Does it work?
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It’s been used for hundreds of years to help treat skin infections and heal wounds.
Some women use vaginal tea tree oil suppositories as an alternative to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription yeast infection medications.
Most studies in this area have been done on isolated strains of infection in a lab or on animals. That said, this treatment does show promise for humans, especially in treating drug-resistant yeast infections.
Read on to learn more about how tea tree oil works, how to use an OTC or homemade suppository, potential side effects, and more.
What the research says
Researchers in one 2003 study examined tea tree oil as a treatment for the common yeast infection strain Candida albicans, including 14 drug-resistant derivatives. During lab testing, they found that the oil was effective against all strains.
A follow-up test on rats confirmed these results. The oil cleared drug-resistant infections in rats after three weeks of treatment. Untreated rats or those treated with common yeast infection drugs remained infected at the conclusion of the study.
Researchers agree that more work needs to be done on living subjects before this treatment is widely recommended.
How to use tea tree oil
Before you try tea tree oil suppositories, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. They can also offer guidance on how to use suppositories and other remedies.
Premade suppositories can be found OTC at most drug stores or through online retailers like Amazon.com.
Popular brands include:
You can also make your own suppositories. Be sure to use sterile mixing tools and containers and choose pure oils. Added ingredients can increase your risk of adverse effects.
Pour the mixture into a mold before freezing firm. If you don’t have an OTC mold on hand, you can use an OTC yeast infection treatment applicator. You can also make your own by folding clean aluminum foil into an inch-long canoe shape.
The average dose is one suppository a day. You should insert a new suppository each day for up to six days.
To insert your suppository:
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Peel back plastic strips at the bottom of the suppository to remove it from package. Alternatively, remove your homemade suppository from the freezer.
- Insert one suppository into your vagina using your finger or an applicator, about as far as you would insert a tampon.
- Repeat this process each day for six days.
Insert your suppository at the same time each day. Before bed may work best for your schedule.
- You may see an improvement in your symptoms in as little as one day. You should still take the full course of medication to ensure that the infection doesn’t return.
- In severe cases, store-bought treatment can be used twice a day for up to 12 days.
- Wearing panty liners or pads can help you manage any excess discharge from the suppository.
- You may need to use a backup birth control option while using oil-based suppositories. Oil can weaken latex condoms or diaphragms.
- If your symptoms don’t improve within a week, see your doctor.
Will douching with tea tree oil
Some women also consider douching — cleaning out the vagina — with tea tree oil and water. However, many doctors advise against this practice.
Douching can upset your vagina’s natural environment and lead to further infection. Regular douching can also lead to difficulty getting pregnant. You should always talk to your doctor before trying this at home.
If your doctor thinks it’s safe for you to try, they’ll advise you on specifics. The maker of Tea Tree Therapy suggests mixing a douching solution of one part water-soluble tea tree oil with seven parts water to get the maximum effect when combined with suppositories.
Possible side effects and risks
Although many people are able to apply tea tree oil to vaginal tissue with no issues, minor side effects are possible.
You may experience:
- itching at the insertion site
- watery discharge
- redness in the vaginal area
If you do develop discomfort, discontinue use. See your doctor if your symptoms continue even after completing your treatment.
Tea tree oil should never be swallowed or taken orally. Oral ingestion may cause a loss of muscle coordination, confusion, or other symptoms.
Other treatment options
You can also use OTC or prescription antifungal medications to treat yeast infections. They come in creams, ointments, suppositories, or tablets. These treatments are often safe during pregnancy.
OTC medications are usually used for three to seven days.
Popular options include:
- butoconazole (Gynazole-1)
- clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin)
- miconazole (Monistat 3)
- terconazole (Terazol 3)
These medications may cause burning or irritation in and around the vagina. Some contain oil, so you may also need to use an alternative form of birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Single-dose medications, like fluconazole (Diflucan), are taken orally. They’re also prescription-only. If the first dose doesn’t work, your doctor may prescribe a second dose to take three days later.
Some reviewers claim that tea tree oil suppositories helped clear their symptoms in a matter of days, but others say that it took a week or more to find relief.
It’s also possible that this therapy won’t have any effect on your symptoms, regardless of how long you use it. It could even lead to further irritation and discomfort. You can test for sensitivity by rubbing a small amount of oil into your forearm and watching for side effects.
You should always check with your doctor before using an alternative remedy, especially if it’s used internally. They can discuss your individual risk of side effects and complications, as well as advise you on use.
You should also see your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve within the week or become more severe.
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