Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. Healthcare professionals diagnose an estimated 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea in the United States on an annual basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the internet is full of potential home remedies for gonorrhea, these aren’t reliable. Antibiotics are the only effective treatment for gonorrhea.

Researchers have actually put a lot of popular gonorrhea home remedies to the test in various studies over the years. Let’s examine why they don’t hold up.

Garlic

Garlic is known for its antibacterial properties, making it a common home remedy for bacterial infections.

An older 2005 study examined the effects of garlic products and extracts on gonorrhea-causing bacteria. The researchers found 47 percent of the products studied showed antimicrobial activity against the bacteria.

This is somewhat promising — but this study was done in a laboratory setting, not on humans with gonorrhea.

Apple cider vinegar

An internet search for natural gonorrhea remedies often recommends apple cider vinegar taken orally or applied topically as a solution. However, there aren’t any research studies to support or refute these claims.

While apple cider vinegar might have some antibacterial properties, it’s also highly acidic, which can irritate the delicate tissues of your genitals.

Listerine

Researchers studied the effects of the antiseptic mouthwash Listerine on gonorrhea bacteria present in people’s mouths, according to a 2016 article.

The study’s researchers asked men who had oral gonorrhea to use Listerine mouthwash or a placebo for one minute daily.

At the study’s conclusion, the researchers found that 52 percent of men who used Listerine were culture-positive, while 84 percent of those who used a saline placebo mouthwash were positive.

The study’s authors concluded that Listerine may help treat — but not necessarily cure — oral gonorrhea.

Goldenseal

Also known as berberine or Hydrastis canadensis L., goldenseal is a plant known to have antimicrobial properties. European settlers in the 1800s used goldenseal as a treatment for gonorrhea.

While some research exists surrounding using goldenseal as an alternative to antibiotics to treat resistant staph bacteria, there isn’t any significant research about goldenseal to treat gonorrhea.

While the settlers may have tried it, it’s not a proven method.

Antibiotics are the only proven way to reliably treat and cure gonorrhea. And with gonorrhea-causing bacteria strains becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, your healthcare provider may instruct you to take two antibiotics at once.

These antibiotics usually include:

  • a one-time injection of 250 milligrams of ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
  • 1 gram of oral azithromycin

If you’re allergic to ceftriaxone, your doctor may prescribe other medications.

If you still have symptoms three to five days after finishing antibiotic treatment, follow up with your healthcare provider. You may need a different antibiotic or additional treatment.

To avoid transmitting the infection to others, avoid all sexual activity until you’ve completed treatment and don’t have any symptoms. It’s also important for your sexual partners get tested and treated as well.

early treatment is key

While antibiotics clear up the infection, they won’t necessarily reverse any of the complications discussed below. This is why it’s so important to start antibiotic treatment as soon as possible.

Without treatment, gonorrhea can lead to complications that can have lasting effects.

In males, this includes epididymitis, an inflammation of the tube that carries sperm. Severe epididymitis can lead to infertility.

In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. That can lead to its own complications, such as:

A pregnant woman can also transmit gonorrhea to a newborn, resulting in joint infections, blindness, and blood-related infections in the newborn.

If you’re pregnant and think you may have gonorrhea, see you healthcare provider immediately for treatment.

In both males and females, gonorrhea can also enter the bloodstream, causing a condition called disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). In severe cases, DGI can be life-threatening.

Left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to potentially serious complications. It’s important to see a healthcare provider right away if you think you have gonorrhea.

Remember, it’s among the more common STIs, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.