Vaginal infections can be annoying in the least, and often significantly uncomfortable or even painful due to local irritation. Most vaginal infections are caused by one of several species of Candida. These are commonly called “yeast infections.” They can also be caused by a group of organisms that cause BV – Bacterial vaginosis. None are harmful in otherwise healthy women. In fact, most of these organisms live in healthy balance with other vaginal flora all the time. But when there is imbalance either locally “down there” or in the general health status, these organisms think they’ve got the run of the place! Then they grow out of control leading to annoying or downright uncomfortable symptoms including itchy, irritated, burning vaginas and vulvas (the outside parts down there), frequent urination, and often some type of discharge and sometimes odor.
Below are some of the natural approaches I’ve used for the past 30 years of practice. They can be used safely by most – including pregnant – women.
Women who are experiencing recurrent vaginal infections should see a physician to get appropriate testing. Some diseases including diabetes and HIV can cause repeated vaginal infections. Women with HIV or undergoing cancer therapy please check with your doctor before self-treating with natural medicines or foregoing conventional medication for treatment.
Natural Solutions for Vaginal Infections
Treating common vaginal infections naturally is safe, simple, and generally very effective. The keys to treatment are promoting healthy vaginal flora, avoiding things that trigger infection, treating the infection, and healing sensitive tissue. Pregnant women also can follow the treatments below.
Here’s a healing PATH (Promote/Avoid/Treat/Heal) that you can use:
Promote healthy vaginal flora:
- Avoid sugary foods which interfere with healthy immune response and feed the infecting bacteria/yeast.
- Eat active culture unsweetened yogurt, 1/2 cup twice daily, and take a good quality probiotic daily. (If you are vegan or lactose intolerant you can skip the yogurt and just do the probiotic.)
- Apply 2 tablespoons of live active culture plain yogurt to the insides of the vaginal walls and to the outside surfaces to restore the natural flora of the vagina. Use clean fingers or an applicator (you can purchase one at your local pharmacy) to apply. Vegans can use probiotic capsules in the vagina, but the yogurt works much better – and it’s not really eating it! Repeat twice daily.
- Take a daily probiotic containing Lactobacillus reuteri and rhamnosus species.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables, good quality proteins from legumes, fish, poultry and meat, complex whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Vaginal infection triggers: This includes anything that might trigger a chemical or allergic reaction, or mechanical irritation. Examples include tampons, bubble bath, douching, perfumed soaps and detergents, condoms, and thongs. Sugar, carbs, and alcohol also aggravate vaginal infections.
- Excess dampness down there by wearing loose fitting clothing made of natural fibers, and natural fiber breathable underwear.
- Sex – okay, just until the infection clears up and then for a few extra days – especially receiving oral sex which can change the vaginal pH.
- Apply 2 tablespoons of live active culture yogurt to the vagina and vulva daily for 3-5 days. To apply inside the vagina use your fingers or carefully use a vaginal applicator OR insert a capsule of probiotic containing Lactobacillus reuteri and rhamnosus species vaginally, daily (push the capsule into the vaginal canal about 2-3 inches; it will dissolve in there; wear a panty liner to protect your clothes).
- Keep a peri-rinse bottle filled with filtered water, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and 5 drops each of lavender and thyme essential oils near the toilet and rinse down below with it each time you pee to help resolve irritation and cut down on the yeast growth. Shake well before each use.
- Take 20 mg of zinc orally, daily, especially for recurrent infections, to help boost your immune system.
- Many herbs have healing properties that can help in the topical treatment of vaginal infections. See the suppository recipe below.
Heal irritated, inflamed tissue with herbs:
Aloe vera gel can be applied liberally to the vulva to heal irritated and inflamed tissue. Make sure it is pure aloe gel without preservatives – the added preservatives, even citric acid, can burn sensitive tissue.
Suppositories prepared with a blend of herbs specific for vaginal yeast infections can provide effective, soothing relief, heal tissue, and have antimicrobial action for the vaginal canal. You can make a large batch yourself easily, and at minimal cost, by following the instructions below. Keep them in the freezer to be defrosted on an as needed basis, or you can purchase a suppository blend from a company such as Vitanica.
Here’s one of my favorite suppository blends for treating vaginal yeast and BV infections. This suppository can also be used safely during pregnancy:
1 cup cocoa butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 Tbs calendula oil
1/2 tsp thyme essential oil
1/2 tsp lavender essential oil
1/2 tsp tea tree essential oil
4 Tbs comfrey root powder finely ground
2 Tbs goldenseal root powder
To prepare the suppositories:
- Melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil together in a saucepan. When melted remove the pan from the burner.
- Add the powdered herbs and mix well.
- Add all of the herbal oils and blend well.
- Stir well and pour into the suppository mold (see below). Refrigerate until firm. Insert vaginally 1 per night for 7 days; repeat if needed.
- Always wear a sanitary pad while you sleep with the suppository in place. It will melt and will otherwise stain bedding or undies!
- Results are typically seen within several days, however you may treat up to a week and repeat if necessary.
Suppository molds can easily be prepared at home by using aluminum foil that has been folded several times lengthwise, and then widthwise, to form a trough approximately 8 inches in length and 1/2 inch in width. Alternatively, suppository molds can be purchased online. The base of the suppository is a combination of coconut oil and cocoa butter, to which is added the desired combination of medicated oils, powdered herbs, and tinctures. This mixture is then poured into the mold, refrigerated to harden, cut into pieces the size of the patient’s pinky finger, and inserted as needed.
It may take a little extra effort to treat a yeast infection naturally, but you can rest assured that the treatment is safe for you and for baby and overall an eco-friendly solution that you can feel good about.