Can garlic, vinegar, and boric acid really help remedy yeast infections? Find out the correct way to use them, when to see a doctor, and more home remedies for vaginal yeast infections.
A vaginal yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis) is a common condition caused by an overgrowth of a fungus that naturally lives in the vagina, called Candida albicans.
This overgrowth can trigger irritation, inflammation, itching, and painful discharge. Most folks with a vulva and vagina experience a yeast infection at some point during their lifetime.
If this is your first time experiencing the symptoms of a yeast infection, a good first step involves visiting a gynecologist or other healthcare professional to confirm you actually have a yeast infection and not another vaginal health condition.
Symptoms of a yeast infection
Common symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include:
- vaginal discharge, which can appear white or yellowish (it may be watery or have a clumpy texture, similar to cottage cheese)
- vaginal itching
- burning when you urinate or during sex
- pain during sex
- tenderness or swelling around the vagina
How to diagnose a yeast infection
If you’ve never had a yeast infection before, it’s best to make an appointment with a healthcare professional to get a diagnosis.
They’ll also recommend some treatment options if they diagnose a yeast infection.
If you’ve previously had a yeast infection and suspect you have another one, you can try several home remedies to get relief. Some of these remedies use ingredients you might already have in your home.
Just keep in mind that the effectiveness of these remedies can vary, and evidence for their success remains mostly anecdotal.
Below, we’ll explore 11 home remedies for yeast infections and how they work.
1. Greek yogurt
A 2017 study suggests that eating yogurt helps expand your gut microbiome, which can help reduce yeast in your body. If you don’t like yogurt, you can take a probiotic supplement or try other probiotic foods.
When it comes to using yogurt for a yeast infection, opt for plain Greek yogurt. Make sure the yogurt doesn’t contain any added sugar, flavoring, or fruit. Added sugar can fuel the growth of the Candida fungus.
To reap the benefits, try:
- eating the yogurt
- applying it to your vulva around your vagina
- inserting it vaginally using a clean tampon applicator or your fingers
2. Boric acid
Boric acid is a powerful antiseptic, and some people claim it can help clear up yeast infections resistant to other remedies.
Boric acid vaginal suppositories may be used in combination with medications to treat vaginal infections.
However, boric acid is toxic in large amounts. It can lead to kidney damage, acute circulatory system failure, or death if you absorb too much. Avoid using boric acid on broken skin, and never take it orally.
If you’re pregnant, don’t use boric acid in any form. You may also want to consider another remedy if you have sensitive skin.
Discontinue use if you notice any discomfort.
3. Essential oil of oregano
Oil of oregano isn’t the same as common oregano, or Origanum marjoram, which you’ll usually find in your grocery store’s spice section.
To ease a yeast infection, search for oregano oil made from wild oregano, or Origanum vulgare.
To use, mix three to five drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil, such as olive or sweet almond oil. Then, apply it to your skin by massaging or inhaling it using a diffuser. Don’t apply this essential oil near your vagina.
Never ingest essential oils. Essential oils are meant to be inhaled as part of aromatherapy, or diluted with massage oil to use during massage. They’re also not meant to be used internally–external use only!
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4. Probiotic suppositories and supplements
Probiotics can help restore the bacteria-yeast balance throughout your body.
Taking oral probiotics that contain strains of the Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria can offer a number of health benefits, including helping bring your digestive tract and vaginal flora back into alignment.
Oral supplements can take several days to a few weeks to reach full effect, so some people use probiotics as vaginal suppositories to get results more quickly.
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5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a fatty oil derived from the flesh of the coconut. The oil has many health benefits, including antifungal properties.
Research suggests coconut oil is effective against C. Albicans, making this home remedy one of the few with supportive evidence behind it.
To treat a vaginal yeast infection using coconut oil, be sure to buy pure, organic coconut oil. You can apply the oil directly to the affected area.
6. Tea tree oil
More recent lab findings continue to support the antimicrobial activities of tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil is an incredibly powerful essential oil. So, you’ll always want to make sure you dilute it with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil, if it’s going to touch your skin as it may cause irritation. And just as a reminder, essential oils should never be used internally!
If you can, opt to purchase prepared tea tree vaginal suppositories — this is the safest option.
Only use tea tree oil occasionally, and never swallow it. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll generally want to avoid using tea tree oil. Discontinue use if you experience any discomfort or irritation after using it.
7. Apple cider vinegar
One popular yeast infection remedy is an apple cider vinegar bath.
Vinegar has many medicinal uses, some more supported by research than others.
An apple cider vinegar bath is not the same as douching, which aims to flush out all bacteria (good and bad) from your vagina. Douching leaves you more prone to a recurrence of the yeast infection, so avoid douching with apple cider vinegar — or any other substance.
You’ll want to dilute vinegar in water before it touches your skin. In addition, you could also try adding apple cider vinegar to your diet.
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While more studies are needed, research from 2019 examined the effect of using a garlic solution on sores of the mouth and found it could effectively help curb the growth of Candida. That said, garlic was less effective than nystatin (Nystop), an antifungal medication.
If you want to try garlic to treat a yeast infection, it’s best to simply add more garlic to your diet.
Some websites recommend inserting garlic into your vagina, but we do not recommend this approach. That’s because the active compounds in garlic can cause burns and pain when applied to your skin or mucosa. Mucosa, or mucous membrane, is the type of moist tissue that lines your mouth, and yes, the walls of your vagina.
9. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that can kill bacteria and yeast. Lactobacillus bacteria in your vagina produce hydrogen peroxide as part of natural biological activity.
Some people swear by using hydrogen peroxide topically when they get a yeast infection.
Adding it to a bath or diluting in water before applying to your skin may help with yeast growing on the genitals. You can dilute by combining equal amounts of water and hydrogen peroxide.
Just keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide may not work on every species of yeast, and no strong research supports the use of hydrogen peroxide to treat vaginal infections.
Always avoid douching with hydrogen peroxide, never use hydrogen peroxide internally, and avoid using it for an extended period of time.
10. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, has antimicrobial components, so some people add it to their diet to treat Candida overgrowths.
Try increasing your intake of vitamin C to boost your body’s ability to beat the yeast infection. Don’t apply the acidic vitamin C to the sensitive vaginal tissue.
11. Vitamin E
You can also purchase vitamin E suppositories intended for vaginal use, or apply vitamin E oil to your vulva or vagina. Vitamin E may help soothe itching, burning, and inflammation.
If vitamin E doesn’t seem to help, a good next step involves asking a healthcare professional for more guidance.
The main cause of a yeast infection is the overgrowth of yeast on an area of the body.
You could get a yeast infection for any number of reasons, including:
- Hormones: Changes during pregnancy, nursing, your menstrual cycle, or menopause can change the balance of yeast in your vagina.
- Sex: Yeast can be passed from person to person during physical sexual contact. Plus, sexual intercourse can change the bacterial balance of your vagina.
- Diabetes: An increase in sugar in the mucus membranes of your vagina can create a place for yeast to grow.
- Antibiotics: These drugs can kill off many of the “good” bacteria that live in your vagina.
- Douches and vaginal sprays: These products can change the balance of yeast in your vagina.
- A weakened immune system: If you are HIV-positive or have another immune system disorder, the yeast may also grow uncontrolled.
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It may take several days to notice results when using a home remedy to improve your yeast infection.
It’s always wise to connect with a healthcare professional if your symptoms get worse or if you notice new symptoms appear at any time during treatment. You’ll also want to make an appointment if you have persistent irritation that’s separate from yeast infection symptoms.
If your infection goes away with a home remedy but then returns, it’s best to contact a doctor for advice. You may need a prescription-strength treatment to get rid of the infection for good.
Keep in mind that some yeast infections can be severe. You’ll typically want to make a doctor’s appointment if:
- you’re pregnant
- you’ve had more than four yeast infections over the last year
- you have a weakened immune system from medications
- you have uncontrolled diabetes
- you have HIV
- you’re experiencing redness, swelling, or itching severe enough to create sores or tears in your vaginal tissue
For more serious yeast infections, your doctor may recommend:
- several doses of fluconazole, an oral tablet or suspension used to treat candidiasis, a fungal infection
- treatment with a topical antifungal medication, like miconazole (Monistat)
- a prescription suppository or tablet vaginal treatment, like terconazole (Terazol)
These tips may help prevent future yeast infections:
- Limit the amount of sugar and processed foods you consume. Yeast thrives on sugar.
- Include yogurt or supplements with Lactobacillus in your diet.
- Wear loose-fitting, cotton underwear. When doing laundry, wash them in hot water, using mild, unscented detergent.
- Avoid spending extended periods of time wearing wet bottoms or bathing suits. Yeast grows in warm, moist environments.
- Only use antibiotics when necessary.
- Don’t use douches unless advised by a doctor, and avoid vaginal deodorant sprays and scented vaginal lotions. These products may alter the balance of good bacteria and yeast in your vagina.
What is the fastest way to get rid of a yeast infection?
The fastest — and most reliable — way to get rid of a yeast infection is to visit a doctor if you suspect you have one. They will likely prescribe fluconazole, an oral treatment that may take 1 week to get rid of the infection.
Can yeast infections go away on their own?
A mild yeast infection may go away on its own, but this is rare. It’s always a good idea to treat a yeast infection, even if it’s mild. If yeast infections are not treated properly, they’re more likely to return.
What happens if a yeast infection is left untreated?
It may go away, but it is likely to return. Your symptoms may also get worse without treatment.
How do I know if it’s a yeast infection or a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
Yeast infections and UTIs occur in the same area, but they have very different symptoms.
With a vaginal yeast infection, you may have unusual, generally odorless, vaginal discharge that has a thick and milky appearance. You may also have pain or itchiness in your genital area.
With a UTI, you may notice pain and burning when urinating and foul-smelling urine, as well as fever, chills, nausea, and pain in your pelvis.
What is the difference between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis?
BV and vaginal yeast infections have similar symptoms, but different causes and treatments. Both cause inflammation of the vagina, or vaginitis.
One of the differences between BV and a yeast infection is that BV produces a foul-smelling, fishy odor, while a yeast infection produces no vaginal odor. Additionally, a yeast infection may cause redness and inflammation of the vulva, while BV doesn’t produce such symptoms.
To determine whether a vaginal infection is BV or a yeast infection, a doctor may:
- ask about your medical history, including previous vaginal infections
- perform an examination to look for signs of infection and vaginal discharge
- take a sample of the discharge for analysis to check for an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or fungi
- test the pH of your vagina — a pH of
4.5or above can point to BV
Can I take over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for my yeast infection?
Yes. Most simple vaginal yeast infections improve with OTC vaginal creams or suppositories. You can find these products in 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day treatments.
Home remedies may or may not work to treat a yeast infection. If you use herbs, supplements, or essential oils, be aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor these for safety, purity, and quality. That’s why it’s always best to purchase them from a reputable source.
The effectiveness of a home remedy varies depending on the person, the severity of your infection, and the quality of the treatment used. For recurring vaginal infections, talk with a doctor about additional natural approaches to prevention and treatment. It’s also best to consult a healthcare professional if you’ve never had a yeast infection before.
Keep in mind that any product, natural or otherwise, may irritate sensitive vaginal skin. Stop using the remedy and call a doctor if you experience any irritation or discomfort.