven effective in limiting the growth of bacteria, according to a 2014 article.
  • According to a 2017 article, ACV was effective in curing vaginal candida infection.
  • Evidence from a 2016 study suggests lactic acid-based treatments may offer some benefit in BV treatment, and ACV contains lactic acid.

As part of the diagnosis, your doctor might use a pH test strip to check the acidity of your vagina. If your vagina has a pH of 4.5 or higher, it could be an indication of bacterial vaginosis. You can also buy an at-home pH test at your drugstore or online.

Because ACV is acidic and has antimicrobial effects, proponents of natural healing suggest that rinsing the vulva in a solution of apple cider vinegar and water may alleviate symptoms.

A 2015 article indicated that vaginal-acidifying holds some promise for long-term prevention

If you’ve been diagnosed with BV, your doctor might prescribe medication such as:

It’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions and keep taking the medication according to your doctor’s instructions. Don’t stop mid-treatment, even if your symptoms go away. You increase your risk for recurrence if you stop treatment early.

If you have bacterial vaginosis, you can take steps to avoid exacerbating the infection. These steps can also help you avoid BV:

  • Don’t douche.
  • Avoid scented or perfumed soaps and sanitary products.
  • Use soap on your vulva, but do not insert soap into your vagina.
  • Wipe from front to back to avoid wiping fecal matter into your vagina.
  • Keep the area around your vagina dry.
  • Wear cotton underwear.
  • Wash your hands before touching your vagina.
  • Never transition directly from anal to vaginal sex.

Vinegar has been used to flavor and preserve food for thousands of years. It’s also celebrated for its ability to clean surfaces, fight infections, heal wounds, and manage diabetes. Today, many people consider it an answer to almost any health need.

Although there are indications that apple cider vinegar may have some limited medical applications, scientific research has not proved many of the claims. Future investigations are necessary before drawing scientifically sound conclusions.

If you’re considering using ACV as part of your treatment of bacterial vaginosis, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons prior to making a final decision.